The USA cruised to a 5-1 victory over El Salvador in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and Landon Donovan showed that he is back to his old self with a beautiful performance.
At 31 years old and coming off of a break from the game, the USA’s all time leading scorer had to prove to coach Jurgen Klinsmann that he could display the consistency and commitment that he demands from all of his players. He certainly made great strides in that regard against El Salvador.
Donovan has always been an emotional player, and perhaps that is what lead him to his sabbatical from the game he loves. Throughout his career he has struggled to overcome negative emotions. When his confidence or mood dips from its usual levels, his play has suffered significantly.
Feeling better after his break from the game, Donovan has played at a very high level since returning. “I’m just having a lot of fun,” Donovan said after the match against El Salvador. “I’m enjoying myself.”
His level of play showcases his refreshed attitude following his break. Surging back onto the scene, Donovan has now tallied three goals and six assists in his first four games back with the USA national team. in the USA’s 5-1 victory over El Salvador Donovan scored a goal and added three assists.
“Today was my mom’s 60th birthday so I was pushing hard to try and score a goal and it finally came [in the 78th minute],” Donovan said. “It was a nice present for her.
You can watch the goal here.
Showcasing his rekindled ability to have fun on the pitch, Landon Donovan made the most of a situation at the end of the game in which El Salvador fans were throwing stuff at him before a corner kick. Instead of getting upset or being concerned for his safety, he simply picked up a pair of sunglasses and attempted to put them on before taking his corner kick. The referee didn’t allow it.
Despite a performance that almost certainly makes Landon Donovan the USA’s MVP of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and perhaps the entire tournament should the Americans win, coach Klinsmann is not rushing his decision of whether or not to include Donovan on the World Cup roster.
“For us we take it one game at a time and Landon again proved today how valuable he is. For coaches, it’s important to see who’s a difference maker out there, who, when things go a little bit the wrong way, they take the game on themselves and Landon was one of those players,” the American coach said.
It would be a mistake not to give Landon Donovan a spot on his fourth World Cup roster, he is easily the most creative weapon the team has, and his ability to “challenge defenses from open play and set pieces and is a threat both as a set-up man and finisher” make him an incredibly dangerous player.
He looks to be having fun once again, and as he showed El Salvador, that is when he is his most effective. Landon Donovan has lead his nation to World Cup success before, and looks to be gearing up to do so again in 2014.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express