On Friday night in San Diego, the US national team defeated Guatemala 6-0 in an international friendly in a tune-up for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which kicks off next week. It took longer than was perhaps expected for the US to show two things versus Guatemala: one, that the 23 players whom US Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann called up are hungry to prove their value ahead of next summer's World Cup, and two, that the US outclasses Guatemala by many levels in every part of the field.
Guatemala managed to keep the US at bay for most of the first half, as it wasn't until the 41st minute that Herculez Gomez broke the deadlock by poking a feed from Jose Torres into the net.
From their, the US never looked back as Chris Wondolowski, Clarence Goodson, and Alejandro Bedoya each netted one goal. Landon Donovan, who made his first national team appearance since last August, tallied two history-making goals as he became the fourth CONCACAF player all-time to reach 50 international goals.
Donovan scored the US' second goal, converting a penalty kick after he was dragged down in the six-yard box in the 55th minute. Wondolowski came on for Gomez in the 61st minute and made history of his own, scoring his first-ever international goal by finishing a play set up by Donovan in the 71st minute. Donovan added a fourth goal less than a minute later by volleying a cross by Stuart Holden into the back of the net.
Next came a goal from Goodson off a corner kick in the 76th minute. The feeding frenzy ended with Bedoya's goal in the 88th.
Just how hungry was this group of players? Hungry. This was the US' largest margin of victory since an 8-0 victory over Barbados in a World Cup qualifying preliminary match on June 15, 2008. That makes this Klinsmann's biggest ever victory.
The Italians have a word for this kind of rout: goleada. Goleadas are quite the statement by teams when they occur. It's a term reserved for games that feature an avalanche of goals. But because the Americans who played against Guatemala are all pushing for a spot in next summer's World Cup, Wednesday's goleada was more of a collection of individual statements.
Bearing in mind that the US is better than Guatemala, such a result is almost expected--especially when Klinsmann puts out a group of players that is so driven to prove itself.
For example, goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who played the entirety of Wednesday's game, needs to impress because he's third in the pecking order behind the experienced Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. Donovan has to show that he's not only in form, but also deserves a spot on the national team because he can lead. Oguchi Onyewu has to show Klinsmann that he hasn't missed a beat, even if he has played very little for his club team. Holden is bouncing back from injury. Wondolowski needs to prove he can score at the international level.
The list goes on and on. Everyone on this Gold Cup roster is looking to make some kind of a statement.
But if emphatic scoring performances and stingy defensive displays are the norm, how will Klinsmann distinguish between which players get their 15 minutes of fame in the Gold Cup from who will earn a coveted place on the US roster for Brazil next summer?
Though the Americans will all likely show some flashes of brilliance over the next few weeks, as the US is far and away better than most of their Gold Cup competition, Klinsmann will be able to pick out consistency when he sees it. He'll look for players who are prone to lapses or just don't produce at this level of international soccer and will dismiss them for the matches that really matter.
Klinsmann's so-called "A-team" clicked on almost every cylinder in June. There's so much competition for a regular spot with that group of players. And no one on this current roster, not even Donovan, is safe from how Klinsmann will evaluate performances and make personnel decisions.
No performance, goleada or otherwise, can save a player from that.
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To our readers,
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David Beard, Editor, Boston.com