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Donovan, Johnson lead U.S. past Honduras, into fifth-straight Gold Cup final

Jul 24, 2013, 8:55 PM EDT

Honduras v United States - 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Getty Images

It was their most convincing performance of the tournament, one that looked was destined to go the United States’ way before Eddie Johnson put his team up in the 11th minute. Dictating play though midfield and sending the Honduras defense reeling with each movement forward, the U.S. claimed a place in their fifth straight Gold Cup final, using two goals and an assist from the resurgent Landon Donovan to claim a 3-1 win Wednesday at Cowboys Stadium.

Donovan’s goals came on each side of halftime, his second responding one minute after a Honduras goal had briefly made a game of it in the 52nd minute. With their two-goal lead restored, the U.S. comfortably saw the Hondurans out of the tournament, the Catrachos exiting at the semifinal stage for the third straight tournament.

[MORE: U.S. rolling through Gold Cup like never before]

The result means the U.S. will going into Sunday’s Solider Field final with a perfect record, having outscored their opponents 19-4 in the tournament’s five games. In Chicago, they’ll hope to improve that make and re-claim the CONCACAF title, with the only the winner of the Panama-Mexico nightcap standing in the way of the U.S.’s fifth Gold Cup.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s team opened the scoring in the 11th minute, with Johnson running off a ball he’d fed to Donovan, onto a pass through an accommodating Honduran central defense. With the Catrachos’ back line trying to catch up, Johnson finished past Donis Escobar from 15 yards out, giving the States a surprisingly easy early lead.

[MORE: Circling back on Jurgen Klinsmann's lineup changes.]

After controlling play over the next 16 minutes, the U.S. completed the inevitable, doubling their lead. A ball for Johnson saw both Honduran central defenders collapse on the U.S. number nine. When Sounders’ striker was able to touch a ball to Donovan in the middle of the area, the U.S.’s all-time leading scorer just needed to get the ball on goal before the rest of the Honduran defense could recover. Trapping with his chest before pushing his shot past Escobar with the outside of his right foot, Donovan’s 55th international goal put the U.S. up 2-0.

The U.S. carried that lead through half time, starting the second half with the same control they’re exhibited through the first 45 minutes. But when a 52nd minute foul by DaMarcus Beasley along the Honduran right gave the Catrachos a dangerous restart, the scene was set for the U.S.’s per game defensive lapse. This time, it was Clarence Goodson losing his mark on the restart, with Nery Medina’s header from eight yards out making it 2-1.

[MORE: The streak nobody's noticed - Landon Donovan's]

Yet as if they were using the Honduran goal as an excuse to exhibit their dominance, the U.S. responded less than a minute later. A long ball played over the Honduran defense allowed surprise starter Alejandro Bedoya to beat his man to the byline, his one-touch pass across the six-yard box finding Donovan running onto his second goal of the match, making it 3-1.

Like their two previous goals, the third was all too easy for the U.S., their execution making a mockery of a willing but disorganized Honduran defense. Just like the U.S., Honduras choose a weakened team to compete at this tournament, but in a battle of second choice sides, the U.S.’s depth effectively lapped their competition. Direct play, sound if basic execution, and hard work were all the U.S. needed to produce their goals, making Wednesday’s and unexpectedly easy semifinal.

Next up will be the winner of the nightcap’s match between Panama and Mexico, a rematch of a group stage game that saw the Canaleros claim their first ever competitive victory over Mexico. Panama, however, is in danger of replicating their 2011 performance, where an upset of the United States in group play went for naught after they failed to duplicate the feat in the competition’s semifinals. If that happens, the U.S. and Mexico will face off in a fourth consecutive final.

The only question mark for the United States will be the status of Jurgen Klinsmann. The team’s head coach was sent from the field by Enrico Wijngaarde in the 88th minute, apparently in response to his protests over late Honduran fouls. The true nature of Klinsmann’s offense could determine whether he or assistant Martin Vazquez will be leading the team from the sidelines in Chicago.

[MORE: Decision on Jurgen Klinsmann to come - will he miss Sunday's final?]

Regardless, Sunday’s match will prove much tougher than Wednesday’s in Dallas. Between the U.S.’s quality and Honduras’s worst performance of the competition, Klinsmann’s team were allowed to cruise into the tournament’s final round.

  1. 69jaredallen69 - Jul 24, 2013 at 10:17 PM

    Officiating was about the same quality as the field…no more temp fields

  2. jucam1 - Jul 25, 2013 at 12:12 AM

    I can’t stand the “Gold Cup”… Glad the US can beat “power house” Honduras, but if there is ever the feeling of a high school kid playing against elementary school kids, this is it….

    I would rather have this team play 8 friendlies against actual world class competition than pat itself on the back when they beat junior high teams…. I know the USMS can’t control their region, but they can control participating in this JV tournament when they should be challenging global powers to get better.

    • nodindenver - Jul 25, 2013 at 12:49 AM

      @jucam1. Just to remind you; Mexico is the defending gold medalists and they just lost to Panama tonight for the second time in two weeks. If my memory is correct, Mexico took out Brazil and Neymar in the Olympics and a couple of weeks ago I watched Neymar and the boys knock off mighty #1 Spain in the Confed Cup. The US is playing good right now and it all started once they got over the hill in Azteca!

    • andyoursistertoo - Jul 25, 2013 at 8:36 AM

      If I’m not mistaken I think 3 of the friendly games we play this year are against top 15 teams In The world . Bosnia , Germany and Belgium are all world class powers. Plus your not always guaranteed those teams top players. You should be proud of Americans , Mexico didn’t even make it to the finals. Only thing I wish we would play a few of the South American teams more often to get used to each regions style of play.

    • randomhookup - Jul 25, 2013 at 6:09 PM

      Are their high ranked, in-form men’s teams available at this time of year, outside the FIFA window? The only ones I noticed were at the Confed Cup, which we need to get the Gold Cup win to go to…

      Without an invite to UEFA or CONMEBOL, we have few options and we ARE using our backup players. Playing Germany, Belgium & Bosnia isn’t really slumming it.

  3. abitburnt - Jul 25, 2013 at 11:49 AM

    It appears that this article may have been published without first being edited. FYI.

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