USMNT Report: Building a Case

Team USA beats Belize 6-1 in both teams’ 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup opener
by Herb Scribner   |   Wednesday, July 10, 2013

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

By the end of last night, no one would forget Chris Wondolowski.

Starting off the night with his name misspelled on his jersey and finishing with a classic hat trick, Wondolowski highlighted the United States Men’s National Team’s return to the Gold Cup as the US sweeped by Belize, 5-1, at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Ore.

It wasn’t as dominant as its previous match, but the US managed to make an early statement in the Gold Cup tournament.

BELIZE HIGHLIGHTS: Wondolowski’s scoring streak started in the 12th minute when Joe Corona’s header – received off a well-placed loft by Jose Torres – rebounded to Wondo, who buried the ball and put the US up 1-0.

The San Jose Earthquakes striker wasn’t done there. Diving in a dangerous spot, he caught the end of a beautiful ball by Kyle Beckerman to put the US up 2-0 about 15 minutes later.

After Belize’s Ian Gaynair, who was completely unmarked, headed in a goal off a free kick, Wondolowski netted a header, making him the 3rd ever US player to earn a hat trick in the Gold Cup, joining the likes of Landon Donovan and Brian McBride.

Similar to the Guatemala match, the US controlled things for the majority of the 2nd half. Great play led to another US goal as Corona ran down the wing and slotted the ball to Donovan, who, without missing a beat, headed the ball to Stuart Holden, who knocked in his 3rd all-time goal for the US to put the Americans up 4-1.

Donovan then assisted on Michael Orozco Fiscal's goal off a free kick, offering the soaring defender a ball that he headed in for the 5-1 lead. Later, Donovan netted his own goal off a penalty kick given in the 76th minute for the 6-1 result.

POST-GAME REACTIONS: USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann said his team got the result it expected and wanted.

“We took it seriously,” he said. “The team was very focused and wanted to get the goals and they did. Therefore we are very satisfied with the result.”

The former German international striker also spoke of his own experience as a goal scorer and how it relates to Wondolowski.

“I think a goal scorer always comes on in moments where the extra work will pay off,” he said. “[Wondo] got his 1st [goal] the other day in San Diego and followed up with the next ones, and that’s what a goal scorer is about. … I never saw him frustrated, just hard-working attitude and giving everything he has.”

Klinsmann said he wants to see this attacking style in the future, even against bigger and better opponents than Belize or Guatemala.

“It’s a concept at work,” he said. “We want to push the game higher up in the opponents half whenever possible, even against the bigger nations. … The players understand more and more how we want to build up. … It will continue and we’re just trying to improve every time we are together.”

ANALYSIS: Barring any trickery by the soccer gods or unanticipated Cinderella story, this was a game the USA had in the bag before it began.

But so much came out of this game, and more than just a 6-1 result. We’re beginning to see players make a name for themselves and push for potential open spots in the top national team squad for World Cup Qualifiers and next year’s FIFA World Cup.

Wondolowski isn’t a national team starter yet, but he’s certainly making a case for being on the 1st team. A 1st half hat trick, no matter your opponent, is something special, especially when you’ve been a struggling striker like Wondolowski. He’s coming off both an international and club scoring slump, which makes his 3 goals last night and his 1 tally against Guatemala even more important for him as a striker.

Not all the credit can go to Wondolowski, though, as he was helped by Donovan, who continued to show how much he changes the game when he’s on, scoring 1 goal and tallying 2 assists. He now has 52 goals and 51 assists all-time internationally, becoming the 1st ever US player to join the 50/50 club. Donovan was speedy and dangerous throughout, and his vision, especially when working with Holden, is unmatched.

Holden changed the game last night, too, coming on in the 2nd half. He played well with Donovan and earned a much-deserved goal. Klinsmann’s plan of slowly integrating Holden back into the team – limiting his minutes and letting him settle back into things – has worked so far.

With the success they’ve shown in the last 2 games, Donovan, Holden and Wondolowski are all making a case to be featured regularly on the USA’s 1st team come the fall.

Other players are making a name for themselves, too, but in different ways. Beckerman and Mix Diskerud, who is now cap-tied to the United States, were highlights in the midfield, and are almost certainly solidified as Gold Cup starters from this point forward. Torres and Corona were lethal, especially in the 1st half. When they both have a chance to attack and create, Corona and Torres are incredibly threatening midfielders.

Goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who doesn’t offer too much size in between the posts, was agile and spry last night, getting a hand to a Harrison Tasher strike that was on target. He hasn’t been tested too much in the last 2 contests, which leaves a lot to wonder about his skill on the international level.

It’s bizarre seeing the United States dominate and win games without too much of a worry. Cuba, which the US faces Saturday will be another light opponent for this United States team, given that the Yanks play as assertively as they have been. Costa Rica downed Cuba 3-0 last night, so the Cubans won’t have too high of a morale for the Salt Lake City clash.

If the USA offers Costa Rica or Mexico the chances it did against Belize, it will spell doom for the Americans. Neither of those foes are playing their top soccer right now, but they will finish the easy chances when presented them.

It’s been fun to see a United States side be creative and attack in the way Klinsmann has been hoping for since his takeover. The Yanks are gelling together well and finding loads of opportunities in the attacking third.

While it’s good for the US to get these wins and do so with dominance, it’s important the team manages its expectations. The defense hasn’t had its back against the wall yet and hasn't faced anything too dangerous, save for a few decent attempts. Heavy attack from the opponent can change a game and disrupt a style of play. The US has to make sure it’s got its back-up plan ready to go for its bigger upcoming games.

But the United States, much like its players are hoping to do with their national team careers, has made its own impact for the Gold Cup so far, something that its more formidable opponents haven’t. The Americans have made themselves the team to beat.

NEXT UP: July 13 – Gold Cup: United States vs. Cuba, Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah. 3:30 p.m. EST, FOX, Univision.

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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