By Ridge Mahoney
Two more goals by Landon Donovan, both set up by Alejandro Bedoya, after an opening goal by Eddie Johnson carried the USA past Honduras, 3-1, Wednesday in a Gold Cup semifinal.
Donovan’s two goals tied him with teammate Chris Wondolowski for the tournament lead with five, and he also leads the tournament in assists with seven. Donovan has played a significant part in each of the last nine goals scored by the Americans in this tournament, starting with his crossfield pass to Brek Shea for the only goal in a 1-0 group win over Costa Rica.
Defender Clarence Goodson started the scoring sequences on the first and third goals, which along with another strong defensive display also earned him a high rating.
RATING PLAYER (CLUB) GP/G
6 Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake) 11/0. Enjoyed his quietest game of the tournament; wasn’t required to make even one difficult save. He played a competent game nonetheless, plucking the few crosses and through balls that came his way.
5 Michael Parkhurst (FC Augsburg/GER) 16/0. It wasn’t his best night on the ball, he committed a few unforced errors that provided Honduras with possession in the middle third. Defensively he was sound, and by the time Honduras switched Andy Najar to his side of the field, the Americans were in control.
7 Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes) 40/5. Honduras kept him from scoring (he scored his second goal this month in the quarterfinal against El Salvador) yet he exploited the time and space conceded to him and central partner Matt Besler to play balls to Landon Donovan and Alejandro Bedoya that set up the first and third U.S. goals, respectively. Honduras couldn’t beat him in the air, though he could have cleared the free kick that produced its goal if able to untangle himself from his mark in time.
6 Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City) 13/0. He kept close tabs on Roger Rojas and Diego Reyes when they ventured into his area and stepped up confidently to pick off passes. Snuffed a close-range Jerry Palacios shot in the final minutes to highlight another very commendable performance against an obviously fatigued opponent.
5 DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/MEX) 108/17. Lost a ball and trying to get it back committed the unnecessary foul that gave Honduras the free kick on which it scored. Provided a lot of energy up the left flank and like several teammates took punishing hits the referee seemed to approve of. Got caught ball-watching on one occasion and Najar slipped behind him to earn a corner kick.
7 Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake) 30/1. He wasn’t required to hit the diagonal crosses or switch-of-play balls he’s been supplying during this tournament, so he played a variety of neat, tidy passes while anchoring the center. He and Holden were in sync, sharing the ball-winning duties and balancing each other snugly to close off passing lanes. Palacios shook him off a couple of times but never gained a foothold.
6 Stuart Holden (Bolton/ENG) 22/3. Dug into tackles and played more assertively than in the past two games, tracking back to pick up balls from the back line while also pushing further upfield as the U.S. stitched passes together. Started a sequence through the middle and glided through for the return ball, only to be flattened by Juan Carlos Garcia’s flagrant but apparently not illegally deployed left elbow. Missed the target on his two shots.
7 Alejandro Bedoya (Helsingborg/SWE) 18/1. A pair of assists was just reward for his workrate, touch, and the timing of his runs. He pressed relentlessly up the right side, harassed Honduras when it tried to connect passes, and found a lot of seams on the dribble. He stayed wide much of the time, which opened up space in the middle and also dragged Honduras out of its preferred shape.
6 Jose Torres (Tigres UANL/MEX) 26/0. Helped Beasley contain Najar and seldom ventured deep into the attacking third. He got a bit perturbed at referee Walter Quesada for leniency regarding some rough tackling and that may have impaired his attacking zeal, but he rarely lost possession unless blatantly fouled.
8 Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy) 150/56. If the Hondurans hadn’t already played the USA twice this year without Donovan, you’d be hard-pressed to convince them he’d ever been away. They simply had no answer to his darting runs, brazen touches, and spot-on finishing. He looked menacing nearly every time he penetrated the attacking third and his subtle re-direction of Goodson’s pass to Johnson on the first goal served as a reminder that when on his game, he’s a class above.
7 Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders) 55/17. Permed hair brings added visibility, good or bad, and Johnson drew looks for the right reasons. He controlled and put away the feed from Donovan efficiently while peeling away from two pursuers, and knocked several high balls into dangerous positions in addition to the flick that Bedoya relayed to Donovan. There’s a maturity to his game that combined with physical prowess gives the squad great value.
4 Brek Shea (Stoke City/ENG) 22/1. Started off badly with a mis-hit pass and seemed a step off the pace.
6 Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg/NOR) 9/2. Mixed it up robustly to shut down the few flurries Honduras could muster and deserves kudos for his passing.
5 Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes) 16/6. Worked hard to harass the Hondurans down the stretch and battled determinedly through challenges to cut a ball back from the byline.
(Ratings: 1=low; 5=average; 10=high.)