Another United States Men’s National Team game and another dominating victory. I could get used to saying that.
The United States dismantled Belize 6-0 in its opening Gold Cup match late last night led by Chris Wondolowski’s first-half hat trick. With the remaining goals by Landon Donovan, Stuart Holden and Michael Orozco Fiscal, the United States had nothing to worry about.
However, that was the second six-goal game in a row—many wonder whether the competition is far inferior to the rest of the world or the United States is simply playing better as a whole.
Let’s take a look at some of the must-see moments from the Gold Cup opener and see if we can get any closer to that answer.
Soccer Has Finally Made it in America
As a soccer fan growing up, it was incredibly hard to watch games outside of the World Cup—every four years. The men’s national team was occasionally on television, but it was nowhere near the widespread attention the sport has finally garnered.
With the recent success of Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and the plethora of other young American soccer stars across the pond, it was clear that the next logical step was the fans.
They certainly delivered last night in Portland, as evidenced by this picture from MLS' Twitter account.
The American Outlaws—the nationwide USMNT supporting group—are leading the charge in American soccer fandom.
Has Chris Wondolowski Finally Staked His Claim for a Roster Spot?
Wondolowski led the charge last night with a first-half hat trick—all with his name misspelled on the back. He ended the first half with two headers and an easy finish from about three yards out.
His first goal, where he was left uncovered, came after a header that was blocked by the goalie. The ball fell to Wondolowski’s feet and he smashed it home. Any striker on the roster—and in MLS—would have finished that.
The second goal—featured to the right— was a "diving" header by the MLS All-Star. However, he wasn’t covered. No one on the defense was even close to him.
He finished the ball, well, like any professional should. Take Wondolowski away from the play completely and Beckerman still hits that ball for Donovan, who is standing uncovered right next to him.
The last goal—also on the right—was another "diving" header by Wondolowski and, in my opinion, his only worthy goal of the night.
Michael Parkhurst played a beautiful ball to the center of the box. Wondolowski out-hustled his man to the ball and headed it home.
Looking back on his night, he had one really good goal and two "right place, right time" goals.
The guys at Men in Blazers retweeted a fan regarding the Wondolowski hat trick, and they certainly put it best:
Wondolowski has proven over his career that he can score goals against an MLS defense—or worse, when playing Belize—but he has never proven it against a competitive international team.
Until Wondolowski can do that, he won’t deserve a World Cup roster spot.
Landon Donovan is our Mario Balotelli…in a Sense
What do Mario Balotelli and Landon Donovan have in common?
They rarely miss penalty kicks. Donovan struggled at the beginning of his Galaxy season, but has seemed to throw that out the window with his two latest PKs.
Brandon Sofranko of HEYYYYY FANNNSSSS elaborated on Donovan’s PK prowess:
There are 3 guarantees in life. Death. Taxes. And Landon Donovan scoring on a penalty kick. 6-1 #USA— Brandon Sofranko (@YouMeAndDupuis) July 10, 2013
While Klinsmann and the United States have proven they can be successful without their storied winger, his confidence will be the key as they prepare for the World Cup.
This goal had no effect on this game whatsoever, but getting on the scoresheet is important for any soccer player. Donovan needs that to continue to regain his form.
Having an assertive Donovan as their penalty and free kick taker—whether you are playing Belize or not— will be devastating if Klinsmann can pull this roster together as it prepares for the World Cup next summer.
What did we learn here?
The United States thrashed a team from a country with 350,000 people, but it’s more than that.
Never have I watched a United States soccer team dominate opponents like this, whether they are formidable or not. In the past, it has only tied or barely won games that it should have won 6-0 or 6-1.
If anything, we should take away a new brand of United States soccer where dominance is expected. No longer should the squad struggle with CONCACAF teams other than Mexico.
Bring on World Cup 2014.