Major League Soccer has been highlighted throughout the year on the international circuit as the U.S. National Team has featured more and more in World Cup qualifying matches. Now, the domestic league is taking to the CONCACAF Gold Cup stage, too.
Tuesday night at Portland’s JELD-WEN Field, Jurgen Klinsmann had five current MLS players in his starting lineup and two of them featured very prominently in the final 6-1 scoreline as the U.S. raced out to an early lead in Group C.
San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski netted a first-half hat trick and LA Galaxy forward Landon Donovan finished with a goal and two assists to become the first player in the history of U.S. Soccer to record 50 goals and 50 assists.
The U.S. had trouble cracking the Belize defense in the first 10 minutes, though the small Central American nation had trouble getting the ball across midfield. Then Wondolowski picked up a loose ball in the six-yard box and knocked it into the back of the net for his second goal in as many games in a U.S. jersey, making it 1-0 in the 12th minute. He would add a second on an assist from Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman in what was a tremendous half for Beckerman as well.
Belize would manage just one shot on goal and it came in the form of a goal from Ian Gaynair in the 40th minute, but Wondolowski would extend the lead again just one minute later with his third goal of the match, making it 3-1 on an assist from former New England Revolution defender Michael Parkhurst.
After a first-half that saw the U.S. hold 78-percent of the possession, they looked to continue that trend in the final 45 minutes and nearly did so, finishing the match with a dominant 75.3-percent figure.
In the second half, Donovan would take over where Wondolowski left off.
In the 58th minute, he nodded down a cross from Joe Corona and former Houston Dynamo midfielder Stuart Holden put it away for a 4-1 lead. Donovan then found former Philadelphia Union defender Michael Orozco off a free kick for a 5-1 lead in the 72nd minute and converted a penalty in the 76th minute for the final 6-1 score.
Along with Donovan, Wondolowski and Beckerman, Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando and San Jose Earthquakes defender Clarence Goodson started for the U.S., who will take on Cuba at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday at 12:30 pm PT. They will finish off the Group Stage against Costa Rica on July 16 at Rentschler Field in Hartford, Conn.
Costa Rica is now second in the Group C standings after a 3-0 win over Cuba on Tuesday.
Buy tickets for Thursday Gold Cup doubleheader at CenturyLink Field here. Martinique will take on Panama while Mexico and Canada will do battle from 5:30 p.m. PT!