Three thoughts on U.S.-Scotland
U.S.star Landon Donovan put in a sterling performance to disprove the doubters
The central midfield pairing of Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones dominated
Young striker Terrence Boyd looked raw but full of potential
Three thoughts after the U.S.'s 5-1 victory against Scotland on Saturday in Jacksonville:
Hat-trick hero Landon Donovan still has it. Days after the U.S.'s all-time leading scorer spoke of losing his hunger and love for the game, Donovan showed the kind of fire that we saw from him at the 2010 World Cup. Now 30, Donovan played like a 22-year-old trying to earn his spot on the team, using his speed, smarts and technical ability to burn holes in the Scottish defense. Playing on the right wing in a 4-3-3 formation, Donovan benefited from sterling combination play by Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, who regularly found Donovan in dangerous spots. And once he was in front of the goal, Donovan knew what to do. His first goal, shot into the roof of the net, was a reminiscent of his strike against Slovenia in the World Cup, and his second was a clinical first-time blast. Motivation has sometimes been a tricky thing for Donovan. Whatever he was doing this week certainly worked.
The U.S.' central midfield was excellent. Jones and Bradley were a force all night, covering loads of space and making a difference by getting forward in the attack and linking up with the front line. Bradley's long-range strike from Jones' pass ranks up with the best goals scored by the U.S. in recent years along with Benny Feilhaber's 2007 Gold Cup winner and Donovan's goal in the 2009 Confederations Cup final. Fullbacks Steve Cherundolo and Fabian Johnson provided useful width, and José Torres also had a positive performance pinching in from the left wing. When it came to tempo, pressing and speed of thought, this U.S. performance was exactly what Klinsmann wanted.
A few other thoughts. Brazil on Wednesday will provide a tougher test. David Luiz, Paulo Henrique Ganso and Dani Alves may be late scratches, but Neymar will be there, and Brazil could pick from 850 players and still have a good team ... Liked the red stripes on the new U.S. jerseys. Didn't like the hard-to-see gray numbers on a white background ... Terrence Boyd is raw, but he has some real potential that he showed flashes of in his first U.S. senior start ... You could tell that the U.S. players have been working on their fitness -- and that Scotland hasn't ... Imagine how this U.S. team might have played on Saturday if Clint Dempsey (out with a groin injury) had been on the field ... I expected Johnson to start at left back after hearing Klinsmann talk about him this week, and he showed he was ready for it. Suddenly after so many years of few choices at left back for the U.S., Johnson could be the answer for a long time to come.