The United States Men’s National Team is two games into their Gold Cup group stage matches and has recorded two wins. These two wins have allowed the US to qualify for the quarterfinals of the competition with a combined goal differential of +8. A lot of the team’s success in this tournament has come from the savvy play of Landon Donovan.
Donovan’s performances since his self-imposed break from soccer have been quite promising. In the three games since his return, the US has won by a combined score of 16-2 with Donovan scoring four of those goals. Granted, the competition in those games has been sub-par, but it is good to see that he is not rusty. He is a player who has a certain calm to him wherever he is on the field, while still possessing the creativity that has made him a legend for the national team.
In a first half against Cuba where the whole team seemed stagnant and uninspired, Donovan was one of the few bright spots. When he received the ball his touch was crisp and he looked to progress the ball forward. Although he scored a penalty-kick at the end of the first half, it wasn’t until the introduction of Chris Wondolowski and Mix Diskerud that his creativity came to fruition. Dynamic runs from the forwards and even the full-backs opened up space for Donovan to cut the Cuban defense open with probing passes.
Donovan is a special player for the US because of the leadership that he provides on and off the field. He always says the right things and serves as an important role model for the players. Donovan has a knack for reading the game and knowing when the tempo needs to be changed. He has become the player who calms things down when they are too frantic or injects creativity when they are too static. This is an invaluable quality for the US as they look to capture their first Gold Cup title since 2007.
With the run of form that the team has been on recently, there is no reason why they shouldn’t win this tournament. Usually, Mexico looks to be the greatest threat to that achievement, and while they are still one of the strongest sides in the tournament, this year seems different. A lack of cutting edge and confidence has doomed Mexico to some poor results lately. If they want to beat a high-flying American squad, they will have to step up their performances.
The United States Men’s National team should win the Gold Cup this year and gain some momentum going in to their final World Cup qualifying matches. Landon Donovan will prove to be a vital part of this success. He has proven his worth to the national team by restoring their faith in his ability; his confidence and leadership combined with the depth of the squad will result in victory for the United States.