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Landon Donovan’s goal, three assists lead United States past El Salvador

Jul 21, 2013, 6:01 PM EST

El Salvador v United States - 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Getty Images

It was the kind of start you want to see from the U.S. Men’s National Team against CONCACAF’s middle-of-the road opposition: Kick off; assume control; jump in front; and cruise. Though a late second half hiccup allowed El Salvador to score from the spot, keeping the match competitive at halftime, three second half goals saw the United States cruise into Gold Cup semifinals, their 5-1 win setting up a match against the winner of tonight’s Honduras-Costa Rica match quarterfinal.

Dictating play from the opening whistle, the U.S. went up in the 21st minute through Clarence Goodson, the defender converting on play from a short corner. Eight minutes later, Joe Corona finished from the top of the penalty area, a goal that was pulled back in the 38rd minute by Rodolfo Zelaya’s penalty kick. On the hour, however, Eddie Johnson, who had been on for 14 seconds, headed home a Landon Donovan corner, restoring the U.S.’s two-goal margin. In the 78th minute, Johnson returned the favor, flicking Donovan behind the defense for the game’s fifth goal, while Mikkel Diskerud’s closer gave the U.S. their final margin or victory.

As much as the U.S. dominance will be one of the game’s takeaways, so will Landon Donovan’s breakout. The team’s all-time leading scorer added to his record while adding three assists. On the only goal that kept his name off the scoresheet, Donovan played the crucial part in setting up the Corona tally. Though the opposition wasn’t elite, Donovan’s performance was, providing U.S. fans proof their biggest star still has some game-breaking performances in the tank.

The match’s first 20 minutes saw the U.S. dominate possession, favoring their right side as a packed in El Salvador absorbed pressure, relying on their counter attack. But with crosses from Michael Parkhurst and Joe Corona, the U.S. were able to force a number of corner kicks, with one finally paying off in the 21st minute.

(MORE: U.S. Man of the Match … Landon Donovan)

That’s when a short ball from Jose Torres to Donovan was played back to Parkhurst, whose chip over an advancing defense played Donovan toward the byline. Before the ball rolled into touch, Donovan cut a ball back across the penalty area, finding an unmarked Goodson at the edge of  the six for an easy goal.

Eight minutes later, Donovan again played a key part in the goal. Cutting in from the left, the U.S. attacker carried the ball to the edge of the penalty area, drawing the defense before playing across to Chris Wondolowski. The San Jose captain passed to the top of the penalty area for Corona, who found a lane through the sprawling Salvadoran defense to fire the U.S.’s second score into the left of goal.

Before halftime, however, Zelaya made his impact felt, drawing a penalty from U.S. captain DaMarcus Beasley after the left back blocked the attacker’s path to a ball rolling in the right of the penalty area. Zelaya’s chip into the middle of goal beat Nick Rimando, restoring  Salvadoran hope just before intermission.

That hope disappeared in the 60th minute,  seconds after Seattle’s Eddie Johnson checked in for Wondolowski. Allowed to run onto a Donovan corner, Johnson leapt at the edge of the six and finished into the upper-left of goal, restoring the U.S.’s two-goal margin.

After the match seemed settled, the U.S. began piling on, with Johnson’s flick of a ball from midfield putting Donovan behind a high El Salvador line. Bursting past the helpless defense, Donovan eventually sidestepped goalkeeper Dagoberto Portillo, burying his 54th international goal.

With the Salvadorans well-beaten, the U.S. added their fifth, with Donovan providing his third assist of the match on a short-range header from Diskerud.  Steering the U.S. to a four-goal win, Donovan had completed his best performance of the Jurgen Klinsmann era.

Ultimately, the final did both teams justice. El Salvador provided some first half sparks but failed to threaten the U.S., with their demoralized play over the match’s final 10 minutes potentially deserving a few more goals allowed.

For Klinsmann’s team, it was the type of control and dominance you’d expect from a team that’s arguably the best in the region. And with Donovan still capable of outbursts like today’s, that team may be ready to hit another gear.

  1. cameltoews - Jul 21, 2013 at 6:13 PM

    Love the u.s. keeping the foot on the gas, trying to score until the game was over. Landon looks hungry.

    • mdac1012 - Jul 21, 2013 at 6:29 PM

      LD does look like he has that fire for the game again. I was very critical of him leaving the team earlier in the year to go on sabbatical, but if that’s what he really needed to find his game again then so be it.

  2. footballer4ever - Jul 21, 2013 at 6:18 PM

    With all due respect to El Salvador National team and its fans, the previous statement by Jurgen Klinnsman about ES has been proven on the field plentiful. The thruth hurts, but ES has been stuck in football…even Panama and Venezuela who were known as baseball countries are now growing faster into footballing nations.

  3. footballer4ever - Jul 21, 2013 at 6:34 PM

    Only time will tell the sabbatical reason was just a cover up excuse not to shed light into the LD vs JK feud for who / how the US national team should be run.

  4. seanb20124 - Jul 21, 2013 at 6:36 PM

    Was a fun game to watch until the 4th goal made it a rout

  5. footballer4ever - Jul 21, 2013 at 7:12 PM

  6. hildezero - Jul 21, 2013 at 7:30 PM

    @football4forever

    I agree with you. Cuba has been another country that’s been stuck in baseball for many years and now they’re taking soccer serious.

  7. footballer4ever - Jul 21, 2013 at 7:46 PM

    @hildezero

    I had added Cuba and Nicaragua to my previous post, but erased it because it’s not in the same level as Panama and Venezuela. Without a doubt though even Cuba and Nicaragua are showing signals of hunger to grow in football.

    • midtec2005 - Jul 22, 2013 at 12:35 AM

      Hopefully MLS continues to grow at the rate it has been (if not faster!). Then we will see the whole concacaf region grow with it. Nicaragua is interesting because I never really hear of their players, hopefully that changes.

  8. hildezero - Jul 21, 2013 at 9:25 PM

    Right on.

  9. capsfan19 - Jul 22, 2013 at 12:55 AM

    I was at the game… There was about 85% ES fans… It was insane, where was all our support?

  10. footballer4ever - Jul 22, 2013 at 10:12 AM

    @ capsfan19

    I was not at the game, but to say 85% was Salvadorian may be an overstatement. Do you realize Honduras and ES colors are the same? (Blue and White). Regardless of the amount of Salvadorians in the stands, it was not enough to inspire the team to be able a non penalty goal. Heck, not even 200k fans would have made any difference.

  11. hildezero - Jul 22, 2013 at 2:26 PM

    It also looked packed of ES fans, but let’s not forget that the stadium seats were also blue.

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