SAN DIEGO – DaMarcus Beasley has known Landon Donovan since they were teenagers in the U.S. residency program, over a decade ago. When Donovan scored on Friday, Beasley embraced him and said two words.
With a penalty early in the second half of a 6-0 demolition of Guatemala, Donovan moved up to 50 goals for the U.S. national team. For good measure, the 31-year-old added a second from an audacious Stuart Holden chip, his 51st international goal.
Welcome back, indeed.
In his first appearance with the United States since August of last year, and his first goal since May, Donovan announced his return sharply against a hapless Guatemala team.
“I'm not going to get carried away because I scored a couple goals in a friendly against Guatemala, but it's good for confidence, it's good to score goals, it's good for the team to win,” Donovan said.
With the domestic-based La Furia Azul roster in the offseason, it didn't put up much of a resistance in the second half, when the Yanks put up five of their goals. But Guatemala did manage to frustrate the USA in the early going. With U.S. possession frequently withering into turnovers, Jurgen Klinsmann made an adjustment midway through the first stanza, pulling Joe Corona out wide and funneling Donovan through the middle as a second striker.
“It gave me a lot of free space to kind of roam around, pick my spots,” striker Herculez Gomez said. Gomez scored a few minutes before the break, and the United States didn't look back.
“[Donovan's] presence on the field is second to none,” Beasley said. “We honor that; we value that. He's a guy that you look to when times are going rough.”
After a shove on Donovan in the Guatemala gave the USA a penalty, the all-time leader in goals and assists for the U.S. national team stepped to the white dot in the middle of the box. He's missed both penalties he's taken for the LA Galaxy this season. Didn't matter – Donovan dinked the ball straight down the middle for his half century milestone.
“I realize at the end of the day it's just the ego that feels good and it doesn't mean anything when I'm on my death bed,” Donovan said, “but I am still proud of it and I'm happy.”
Shortly after notching his second, a sweeping finish after a clever dart away from the defense in the 77th minute, Donovan made way, his job for the night finished.
Klinsmann scored 47 goals for Germany, winning a World Cup and European Championship along the way. The former Bayern Munich coach left Donovan off the most recent World Cup qualifiers, arguing that each player has to work his way up the pecking order on merit, not history. Donovan took an extended sabbatical ahead of the 2013 MLS season and is slowly rebuilding form with the Galaxy.
“Goals always help,” Klinsmann said. “For every striker it's the best recipe.”
More goals could arrive in the upcoming Gold Cup. The United States takes on a weak Belize side on Tuesday to kick of its tournament.
Donovan missed out on the first-choice roster in June. July provides his chance at reclaiming a role with the USA with the World Cup a year out. He's taking the Gold Cup seriously.
“I want to be a part of it,” Donovan said. “Whether that's playing every minute every game, whether that's playing and contributing a little bit, whether that's being on the bench and helping – I want to be holding a trophy at the end of the month.”
His strike partner on Friday, Gomez, knows a bit about being frozen out. Gomez at one point called himself a former U.S. national team player on his Twitter bio, and rebuilt his career from scratch after leaving MLS, scrapping his way up the Liga MX food chain.
Gomez looks in Donovan's eyes and sees himself.
“There are few players that, in their career, play with a chip on their shoulder,” Gomez said. “If you know what that's like and how highly motivational that can be, it can give you an edge. I think Landon could be a very dangerous player if he takes that.”
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