The LA Galaxy midfielder once again proved his value to the U.S. national team, scoring two goals and picking up an assist to lead the Americans to Sunday's final.ARLINGTON, Texas - There's no stopping Landon Donovan.
The LA Galaxy star continued his strong run of form after threatening retirement following the 2012-13 MLS season with a pair of goals and an assist to guide the Americans to a convincing 3-1 victory over Honduras in the Gold Cup semifinals at Cowboy Stadium on Wednesday night.
"I have told him in our conversations that 'I measure you. Your benchmark is the best Landon Donovan ever,'" U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "I'm not taking anything less than that. And he is trying to catch up with that. Give him more games. Give him time."
Playing with the U.S. 'B' team during the Gold Cup after stepping away from the game last winter, Donovan has likely earned a spot on next summer's World Cup roster after recording seven goals and nine assists in the team's last six matches - five of which were in the CONCACAF tournament.
As a result of his presence after missing out on the last couple World Cup qualifying camps, the United States - which has outscored its Gold Cup opponents 19-4 - extended its record winning streak to 10 games with a meeting with Panama in Sunday's final at Soldier Field on the horizon.
"I think we all are very, very pleased with the way (Donovan is) playing, and the way he’s proving the point that he’s hungry to come back into our picture, and [we're] obviously going forward towards the World Cup qualifiers," Klinsmann said.
Eddie Johnson scored the opener for the USA and Donovan twice provided the Stars and Stripes a two-goal lead against Honduras, which gave the host nation a scare early in the second half when Nery Medina scored on a header off a set piece.
In a bit of controversy, Klinsmann was tossed out of the game in the 87th minute after arguing what he thought was a hard foul on DaMarcus Beasley. There's a chance he could be suspended for the final depending on what an 11-person CONCACAF disciplinary committee decides over the next two days.
If he is ruled out, the U.S. will be in a hole without its boss who has the team rolling one year before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Klinsmann made three changes in his lineup from the USA's 5-1 victory over El Salvador in the semifinals on Sunday. Johnson replaced Chris Wondolowski up front, Alejandro Bedoya took over for Joe Corona and Stuart Holden moved ahead of Mix Diskerud in the midfield.
The changes paid off early on.
In just the 11th minute, Johnson worked a combo play with Donovan in the midfield that eventually led to the speedy Seattle Sounders striker finding himself with a clear path to the goal for an easy strike to open up the scoring.
Johnson, who was one of four players named to the Gold Cup roster prior to the knockout stage, now has two goals in two Gold Cup games. As a second-half substitute in the semifinals, it took Johnson just 14 seconds to score against El Salvador.
"I’m not going to lie, I like it on the wing now," Johnson said. "But I got called upon to play up top with Landon, who is a fantastic player, and playing with him, and his movement off the ball and his vision is first-class."
In the 27th minute, it was Donovan's turn to get on the scoreboard thanks to a quality set up from Bedoya, who had a nice first touch off a long pass before tapping it to Donovan. Staying onside, Donovan played the ball off his chest and slid it past goalkeeper Donis Escober.
The United States dominated throughout, but the Central Americans did manage to cause some concern shortly after halftime.
Medina scored his first international goal in his 10-year career off a set-piece cross from Marvin Chávez in the 52nd minute, but the pressure on the Yanks wouldn't last long.
Donovan quickly answered thanks to another solid play from Bedoya, who received a ball over the top of Honduras' back line before finding the onrushing Donovan at the top of the six-yard box for his second goal of the game.
"The first 30 minutes was brilliant football. Brilliant, high pressure, high tempo," Klinsmann said. "We wanted to move the football around and create chances, and that's what we did."
Entering the game Donovan was the only U.S. player to play every minute of every game. He was subbed out for Wondolowski in the 72nd minute after playing a role in each of his team's goals.
"It's the most relaxed I've felt," Donovan said. "I feel good, and I'm really enjoying it."
The United States will hope Donovan continues his leadership in the final, especially since Klinsmann may not be on the sideline after getting booted out of the game for arguing with referee Walter Quesada in front of the U.S. bench.
"It was just a reaction out of frustration, because fouls have added up throughout the last half an hour." Klinsmann said. "One really bad one actually right after the goal and then came this foul from Bease with two guys coming into him from behind, and I just kind of over boiled it."
The disciplinary committee was noncommittal on a decision after the game and said it will review the incident over the next 24-48 hours and make a decision if Klinsmann will be able stand on the sideline for the next game.
"I apologize for that reaction," Klinsmann said. "It was not meant against the referee, against nobody, because you feel for the health of your player in that moment."