Landon Donovan inspired the United States to secure a semifinal berth at the Concacaf Gold Cup after a comfortable 5-1 victory over El Salvador in Baltimore on Sunday. Donovan, back in the U.S. squad for the tournament, continued his fine form as he provided assists for three U.S. goals and scored another to lead his side into the last four and a meeting with either Costa Rica or Honduras.
Victory looked in sight just before the half-hour mark when Joe Corona added to Clarence Goodson’s opener, but El Salvador briefly made things interesting as they pulled one back through a Rodolfo Zelaya penalty five minutes before the break. The threat was short lived, though, as the U.S. reasserted their control in the second half and ran out emphatic winners with strikes from Eddie Johnson, Donovan and Mikkel Diskerud.
The result extended the U.S.’ record tally of consecutive wins to nine in front of a sellout crowd, which was largely pro-Salvadoran at M&T Bank Stadium.
The U.S. had suffered bitter disappointment against the same opponents last year when a late El Salvador goal knocked the U.S. Under-23 side out of contention to make that summer’s Olympics. This time around Jurgen Klinsmann’s side got off to a fine start with Goodson’s goal 21 minutes in. After a short corner, Donovan received a chipped pass down the right of the box and his pull-back from the byline went through a defender’s legs before being side-footed home by the central defender from inside the six-yard box.
Eight minutes later the lead was doubled. Corona showed neat footwork after receiving a pass 20 yards out to feint past a defender and into the box before placing a shot low into the corner. Yet, El Salvador were soon gifted a path back into the contest when captain DaMarcus Beasley barged Zelaya down in the box and the forward coolly dinked a Panenka penalty past Nick Rimando for his fourth goal of the competition.
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At the start of the second had El Salvador applied some real pressure in search of an equalizer, but on the hour mark a Klinsmann substitution worked wonders to grab the U.S. the crucial next goal. With his first touch just seconds coming onto the pitch, one of the four men who had been drafted into the squad after the group phase, rose eight yards out and powered a header off of a Donovan corner into the net.
Johnson played a part in the fourth goal too, in the 78th minute. The Seattle Sounders forward, on in place of Chris Wondolowski, flicked on a long ball forward that was perfectly anticipated by Donovan, who raced clear and rounded goalkeeper Dagoberto Portillo before slotting into the unguarded net. The result now well beyond doubt, Donovan completed his fine afternoon with seven minutes remaining. It was the L.A. Galaxy forward’s perfectly executed cross that was met by a simple downward header into the net from seven yards by Diskerud.