ARLINGTON, Texas — By even the very high standards of coach Jurgen Klinsmann, Landon Donovan is regaining top form after taking a break from the national team.
Donovan scored two goals and set up another on Wednesday night, helping the United States beat Honduras 3-1 to advance to the CONCACAF Gold Cup final.
Klinsmann said the performance was “wonderful to watch.”
“I have told him in our conversations that ‘I measure you. Your benchmark is the best Landon Donovan ever,”’ Klinsmann said. “I’m not taking anything less than that. And he is trying to catch up with that. Give him more games. Give him time.”
The Americans will play Panama, a 2-1 winner over Mexico in the second semifinal, on Sunday in Chicago. The U.S. has won a team-record 10 straight games.
While Klinsmann has declined to confirm that Donovan will be rejoining the World Cup qualifying team later this year, the top goal scorer in U.S. history is leaving little doubt that he belongs.
Donovan has five goals in the tournament, tying him with teammate Chris Wondolowski for most in the Gold Cup. Donovan has set up seven goals, including four in the last two games.
Entering the game, he was the only U.S. player to play every minute of the tournament. He finally was subbed out in the 72nd minute, having earned a rest.
“It’s the most relaxed I’ve felt,” Donovan said. “I feel good, and I’m really enjoying it.”
The U.S. struck first when Donovan found Eddie Johnson running through the middle of the Honduran defense. Johnson took a dribble and powered a shot past goalkeeper Donis Escober, giving the U.S. a lead 11 minutes into the game.
In the 27th minute, Johnson started another scoring sequence with a pass to midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. Donovan received Bedoya’s short chip off his chest in the middle of the goal box and poked a shot past Escober.
“The first 30 minutes was brilliant football. Brilliant, high pressure, high tempo,” Klinsmann said. “We wanted to move the football around and create chances, and that’s what we did.”
Nery Medina of Honduras made it a one-goal game in the 52nd minute, heading in a cross from Marvin Chavez. The Americans countered a minute later when Bedoya ran down a long ball from Clarence Goodson and crossed it to Donovan, who scored from a few yards out.
“In the end, the U.S. was able to beat us in every aspect of the game,” Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez said.
After the game, it was uncertain whether Klinsmann would be suspended for the final after being ejected in the 87th minute for slamming a ball into the ground. A CONCACAF official said the referee would file a report with CONCACAF’s disciplinary committee, which will announce a decision in the next day or two.
Klinsmann said he was reacting to a number of hard fouls over the game’s final 30 minutes.
“It was a reaction out of frustration,” he said. “It was not meant against the referee, against anybody. It was just frustration. I apologize for that.”
Panama 2, Mexico 1: Roman Torres’ glancing header off a corner kick helped Panama beat Mexico 2-1 on Wednesday night and earn a spot in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final.
Torres’ goal in the 61st minute came off a corner from teammate Gabriel Torres. With a one-goal cushion, Panama was able to survive a Mexican attack that produced four good scoring opportunities over the next 30 minutes.
Panama will play the United States on Sunday in Chicago for the Gold Cup championship. The teams played in the 2005 Gold Cup final, won by the U.S. on penalty kicks.
Blas Perez struck first, giving Panama a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute when he blasted a shot to the near post, beating goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco.
In the 26th minute, Mexico’s Marco Fabian faked a defender deep in the box and then lofted a cross to the far side of the goal. Luis Montes’ diving header sent the ball into the far upper corner for the tying goal.
After Torres’ goal, Mexico squandered multiple scoring opportunities. In the 70th minute, Panama goalkeeper Jaime Pendo made a diving save on a shot by Jorge Enriquez. Three minutes later, Montes missed just wide.
Pendo also made a fingertip save on Isaac Brizuela’s shot, pushing the ball on top of the net. In the 89th minute, Javier Orozco’s diving header missed wide by inches.
Mexico was seeking a fourth straight final against the U.S. Mexico had won the last two by a combined score of 9-2.
It was just the second time in 15 matches that Panama defeated Mexico.