After waltzing through the group stages and laying waste to the hopes and dreams of El Salvador in the Gold Cup quarterfinals, this was supposed to be the first real test for Landon Donovan and the USMNT. This was supposed to be the end of sunshine and butterflies and the beginning of some real hard-nosed, lunch pail stuff. Instead, the Stars and Stripes treated us to its most dominant half of soccer in recent history on the way to a emphatic 3-1 victory.
It took just 11 minutes for the Americans to get on the board through Eddie Johnson, with a Clarence Goodson springing Donovan to find Johnson. Later in the half it was Donovan taking matters into his own hands. Well, actually it was the spectacular Alejandro Bedoya — a surprise starter on the right wing in place of Joe Corona — who made his mark, teeing up Donovan in front of goal to knock home a spectacular second.
It was a less dominant showing after the break, with Honduras quick to pull one back, much as El Salvador had done one game prior. Yet, while La Selecta continued to look dangerous, pushing the USMNT back on its heels for a few moments, Bedoya and Donovan made sure there was not mistake this time around. Before the tweets of admonishment could fly off the fingers of armchair critics around the country, the two-goal lead was restored as Bedoya again allowed Donovan an easier finish. Aside from a late Jürgen Klinsmann ejection it was a simple finish to the match, putting the USMNT through to yet another Gold Cup Final.
Steve Fogarty and I watched and graded the match. As always, grades are on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best and 1 reserved for CONCACAF officiating.
Nick Rimando: 6
Wait, Nick Rimando played in this game? Pretty much powerless to stop the Honduras goal, but did well to come out and clean up Clarence Goodson’s mess later in the match. Continues to lock himself into the Gold Cup starter/No. 3 overall position.
Michael Parkhurst: 6
Appeared to be given more space to roam up the right than usual, though that doesn’t always mean good things. He’s been worse getting forward, but yeah, nobody is confusing him with Roberto Carlos. That said, he does do the job defensively.
Clarence Goodson: 6.5
I hate on him more than pretty much anyone else for thinking he’s the trigger man of the USMNT attack, but it kind of worked today. Sprung Donovan for the first goal and Bedoya for the third. Generally solid in defending, though his grade takes a significant knock for nearly gifting a Honduras a second, only to be saved by an alert Rimando.
Matt Besler: 7
Much better than his quarterfinal performance. Usually known as the more sure defender with his feet, but won more than his fair share of aerial battles. Also sharp with his passing out of the back.
DaMarcus Beasley: 6.5
Wasn’t as much of a danger in attack as most games recently, but much better recovery on defense as well. As ho-hum a performance as could be from the captain.
Kyle Beckerman: 7
Few have seen a complete turn from villain to hero this side of the WWE. Simple passing and his value as a destroyer in the midfield was apparent throughout the game. His importance was also reflected in the lack of cohesion after his exit, which is disappointing for all those rooting for the DiskerStu midfield.
Stuart Holden: 6.5
A much-needed bounce-back performance for Holden. Had a few chances and should have won a penalty after taking an elbow to the face, but was otherwise quiet. Not that it’s a bad thing; his passing was spot on and is always willing to go into a tackle despite his injury history.
Alejandro Bedoya: 7.5
As a fellow Boston College alumnus, I can’t help but love Bedoya. That said, my brow may have furrowed a little seeing him in the starting lineup. It didn’t take long for him to make a major impact. Worked very well with Donovan, assisting on both his goals. Even had a few attempts at goal of his own, including one near post that nearly tricked the Honduran ‘keeper. All that kept him from a Man of the Match — aside from Landon Donovan that is — were a pair of blunders in his own area. He lost his mark on the Honduras goal and turned the ball over on the endline later in the match.
Landon Donovan: 8.5
Captain America. Two goals, one assist and the hearts of Americans from sea to shining freakin’ sea. Nothing else needs to be said. Undoubted Man of the Match.
José Torres: 6
Remember how I said Beasley’s performance was as ho-hum as it gets? Yeah, well Torres may actually take the cake. Helped contain Andy Najar on the right and had some nice sequences with his passing, but otherwise was not a factor.
Eddie Johnson: 7.5
His talent is becoming harder to ignore the older he gets. Took his goal very well and seems to be putting it all together. His ability to hold the ball up has also been a pleasant surprise, as has his ability to carve out space for his teammates.
Mix Diskerud: 5.5
Not his best, but still showing better skill as a two-way player than was initially expected of him. Still a toss-up whether he or Holden starts the final, but definitely has a role in the USMNT structure going forward.
Brek Shea: 5
Seems to alternate between spark and fizzle. Less of an obvious failure than his game against Cuba, but still seemed to lack something.
Chris Wondolowski: 5
If you have to follow Donovan’s performance, good luck. Wondo didn’t have enough of it, but credit to him for running around and attempting to cause problems.