The U.S. Men’s National Team presented its version of the popular Highland Games on Saturday by ‘bag piping, kilting and caber tossing’ its way to an emphatic 5:1 victory over the traveling Scotts and their loyal and rambunctious (at least pre-game) fans. U.S. Men’s National Team forward Landon Donovan scored three goals, his third career USMNT hat trick, and made his 125th career start, surpassing the previous record of 124 held by US defender Jeff Agoos.
The U.S. is in the midst of a five-game stretch in 18 days including Wednesday’s match in DC vs. Brazil and the first two 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in June. The crowd of 44,438 at Everbank Field in Jacksonville set a record for live USMNT soccer in the Southeast. The U.S. has won five straight matches dating back to last year’s 3-2 victory against Slovenia, and has a 4-0-0 record in 2012. The five goals scored on Saturday were the most since the U.S.’s 6-1 victory against Cuba in World Cup qualifying in 2008, and the second victory against Scotland who last lost to the USA on the same date 16 years earlier.
While coach Juergen Klinsmann’s starting 11 did not include current ‘American idol’ Clint Dempsey or AZ Alkmaar’s striker Jozy Altidore, the German Bundesliga did offer a notable contribution with four of the starters currently earning their living in Germany’s top flight. Bundesliga and USMNT regulars Steve Cherundolo and Jermaine Jones were joined by 1899 Hoffenheim’s Fabian Jones and Borussia Dortmund’s Terrence Boyd.
Steve Cherundolo, the team’s ‘tribal eldest’ and one of ten 30-somethings on the current U.S. 23-man squad, again proved why he’s not only Hannover 96’s captain but also one of the key back stoppers for the U.S. team. On Saturday night he produced a solid, rather uneventful, performance at his right fullback position. This was less a function of his play but more a product of a hapless Scottish offense that showed up in Jacksonville without cappie Darren Fletcher of Manchester United or Liverpool midfielder Charlie Adam. The most action Cherundolo had all night was stepping in for fellow defender and Houston Dynamo Geoff Cameron who had a terrible outing accounting for Scotland’s only score via an own goal in the 15th minute. Cherundolo, who has over 300 matches and a decade of Bundesliga soccer under his belt, added another cap to his USMNT resume which now includes nearly 13 years of national team soccer.
Schalke 04’s Jermaine Jones had a goal and two assists earning him one of the top performances of the evening. Aside the abundant assortment of tattoos, Jones is truly an enforcer, a bad-ass with an attitude in the middle of the pitch. Playing alongside Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu, Jones had numerous attractive give-and-goes and really led the way in the center. By pushing forward on several occasions, he was able to set up Landon Donovan for his 2nd goal and later scored himself on a header, assisted by none other than Donovan. Jones also assisted on Bradley’s booming strike, a slicing right-footed laser from 25 yards out that swerved to find the upper right corner and give the U.S. a 2-0 cushion in the 11th minute. When asked about Jones’ performance Klinsmann added:
Jermaine is a Champions League player. If you want to play there, then you have to be good. And he is good. Now, his temper is always something to discuss and we even make jokes about that in the locker room, but if he gets that under control then we have a very, very good player there. He has high energy and the opponents have a lot of respect for that guy.
Fabian Johnson tried his luck at left back on Saturday in only his 4th cap as a member of the U.S. Men’s senior squad delivering a solid performance including an aggressive push forward in the 22nd minute resulting in a near goal by Terrence Boyd. Johnson, who has some experience at the left back position for Hoffenheim, is considered by his U.S. coach as one of the best left backs in the Bundesliga especially within the last few months of the season. On what Klinsmann asked him to do at left back versus Scotland:
He told me I have to play like a winger and go forward, as well as defend. That’s what I did.
For me personally, one of the most gratifying moments on Saturday was watching Terrence Boyd make his first USMNT start. He was stacked up front with Landon Donovan and really held his own. I heard post game that some analysts felt he moved too slow, but I attributed that to limited international match experience. Don’t forget he primarily played in Dortmund’s third and fourth division team this year. Here’s what Klinsmann had to say regarding Boyd’s potential on last week’s pre-match conference call:
We see a lot of potential in Terrence. He played mainly for the second team in Dortmund but he always trains with the first-team roster and I had often long talks with Juergen Klopp, the Dortmund coach, and he said that if he didn’t have Robert Lewandowski and these guys up front he definitely would have played him. But they decided it’s better for his development that he plays in the Under-23 team, which he did throughout most of the year and did very well. Right now it looks pretty much that he will move up to a bigger club, give him on loan, or even would be open for transfer because they see that he is ready for the next big step. We had the pleasure having him in the Italy camp. He did extremely well. That’s also why he jumped in at the end of the game and ran all over the place. These 10 days we had now with him in camp were very productive. He is adjusting to our way of doing things. He is a very curious kid. He wants to do better every day. He’s very energetic, and that’s why he made the cut.
Boyd held his own for 64 minutes on Saturday before being subbed out for Santos’ Herculez Gomez. Following the match, Klinsmann commented further on Boyd’s performance.
I think Terrence’s work rate was outstanding and his hunger for finishing off chances is tremendous. It’s something that we really love to see and that’s why we keep working with him and giving him those opportunities. It’s really nice to see what Terrence has achieved within the last couple of months.
Please note that while this post focused on the Bundesliga/German football influence on the U.S. team’s performance, the entire USMNT squad delivered a memorable well-earned victory over 48th FIFA ranked Scotland making even this German proud to be a U.S. soccer supporter.
Jobst had the good fortune to be in Jacksonville for Saturday’s match, undoubtedly the most well-played match for the Americans under Klinsmann’s tutelage.
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