SAN DIEGO – Landon Donovan enjoyed a thrilling return to international soccer Friday night, scoring two goals and setting up a third in a performance that got better as the night proceeded as the US national team crushed Guatemala, 6-0, in their lone tuneup for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Donovan converted a penalty kick early in the second half and volleyed home a Stuart Holden chip in the 72nd minute before departing to a warm reception from the crowd of 25,080 at Qualcomm Stadium.
TICKETS: USMNT takes on Belize in Gold Cup action at JELD-WEN Field on July 9
Chris Wondolowski netted his first international goal in his 12th US appearance, while Herculez Gomez, Clarence Goodson and Alejandro Bedoya also tallied for the US, who open the Gold Cup with a Group C game against Belize on Tuesday in Portland, Ore.
Donovan, playing for the USMNT for the first time since last August's victory over Mexico at Estadio Azteca, started on the right side of midfield but played up front most of the last 15 minutes of the first half and then until departing after his second goal as the Yanks' 4-2-3-1 alignment shifted to a 4-4-2 that left Guatemala little room to maneuver.
Defenders Oguchi Onyewu and Michael Parkhurst and midfielder Jose Torres also made their first US appearances this year – Onyewu's was his first in nearly 13 months – and Joe Corona, playing in front of a hometown crowd, got his first international start.
The US struggled to create chances early despite nearly constant possession, but they were dangerous once Donovan joined Gomez up top. Gomez, who just joined local side Club Tijuana in the Liga MX, provided a 42nd-minute lead when he finished a Torres chip at the right post.
The sequence started when Edgar Castillo, Gomez's Xolos teammate, eluded a defender as he brought the ball from the left wing above the box and then fed Torres. Corona leapt at the ball in the middle of the box, forcing goalkeeper Ricardo Jérez to hesitate, and Gomez needed just a simple touch to hit the net.
Donovan made it 2-0 with a 55th-minute penalty kick after Carlos Castrillo knocked him down in the goalmouth as a cross from Gomez arrived, rolling it easily up the middle as Jérez dived to his right. The goal was the 50th in international play for the LA Galaxy star, the all-time U.S. goals leader.
Donovan was at it again in the 71st, following a long, weaving run by trying to play a through ball to Holden. Defender Carlos Gallardo got in the way, redirecting the ball to Wondolowski, who beat Jérez 1-on-1.
A minute later, Donovan got behind the Guatemalan backline to volley home Holden's chip from the right – international goal No. 51 for the LA Galaxy man – and it was officially a rout.
Goodson and Bedoya added goals in the last five minutes. Goodson poked the ball home at the right post in the 85th minute after his initial shot was blocked and bounced around the goalmouth. Bedoya netted his first international goal three minutes later, sidefooting a square ball from Brek Shea.
The US had myriad opportunities and were unfortunate to be scoreless until the 42nd minute. The Yanks had two very good chances before then: Goodson's header from a Torres corner kick in the 21st minute forced a diving save from Jerez, but Kyle Beckerman couldn't get a decent piece of the rebound before the 'keeper snagged it; and Donovan tried to volley with his left foot a cross from DaMarcus Beasley but put it just past the right post in the 39th.
After facing Belize, the US have Gold Cup matches against Cuba on July 13 in Sandy, Utah, and Costa Rica on July 16 in East Hartford, Conn. The tournament begins with a Group A doubleheader Sunday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., with Canada facing Martinique and Mexico taking on Panama.