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United States Man of the Match vs. El Salvador: Landon Donovan

Jul 21, 2013, 6:31 PM EST

Landon Donovan

Good performances fell like the late rain all over the field for the United States, which responded beautifully Sunday when under some actual pressure for the first time in the ongoing Gold Cup.

No one handled the call for response better than Landon Donovan, who just keeps reminding us why he’s the national team’s all-time leading scorer and all-time top assist man. While his finishing wasn’t tip-top in Sunday’s tournament quarterfinal, Donovan certainly put a mark on the game, in on all five U.S. goals.

(MORE: Match report of Sunday U.S. win)

Officially the line will say “one goal and three assists” in the commanding 5-1 win over El Salvador. It’s hard to say Jurgen Klinsmann’s team would not have won Sunday in Baltimore without any one man – but you can get close with Donovan, a true difference maker in breaking down the rugged Salvadoran defense.

In the opposition’s defensive third, Donovan was easily the busiest man on the U.S. attack, making great choices and moving into useful spots, essentially exploiting a free role to present consistent danger. His movement off the ball is exactly what you’d expect from someone aiming for his fourth World Cup – and so, so few men in the history of the game can say the same.

Sunday’s zippy match remained in some doubt before Donovan rounded Salvadoran ‘keeper Dagoberto Portillo to make it 4-1 in the 78th minute. (Extra points, by the way, for the “Andy Dufresne-Shawshank” celebration in the rain at M&T Bank Stadium.)

But it was the skillful set-ups that distinguished his day. U.S. teammates like Jose Torres and Joe Corona were also handy in the Salvadoran end, but none dominated like Donovan. And none came anything close to establishing the end result like the LA Galaxy attacker.

(MORE: What we learned about the United States from Sunday’s match)

His cross on a tightly designed corner kick sequence to Clarence Goodson was sharp and precise. His work was outstanding in breaking down the Salvadoran defense to help arrange Corona’s nifty work and solid finish for goal No. 2. Donovan’s cross to Eddie Johnson for the third U.S. goal was routine stuff for someone with his skill, but impactful just the same.

And his ability to find the right spot to take Kyle Beckerman’s feed, and then to skillfully supply a perfect cross for Mix Diskerud to punctuate the scoring was technical and tactical perfection.

Can anybody still doubt that Donovan, with six assists in the tournament, has earned his spot on the U.S. roster for Brazil? Clearly, he’s done plenty.

  1. hildezero - Jul 21, 2013 at 7:35 PM

    Zelaya had been the best player in the tournament so far, until LD had a great game against El Salvador and eliminated Zelaya and his team.

    • Steve Davis - Jul 21, 2013 at 7:46 PM

      Man, I do like that guy (Rodolfo Zelaya, btw). I asked on Twitter how many MLS fans would like to see him on their team?

  2. bigdinla - Jul 21, 2013 at 7:48 PM

    I know he lost, but the El Slavador goalie was amazing. Could have been 12-1 without him standing on his head.

  3. mknow406a - Jul 22, 2013 at 2:48 AM

    You’ve got to credit El Salvador’s back line for battling for ninety minutes. Once they went down 3-1, they were never going to get no support from the midfield. The emphasis was going to be attack, attack, ATTACK! Pouring rain, down by four, no way back, continuously under siege, and yet still guys were putting their bodies on the line (literally) to keep the score line from getting worse. (And a kiss from the keeper for an added bonus!) It was a solid, courageous display of professionalism and character to play out the full 90+.

  4. rafibomb10 - Jul 22, 2013 at 8:42 AM

    Lando was incredible. Cool as a cucumber. Even when he grabbed the sweet stunna shades and put them on. Glad to see the fire is back!

  5. footballer4ever - Jul 22, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    @mknow406a

    I am not sure what credit they are all fdue to play the full 90 minutes. They were losing the entire game and this was.a do or die game for them to at least salvage some dignity to keep trying if in the end they were not going to be able to score. If the type of credit suggested is one of sympathy or consolation based, then good job guys, but not good enough in the end. Keep working until next time you have a chance.

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