An American hero.
Landon Donovan has been spectacular throughout the United States’ run through the 2013 Gold Cup. He’s scored a tournament-high five goals, and on Sunday in Chicago, he will lead his country to a victory over Panama for the championship.
In USA’s 6-1 win over Belize to start Group C play, Donovan scored a goal on a penalty kick and had a pair of assists. He scored on another penalty kick in the team’s second game of group play, which it won 4-1 against Cuba. The 31-year-old was held scoreless in the final match of group play but did have an assist on USA’s lone goal.
It was a perfect start for the Americans, but the competition was about to get a lot tougher as USA entered the knockout stage of the Gold Cup. Donovan and his teammates made it look easy against El Salvador in the quarterfinals, scoring five goals throughout the match while allowing just one.
Donovan had a role in four of the five goals scored for the United States, as he put one in himself and assisted on three others. The victory gave the Americans nine consecutive victories in full internationals, which broke the team’s previous record, according to Leander Schaerlaeckens of Fox Sports.
With Donovan playing such a large role in the team’s success in the quarterfinals and helping the United States make history, it was no surprise when manager Jurgen Klinsmann praised the star for how well he played, per Schaerlaeckens:
Landon again today proved how valuable he is and how he can make a difference. This game was important for us coaches to see who is a difference-maker our there, who—maybe when things are going the wrong way—can take the game on their feet. Landon was one of those players today.
Donovan was dominant against El Salvador, but he was arguably better in USA’s semifinal matchup against Honduras. With the Americans leading 1-0, he scored a goal in the 27th minute to increase his team’s advantage. Honduras would answer in the 52nd minute, but Donovan would strike again in the 53rd to seal the victory.
The goal was the star’s 55th in international play, which put him in a third-place tie in CONCACAF history, according to Paul Carr of ESPN:
Not only did the goal move Donovan higher in the record books, but his two against Honduras also helped the United States clinch a berth in the championship game on Sunday, according to the official Twitter account for SportsCenter:
Carr reports that Donovan had the fewest touches of any other starter for the United States. That, however, didn’t stop him from playing a role in all three goals for the team, scoring the aforementioned two and assisting on the opening goal scored by Eddie Johnson.
“It’s the most relaxed I’ve felt,” Donovan told the Associated Press, via USA Today, after his team’s victory. “I feel good, and I’m really enjoying it.”
No team has been able to keep Donovan quiet throughout the Gold Cup, and don’t expect Panama to do so Sunday. The Panamanians have had a great run through the tournament as well, but they don’t know what they’re in for when Donovan takes the pitch at Soldier Field.
Donovan will again be a large contributor in the final against Panama in what will be the United States’ fifth Gold Cup championship in the country’s history.
You can bet on that.