Maybe Landon Donovan doesn’t need any more motivation after all.
Just days after publicly lamenting his soccer mortality and questioning where he’ll find his mojo at this point in his career, the LA Galaxy star returned to the US lineup for the first time in eight months by scoring three goals in a 5-1 romp over Scotland on Saturday in a friendly at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.
The game was Donovan’s first with the US team since September and just his third under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann due to a string of pesky injuries and fatigue that left some, including Donovan himself, wondering how long he’ll be a solid contributor for the squad.
But then came a goal in the third minute and two more just five minutes apart in the second half, an assist for Jermaine Jones and enough pesky play up and down the right wing to make it crystal clear: On this night, Donovan came to play.
The hat trick was the third of Donovan’s international career, and his first since a match against Ecuador in March 2007. He also recorded one against Cuba in July 2003, when he finished with four goals.
Michael Bradley also scored on a scorching right-footed volley early in the 11th minute for the US, who dominated play against Scotland and overcame an early own-goal off Houston Dynamo defender Geoff Cameron to start a five-match string off with aplomb. They’ll return to action on Wednesday in Landover, Md., in another tune-up for upcoming World Cup qualifiers, but that one lines up against a foe with a far greater degree of difficulty: Brazil.
On this night, however, there was little doubt about the end result. Donovan’s goals in the 60th and 65th minutes all but assured that, and broke open what was a surprisingly tight 2-1 scoreline at the break.
WATCH: Donovan breaks open the game
Donovan’s finish in the 60th minute was a relatively easy one, set up nicely by Jones on the right side with a drop pass into the box to an onrushing Donovan, who slotted the ball into the corner.
Then came another equally spotless finish five minutes later, this one courtesy of a through ball by Michael Bradley that found Donovan on the right side of the box. Donovan buried the chance, giving him his 49th career international goal for the US team.
He nearly had another goal in the 50th minute, but his left-footed shot from just inside the box skipped off the far post. That was one of the few chances missed for the Galaxy star, who punctuated his night with an assist for Jones’ snap header in the 70th minute that finished off the scoring.
WATCH: Donovan strikes early
The Americans got on the board in the third minute off the foot of Donovan, who scored with a bit of persistence and power. The play began with a costly Scotland turnover in the midfield and a surge from Jose Francisco Torres to Bradley, before Jones got involved just outside the Scotland box.
After the midfielder was stripped of possession the ball deflected to Donovan, who promptly fired a shot that was saved by onrushing goalkeeper Allan McGregor. But Donovan got another crack off the deflection and made no mistake, rocketing a right-footed shot into the back of the net.
WATCH: Bradley’s stunning blast
Donovan was back at it as a set-up man for Bradley’s emphatic goal just seven minutes later. He drifted a cross from the right wing to a wide open Jones, who one-touched a drop pass into space for Bradley. The Chievo midfielder promptly thumped a shot off the outside of his right foot from 25 yards out that sliced just inside the near post.
The only blemish on the night for Americans came in the 15th minute, when Scottish striker Kenny Miller found some space near the far post and drove a header off of Cameron and into the net. Cameron started alongside captain Carlos Bocanegra in the team’s central defense, flanked by Steve Cherundolo on the right and Fabian Johnson on the left.
The midfield combination of Bradley, Jones, Torres and Maurice Edu was especially effective on the night, with Bradley and Jones controlling the middle of the field and Donovan and Torres dominating possession on the flanks.
Boyd earned his first start in a US kit and nearly scored in the 43rd minute, but his header off a Donovan cross skied over the crossbar.
Torres nearly got in on the action as well in the 23rd minute, when he took a quick left-footed free kick from just outside of the box that narrowly curled wide of the far post.
The win was the fourth straight for the US dating back to a win over Slovenia in November, and moves Klinsmann's record with the US to 6-4-1 since taking over last August.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Landon Donovan||He looked absolutely reborn with the US team on this night, and the results showed. Easily the best on the field.|
|2||Michael Bradley||Easy to understand why Inter Milan are sniffing around, isn't it? He was everywhere, and his goal was world class.|
|3||Jermaine Jones||On his game perhaps better than US fans have ever seen him; his assist and goal were pitch perfect.|