BRIAN SCIARETTA - Sunday, May 27, 2012
United States vs Scotland
Friendly - Saturday May 26, 2012
Landon Donovan's return to the United States national team was a triumphant one as he scored a hat trick in a 5-1 demolition of a helpless Scotland.
Donovan has not played for the US team since September but his return was a triumphant one and he did not waste any time in making his presence felt.
In just the third minute of the game, Donovan took a pass from Jermaine Jones in the box. Donovan's first shot was saved by Scottish keeper Allan McGregor but Donovan pounced on the rebound and converted the second chance to give the Americans and early 1-0 lead.
"It was nice to be back," Donovan said. "It was great to have such a reception. The crowd was great, the energy was great, and we're glad we could put on a good performance. It's just one game and we understand that but tan important step toward the ultimate goal which is qualifying for Brazil 2014."
In the 12th minute, the US would double their lead in spectacular fashion when Michael Bradley drilled a perfect half-volley from 25 yards into the top corner past McGregor. On the play Donovan sent a ball to Jones in the middle of the field who laid it off for Bradley.
"The guys who makes it for me is [Jones]," Bradley said. "He did well just to see that I was moving off of him and laid a perfect ball back. It caught it well and it's nice to get a goal."
Scotland was graciously given a sign of life when US central defender Geoff Cameron deflected a Kenny Miller pass into his own net. The own goal cut the US lead to 2-1.
The US generally dominated the first half in large part because of the midfield play of Jermaine Jones, Jose Torres, Michael Bradley, and Maurice Edu. Those four players created space that allowed Donovan to slice through the Scottish defense.
For US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, it was a priority for him during recent weeks to come up with a formation that allows all of these midfielders to play together.
"We worked on that over the last ten days in training," Klinsmann said. "[We had] to see how can we could get the best out of these guys who are really exceptional players but they play very similar positions. It gives us options maybe playing [Donovan] wide, or gives him more freedom actually to go all over the field."
Despite never playing a first team club game, Borussia Dortmund forward Terrence Boyd was named to the starting lineup in place of Jozy Altidore who has yet to be released by his club, AZ Alkmaar. Boyd was effective in his hold up play and was aggressive in taking on defenders.
"I was happy I would get a chance to play from the beginning," Boyd said when he learned that he start the game. "You're always nervous before a big game but it turned out very well and we won 5-1. It was a good match and I'm very happy. I think I had a good performance."
In the second half the US would turn the game into a rout.
The US found their third goal in the 60th minute when Bradley and Jones combined in a push forward. Jones eventual centering pass from the right side found Donovan who fired home a low shot for a 3-1 lead
Five minutes later, Donovan completed his hat trick when a Bradley through pass put Donovan behind the defense and he made no mistake in converting the opportunity with another low shot for a 4-1 advantage.
"Landon is a good soccer player," Bradley said. "So when he's on the field, he makes guys around him better. He's easy to play with. There's no doubt that we're a much better team when he's on the field. It was good to get him back in the group."
In the 69th minute, the United States rounded out the scoring when Jones saw his hard work all night rewarded with a goal off a header that was set up by Donovan - who was a factor in every US goal.
The 5-1 victory gave the United States a four game winning streak and it was an emphatic way for the Americans to break out of their offensive struggles. In the first ten games since Klinsmann took over as head coach, the US team had only scored multiple goals on one occasion.
"Obviously we are very pleased with how things went tonight," Klinsmann said. "It was a wonderful start with two early goals. I think we set the tone and the team really kept the rhythm. Throughout the entire game we kept the tempo going, the energy was high, we saw some wonderful goals."
Now the American team has much needed momentum heading into World Cup qualifying which begins on June 8th against Antigua and Barbuda.
"For us, this summer is about moving ourselves along one game at a time and raising our level each game," Bradley said. "For the first game there were some good things but now we have to improve as each game comes along."
Before qualifying starts, the US team will play a pair of friendlies with the first coming against a powerful Brazilian team on Wednesday followed by a match against CONCACAF rivals Canada on Sunday.