If you wanted to answer your critics about losing the desire to play the game that you love so much, a night in Jacksonville might just do the trick. In a friendly that continued to show the progress of coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s methods with the national team, Landon Donovan led the United States to a 5-1 victory over visiting Scotland.
It was another hat trick in the state of Florida for America’s leading scorer in international fixtures, and he gave the USA an early lead in the 3rd minute. Jermaine Jones began his night as an assist machine by making a great diagonal cross to Donovan, whose first attempt was saved, but the rebound he roofed home.
The Los Angeles Galaxy captain nabbed his second goal in the 60th minute, as Jones found the ball and attacked. He pulled the pass back into an area that led Donovan to the ball, and he struck it hard past the keeper. His final goal of the night came 5 minutes later, as Michael Bradley played a fantastic ball to Donovan, and he willed the strike off the inside of the near post for his hat trick.
While Donovan had a fantastic night putting the ball into the back of the net, there were a few others that shined as well. Jermaine Jones once again showed why he is more than a hard-tackling holding midfielder. His presence was essential during the attack, as he helped set up Donovan and laid off a peach of a pass for Bradley to rip into the upper ninety for the 2-0 lead early in the first half.
On Bradley’s strike, Donovan crossed the ball from the near side into the middle of the field in the 11th minute. Jones left a nice bouncing ball to Bradley who ripped a near-perfect shot that bombed the inside of the near post. What a roar from the crowd when that ball nailed the back of the net.
Jermaine Jones would earn his reward with the final goal of the night. It was Jones himself that started the play. His 70th minute pass to substitute Herculez Gomez was behind the Santos Laguna striker, but he found a way to save the possession by laying it off to Donovan. Donovan lofted a cross to Jones, who put his head into it and beat the keeper for the final tally of the night.
Despite a Geoff Cameron own goal pulling Scotland back to 2-1, the Tartan Army had next to nothing on the Yanks for the entire ninety minutes and it was a thrashing.
It was a huge night for Bradley, Donovan and Jones, who made magic all over the field and showed what they can do before World Cup Qualifying starts in about two weeks. But the real statement was from Donovan, who recently had indicated that his passion for soccer could be waning. A three-goal effort is a great step in silencing those who wondered if his lacking form with the Galaxy would translate to the national team. If anything, his performance might embolden those who assert that it is time for Donovan to return to Europe full-time.
There were other questions addressed on Saturday night. The left back position has been filled by Fabian Johnson and it’s currently his to lose. He has shown confidence and poise every time Jurgen Klinsmann has called his number. Terrance Boyd, another German-American who plies his trade for the reserve team at Borussia Dortmund, kept on running like a Mack truck trying to take down defenders with the ball, but failed to score his first in a USA jersey even though he had chances.
We all know the tough task is coming, with the USA facing Brazil at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. Right now there is some satisfaction knowing the growth of the national team is in good hands.