PORTLAND, Ore. – Jurgen Klinsmann never expected it to be this easy, maybe, but he got the exact result he wanted from his US national team in a 6-1 rout of Belize in their Gold Cup opener on Tuesday night: a patient, professional performance.
“We took it seriously and we mentioned it before the last couple days, and the team was very focused and wanted to get the goals and they did and they fought very hard,” the US boss said in the postgame press conference. “I’m very satisfied with the result.”
Klinsmann and his staff predicted all along from watching film of huge underdogs Belize that they would be content to play 10 men behind the ball and try to wait out the US attack. And that’s exactly what happened. The Americans came out with an attacking wave, but it wasn’t as easy as it looked to crack the code – despite the score line.
OPTA Chalkboard: USMNT dominates in possession, chances, goals in rout of Belize
Chris Wondolowski’s opener in the 11th minute was the result of patient work in the attack and wingers Jose Torres and Joe Corona both looking for seams. Wondo took advantage of a rebound after Corona headed Torres’ long cross right at Belize ’keeper Shane Orio.
“I think it’s just a normal development of a game when you play a team that is with 10 players behind the ball,” Klinsmann said. “It will take time to open up space there. In the beginning, they are fresh, they are energetic they are enthusiastic to play in this tournament. And so they close every little space they see, so it takes patience.”
It took that same patience to add a second goal – 25 minutes to be precise, despite three scoring chances and a period in which the US attack started to flag a little bit that made the 18,724 in attendance restless. But the breakthrough finally came through Wondolowski again, when Kyle Beckerman found some space on a break and sent in a long lead ball from about 25 yards out that the San Jose Earthquakes goal machine headed into the net.
“Once you get a bit of rhythm and then you score the first goal, things open up a little bit and eventually you will break them down,” Klinsmann noted. “So it’s always a game of patience so it was not surprising that it took the first half an hour to grind a little bit.”
And from then on, the US started rolling. Despite giving one back in the 40th minute, the Americans came back down the field immediately to score a third, giving Wondolowski a hat trick, and sending the team on its way to a convincing victory.
"I’m very proud of the fact that it was a very professional performance," US midfielder Stuart Holden, who bagged the fourth goal of the night, told reporters after the game. "We were a little upset we conceded off a set piece and that’s something we can improve on for the next game. We talked about it at halftime as far as making sure we were a little sharper on that but we just keep getting better in different areas."
But despite the little errors, Klinsmann & Co. came away with six reasons to smile as they board an early-morning flight to Salt Lake City. And a well-earned three points in the bag.
Jonah Freedman is the managing editor of MLSsoccer.com.