USMNT Report: Donovan returns in game of debuts

In its maiden match on NBC Sports Network, the U.S. MNT showed attacking prowess drubbing Scotland 5-1 in Jacksonville
by Herb Scribner   |   Tuesday, May 29, 2012

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

The United States Men’s National Team returned to the pitch on Saturday as a part of its upcoming five game schedule (three friendlies and two World Cup Qualifiers), and with new jerseys in tow the USMNT did all it could to make an impression, drubbing Scotland, 5-1, in Jacksonville, Florida.

More than just a strong match for the USMNT, this was the team’s debut on the NBC Sports Network, which obtained hosting rights during the MLS offseason for both the domestic league and some of the National Team’s games. In addition, Terrence Boyd, in his second cap for the senior team, got his first nod in the starting lineup

“I was just happy,” said Boyd. “I was happy to have the chance to play from the beginning. You’re always nervous for a big game but it really turned out very well. We won 5-1, so there’s nothing more I could wish for. OK, well, I could have scored but it was a good match and I’m very happy.”

Match highlights: Landon Donovan opened the scoring in the third minute, following up his own shot to score the game’s opening goal. But both fans and the Twitterverse had little time to revel over Donovan’s return-to-form goal, as Michael Bradley pounded one in at the 10th minute to give the USMNT some early insurance.

The 2-0 lead didn’t remain long for the USMNT, as Geoff Cameron assisted with an own goal in the 15th minute, to seemingly give Scotland a slight chance for a second-half comeback.

After the halftime break however the USMNT came back and didn’t let up. The offense pushed forward on several occasions and finally hit net in the 59th minute with another Donovan strike. And just like the first half, there was little wait for the next goal, as the US’ all-time leading scorer nailed another in the 64 minute to complete his hat-trick.

But there was more to come from the USMNT and its golden boy, as Donovan passed the ball to midfielder Jermaine Jones, who put it in the back of the net to finish the onslaught with a fifth US goal.

Post-game reactions: The Americans set the tone against Scotland early, which is an important piece going forward."

“I think we set the tone and the team kept their rhythm throughout the entire game. We kept the tempo going, the energy was high. We saw wonderful goals. For a coach, that’s obviously fun to watch, no doubt about it,” said USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann at the postgame conference.

However, even though Klinsmann and the Americans set the tone early and developed a rhythm that the side has done little of over the past few years, it’s not something fans or followers should get used to just yet, according to Klinsmann.

“I think tonight you saw many elements of what we’re always talking about, what we’re trying step by step to develop,” said Klinsmann in a postgame conference.

Klinsmann added that the style is fast-paced, and it might be more difficult to pull off against Italy or Brazil. He also mentioned the recent 10-day training sessions for the team, which included creating different options for the Scotland match – ultimately leading to the Bradley, Jones and Maurice Edu defensive midfield trio.

“Between the three of us, we’ve played a lot of games together so there’s a good understanding. I think, then, when you throw in Landon, Jose, the cooperation with the defenders, there were good signs,” said Bradley after the game.

With the DMid tandem in the American midfield, Donovan pushed up more offensively, finding the motivation that many speculated he lost for the club in recent weeks.

“I don’t want to be mistaken for not caring. I care. I like being a part of this team. I’m a professional and I know how to do my job. I’ve been doing this a long time. Tonight was one of those nights where most things went right,” said Donovan after the game.

And while Donovan was happy to be back playing for his country, he wanted to remind both the media and fans alike that this is only one game, and there are several more to come.

“It’s just one game,” said Donovan. “We understand that. But it’s an important step forward toward our ultimate goal which is qualifying for Brazil 2014.”

The road to now: This very important summer for the USMNT got under way on May 16 when Klinsmann announced his training camp squad.

There were some notable absences from the original training camp squad, including Brek Shea and Kenny Cooper – who has 11 goals in 13 games for the New York Red Bulls. Shea, and others such as Freddy Adu and Eric Lichaj, had been making noise during earlier friendlies under Klinsmann. Timmy Chandler also declined the invitation by the USMNT.

On Friday, Klinsmann revealed his final 23 for World Cup Qualifying, cutting Juan Agudelo, Graham Zusi, Danny Williams and Alfredo Morales. Agudelo had been a staple in the USMNT since the tail end of the Bradley era, but wasn’t kept on because, according to Klinsmann, Agudelo “…it’s now down to him to show everybody that he belongs within the (U.S.) team as one of the leading strikers in the U.S.”

How I see it: I’ve watched the USMNT for several years now, and I was amazed last night at the quick start they had. It was a fun, fiery game. That’s something many fans have been seeking for years and hoped for with coach Klinsmann’ s arrival. It was something that many fans, both new and old, could appreciate.

The fact the game was a debut for the NBC Sports Network couldn’t have been better for the growth of American soccer culture. Any new viewers to the new channel that got a chance to check out the USMNT saw just how fun and exciting soccer can be.

As for Landon Donovan, who told Grant Wahl in a recent interview that he lost his hunger for the game, he returned to form with three goals and an assist against Scotland. This comes on the heels of the continuing downfall of his domestic club LA Galaxy this MLS season. Despite that, it looked like a return to form for Donovan. Good news for LA and the USA for sure.

Much of the midfield did well throughout the match. I’m not a big fan of Michael Bradley scoring and taking shots, as he’s a defending midfielder. But since the team has the depth in that position that they do, it makes sense to have a DMid push up from time to time.

Dempsey didn’t compete last night, but it’s intriguing to think how the game would have shifted had he brought his EPL form to the Yanks.

What this game showed us more than anything is that the USMNT is too reliant on Donovan and the midfield to score. The team still doesn’t have that all-and-all striker, especially with Jozy Altidore missing from the lineup.

And while many might be starry-eyed over this victory, it’s important to remember that Scotland hasn’t been a top-tier team for some time now, declining for years. They failed to qualify for the upcoming Euros next month, despite being heavily favored to make it.

From the stands: A record 44,438 packed into the EverBank Field in Jacksonville on Saturday night. It was predicted early last week that with 32,000 tickets sold prior to the match, that Floridian records would shatter, and so they did.

While Sam’s Army’s website featured a dated review of the Italy clash for the USMNT, the supporters’ Twitter page did offer info on the “WCQ and Scotland friendly” prior to the match.

The American Outlaws Twitter page was a little more enthusiastic on the result, tweeting both, “Yep. 5-1!” and “We still scored all the goals!” on Saturday night.

Up next: The masters of Samba and Soccer come to the nation’s capital as the USMNT hosts Brazil at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., on Wednesday. The game begins at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, and will be broadcasted on ESPN2, ESPN3 and Telefutura.

This will be the second contest this year for the USMNT against teams ranked in FIFA’s Top 10; the previous match was against Italy.

Brazil was also at work on Saturday, defeating Denmark, 3-1, in Hamburg. Hulk scored twice and assisted on another goal to earn the victory for the Seleção.

Herb SCRIBNER

Nationality:
USA
College:
UMass Amherst
Club Domestic:
RSL
Club Foreign:
FC Barcelona
SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.
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