The United States continued its dominance at the CONCACAF Gold Cup with a 3-1 win over Honduras in the semifinals Wednesday night at Cowboys Stadium.
Despite the fact that the Americans had won all four previous matches while outscoring opponents 16-3 in the tournament, Honduras was expected to provide a much stiffer test in Texas.
With the exception of a late group-stage match against Trinidad and Tobago, where the team rested its starters, Honduras had won all three Gold Cup matches without allowing a goal. Additionally, the United States was only able to escape with a 1-0 victory the last time these teams met in World Cup qualifying.
However, the host squad wasted little time taking the advantage in its quest for its 10th consecutive victory.
In the 11th minute, Landon Donovan received a pass which he tapped to Eddie Johnson making a quick run toward the net. With only the goalkeeper in front of him, Johnson took a strong shot to score his second goal in as many matches.
This, amazingly, was Donovan's seventh assist of the tournament, although the bigger story is Johnson, who is making a case to be included on the World Cup roster next summer.
Paul Carr and Jason Davis of ESPN each discussed the 29-year-old striker's comeback from relative obscurity:
Eddie Johnson has scored in consecutive #USMNT games for the first time since his first four matches in 2004-05.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) July 24, 2013
We haven't mentioned it in awhile, but Eddie Johnson's comeback from being...well, not wanted anywhere, is remarkable.— Jason Davis (@davisjsn) July 24, 2013
Of course, Team USA was far from finished in the first half. In the 27th minute, Donovan was able to get himself on the board with a tough goal in traffic that just squeaked past the goalkeeper.
U.S. Soccer recapped the play, giving credit where credit is due to Alejandro Bedoya on the assist:
Ball forward and a great flick on from Johnson. Bedoya tracked it down and did well to flick it to Donovan in a dangerous spot...— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) July 24, 2013
…but LD did the rest with a lovely chest trap and finish off the half volley to poke it past the 'keeper. Great goal! #USAvHON 2-0, 29'— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) July 24, 2013
At halftime, the United States held a 2-0 lead on an almost flawless 45 minutes, as ESPN's Taylor Twellman noted:
After intermission, Honduras proved it still had some life when it forced a free kick on a foul by DaMarcus Beasley. On a set piece from the right side, Marvin Chavez centered the ball to the middle for Nery Medina to head it into the net.
This once again showed USMNT's trouble with marking on crosses—an issue in previous matches as well.
This, of course, gave the Honduran side life, as the team cut the lead in half at the 52nd minute. Unfortunately, this good feeling only lasted a short while for the visitors.
Less than a minute later, Donovan scored his second goal of the match and his fifth of the tournament.
Clarence Goodson played a long ball over the top of the opposing midfield for Bedoya, who flicked it over to Donovan wide open in front of the net.
Soccer analyst Ives Galarcep discussed the importance of the quick response from the team:
THAT is how you answer a goal surrendered. And it's Goodson with ANOTHER good pass to find Bedoya, who slots it to Donovan.— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) July 25, 2013
For the rest of the match, the United States did a strong job of maintaining possession and limiting the opportunities for Honduras. When the opposing attack did have a shot, goalkeeper Nick Rimando did an excellent job of knocking it away.
It seemed as though the match would have an uneventful end, but Jurgen Klinsmann made sure that did not happen. After a few physical tackles by Honduras, the U.S. head coach was sent off for some animated objections to the refereeing, as noted by FOX Soccer Trax:
88 Jurgen Klinsmann has seen enough of referee Walter Quesada's tolerance of Honduras's rough play and gets himself tossed!— FOX Soccer Trax (@FOXSoccerTrax) July 25, 2013
After previously reporting that this would mean Klinsmann would automatically be forced to miss the next match, Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated stated that the coach's fate is still to be decided:
CONCACAF chief press officer Jurgen Mainka now says he got bad info, Klinsmann suspension will be decided by CONCACAF disciplinary committee— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) July 25, 2013
While this was an unfortunate way to finish the match, it still does not take away from a great team effort on the day.
Donovan was clearly the best player on the pitch and has now been a factor in 12 goals in five matches—more than any other team has scored in the entire tournament. He is showing that he's still got a lot of life in his 31-year-old legs and will continue being a factor for the national team going forward.
Still, the entire roster was impressive enough to earn a solid victory.
With the win, the Americans advance to the tournament final to face Panama, who beat Mexico 2-1 in the other semifinal. Although the U.S. has reached the last match in each of the last two Gold Cups, the team is seeking its first championship since 2007.
If the U.S. continues its strong form displayed throughout the tournament, it is tough to imagine anyone else in the CONCACAF region pulling out a win.
The Gold Cup final is set for 4 p.m. ET Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago.
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