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July 24, 2013
US sights set on Gold Cup title

By John Tranchina
Special to New England Soccer News

Eddie Johnson scored for the second straight match to help send the U.S. Men through to Sunday’s Gold Cup Final.
Eddie Johnson scored for the second straight match to help send the U.S. Men through to Sunday’s Gold Cup Final.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
ARLINGTON, Texas – The United States Men’s National Team may have put together some dominating performances in the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament, but they won’t be satisfied unless they emerge triumphant in Sunday’s Final.

Landon Donovan scored two goals and added an assist to help lead the United States to a 3-1 victory over Honduras in their semifinal matchup Wednesday night at Cowboys Stadium.

Eddie Johnson also scored for the US, while Alejandro Bedoya contributed two assists as the Americans advanced to the Gold Cup Final for the fifth straight time. They will face Panama in the championship game on Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago.

“A Final, if you face Mexico or you face Panama, that’s what you’re working for all year long,” US coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “You want to prove to everyone that you deserve to win this title, and I told the players to just take it all in and enjoy it.”

Donovan pointed out, though, that the next big game is coming up very quickly.

“It’s very important in the next few days to recover physically,” said Donovan, who now has five goals in the tournament, moving him into a tie with teammate Chris Wondolowski, who substituted for him in the 72nd minute, and Panama’s Manuel Gabriel Torres. “Obviously, emotionally, everyone’s excited for Sunday, but physically, we have to do a really good job. We have a tremendous training staff that does a really good job, so we’ll be ready.”

Nery Medina scored the lone goal for Honduras, which is now 4-14-3 all-time against the United States.

“We had various problems today to overcome the United States,” said Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez. “Their technique was very good today, they were very aggressive, and we were unable to overcome those factors. Physically, they were much better, superior to us and unfortunately, in the end, the U.S. was really able to beat us in every aspect of the game.”

The US team, which lost to Mexico in the Final in each of the last two Gold Cups, but won the two previous tournaments, has won its last three games by a combined margin of 12-3, and looked good doing it.

“I guess I would have expected it to probably be a little more difficult up to this point, but we know Sunday is going to look different than any of these games and we’re aware of that,” said the 31-year-old Donovan, who is the USA’s all-time leading goal-scorer. “But I think it’s a testament to this group and how we’ve played. Guys are confident, they’re eager, they’re excited. Everyone’s just playing really well and it’s a lot of fun to be a part of.”

Fresh off a 5-1 thrashing of El Salvador in Baltimore on Sunday, the Americans took the early lead on Johnson’s second goal of the tournament just 11 minutes in, set up by a nice short pass from Donovan. Johnson cut between two Honduran defenders, raced ahead and drilled a 15-yard right-footed shot that beat goalkeeper Donis Escober into the upper right corner.

Donovan then made it 2-0 in the 27th minute. Bedoya relayed Johnson’s long lead ball and Donovan managed to knock the it down with his chest and then lunged forward with his right foot to slot it just past the diving Escober and inside the right post.

Honduras, who defeated Costa Rica 1-0 last Saturday in the quarterfinals in Atlanta, cut the US lead to 2-1 in the 52nd minute when Medina became the ninth straight different goal-scorer for Honduras.

Off a free kick from about two yards beyond the right side of the penalty area, taken by former FC Dallas midfielder Marvin Chavez, Medina leapt up for a 15-yard header that beat goalkeeper Nick Rimando to the upper right corner.

The Americans answered less than a minute later, though, when Donovan notched his second goal of the night, his fifth of the tournament and the 18th Gold Cup goal of his career, the most ever. Bedoya chased down a long lead ball from Clarence Goodson in the penalty area, then chipped a knee-high pass over to Donovan in the middle for the tap-in.

“We’re up 2-nil, they say it’s the worst lead, they score, 2-1 and it could have changed everything, but it was strong by us that we were able to come right back down their throat, score the third goal and pretty much put the air out of them,” said Bedoya, who last played for Helsingborgs IF in Sweden.

One potential negative to come out of the game is that Klinsmann was ejected from the contest in the 87th minute and faces a possible disciplinary hearing before it’s determined whether he can coach in the Final.

After US captain Damarcus Beasley was taken down and no foul was called, Klinsmann became upset and slammed the ball down and was ejected, or “dismissed” by the referee, since coaches and technical staff do not receive red cards. According to a CONCACAF official, it is not an automatic suspension for the next game, but a report will be filed with the Gold Cup Disciplinary Committee, and they will decide within 24-48 hours if any further action is required.

“It was just a reaction out of frustration because fouls had ended up through the last half hour, one really bad one just before our third goal, and then this one on Bease, two guys hit him from behind and I just kind of boiled over,” Klinsmann said. “Obviously, you shouldn’t then throw the ball, hit it on the ground, and I apologized afterwards. It wasn’t meant at the ref or anyone, it was just frustration in the moment, because you feel for the health of your player. So I apologize for that.”

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