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United States is streaking as a team – but not so spectacularly as Landon Donovan is individually

Jul 24, 2013, 10:51 PM EDT

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ARLINGTON, Texas – There is a streak that everyone is talking about around the United States national team – but it’s the wrong one.

Yes, this showy 10-game winning streak is a record for the program, so it’s remarkable on its face. But reporters keep asking players about it, the normal course of action. Thing is, it started with a completely different set of performers (the first-choice team rather than the current, second group) so it doesn’t “feel” like a streak to Gold Cup bunch.

On the other hand, here is a streak that actually is something to which we should all raise a glass:

Landon Donovan has contributed directly to every goal the United States has scored in the last three matches. That would be saying something around any winning team, but consider that Jurgen Klinsmann’s bunch of high fliers have scored nine of them over that period!

Let that sink in.

[MORE: U.S. eases past Honduras, into Gold Cup final]

Donovan has scored or assisted on eight of them; he played a heavy role in one other but didn’t get credit for the official assist.

“I’m enjoying myself, and it’s the most relaxed I’ve ever felt,” he said minutes after doing his part and then some in Wednesday’s 3-1 dismantling of Honduras. (It really was more dominant that “3-1” sounds.”

Donovan set Eddie Johnson free for the first U.S. strike and later skillfully brought down a ball with his chest before directing it calmly into goal for a 2-0 lead. After the break, it was Donovan once again, this time with a soul-crusher as he finished off Alejandro Bedoya’s hard work to re-establish his team’s two-goal margin.

All that after contributing to all five goals in Sunday’s quarterfinal win over El Salvador. And that was after Donovan’s sweet cross-field pass finally arranged the breakthrough goal against Costa Rica in the final match of Gold Cup group play.

[MORE: U.S. cruising like never before in Gold Cup]

Consider some other numbers as Donovan, easily the best U.S. man of the tournament so far, continues to stack the dandy facts:

  • Donovan has five goals and seven assists in the Gold Cup. That’s a good season for a lot of players; Donovan has done that in five matches.
  • He is now the tournament’s co-leading scorer along with teammate Chris Wondolowski.
  • Donovan has 17 career Gold Cup goals.
  • As for the bigger picture, he keeps padding the all-time U.S. men’s national team lead in goals (56) and assists (also 56). He keeps pulling away from any pursuers although, truly, there aren’t any active men in the player pool with anything more than an outside chance of catching him.
  • He had played in 432 straight minutes, more than any U.S. man, before being subbed out by Wondolowski in Wednesday’s 72nd minute.

It’s still too much of a stretch to say the United States would not be in Sunday’s final without Donovan; truly, the U.S. side has just looked too dominant to say such a thing. But it does seem fair to pronounce that this tournament might look very different without all the brilliant work from the team’s best creator. We might be talking about a bunch that is arriving dutifully into the final, but perhaps not about one that is mercilessly brushing opposition aside with a relative ease.

A lot of that is about Donovan.

[MORE: What worked, didn't work with Klinsmann's changes]

“We are all very proud that he is proving a point,” Klinsmann said, mentioning Donovan’s drive to get back into the first-choice team for upcoming World Cup qualifiers. “With every game he wants to prove that, to show that, not only on the field, but off the field, too, the way is has re-integrated himself into the group.”

“In our conversations I have told him, “Your benchmark is the best Landon Donovan ever.” And that I am not taking anything less than that. I think he is trying to catch up with that. So, give him more games more time. Obviously every game helps him.”

  1. cherry314 - Jul 25, 2013 at 1:25 AM

    How many players are going to see how taking a brief walkabout has rejuvenated Landon and start thinking about doing the same?

  2. birgitcalhoun - Jul 25, 2013 at 2:11 AM

    The problem here is too much Landon Donovan. Better teams will easily beat Donovan’s speed. It’s a problem when one player is elevated over all the rest. He can’t do it all alone. And that has nothing to do with a walk-about. The three goals scored today are not indicative of the future, and I am sure Klinsmann knows that. I am looking forward to the Panama game. It will be a good test to see whether today’s game was only smoke and mirrors.

    • charliej11 - Jul 25, 2013 at 7:51 AM

      LD is not just speed. His touch and ability to turn a counter attack on are unmatched in the US. I agree he can’t do it alone, but last night he basically had to. The fact that JK was so giddy scares me. That was a greatly reduced Honduras team, and many guys struggled….LD showed why he is a first teamer…easily dominating the game and winning it.

      Panama will be tougher, but they won’t be able to attack like they did against Mexico.

    • khard1250 - Jul 25, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      He won’t have to do it alone once Bradley, Dempsey, & other A team players are added to the mix. But it’s noce to see him back in form.

  3. supercoop8 - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    LD is an incredibly accurate passer; his tally of assists is much higher than goals when you remove penalty shots, he has unmatched vision and intuition in the offensive half that no other US player possesses. These are the reasons he is good as an attacking mid/withdrawn striker. US needs a striker like Altidore or Johnson that not only have the speed to chase down balls played over the top but the size to shield the ball until the counter arrives. I agree he is most valuable when he receives the back pass from the striker at speed and is looking for runners.

  4. jessedinner - Jul 25, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    People talk about Dempsey and Bradley being the best on the US team but there has been no doubt that Donovan has been the very best for a long time. He would go Everton for a month and be a complete impact player for three years straight. I truly believe that he could play at almost any team and contribute a ton.

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