Said Donovan: “I think it’s the most relaxed I’ve ever felt, and the most enjoyable it’s felt in a long time. When that’s the case, I play well.”
Because this is a World Cup qualifying year, many of the Gold Cup teams are missing key players. The United States, for example, does not have regulars Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, to name a few. The Gold Cup was a chance for other players to make a case for the “A’’ roster, and several have done that in addition to Donovan.
Eddie Johnson, Chris Wondolowski, Stuart Holden, Joe Corona and Alejandro Bedoya (who grew up in Weston) have stood out. It will be interesting to see how Klinsmann integrates the best of this team to the team he has in place for the road to the World Cup.
They’ll have another audition Sunday against Panama (4 p.m., Fox and Univision).
The U.S. team beat Panama 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier last month and will be favored to win again Sunday. Panama is playing well, though. It addition to the 2-1 wins over Mexico, it beat Martinique 1-0, Cuba 6-1 and tied Canada 0-0. Its top threats are Gabriel Torres, who has scored five goals in the Gold Cup, and Blaz Perez of FC Dallas, who has three goals and an assist.
Granted, there are stronger opponents to come for the Americans, and the true test is at the World Cup next summer in Brazil. But for now, U.S. fans should be celebrating an exciting new brand of American soccer.
• Stars coming to Miami : The Guinness International Champions Cup rosters were announced, and all eight clubs plan to bring their marquee players to the summer tournament, which culminates with the championship rounds Aug. 6-7 at Sun Life Stadium. Among the stars confirmed are Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Mario Balotelli (A.C. Milan), Juan Mata (Chelsea), Carlos Tevez (Juventus), Esteban Cambiasso (Inter Milan), Donovan and Robbie Keane (L.A. Galaxy).
Tickets are on sale through Ticketmaster and at the stadium box office.
• Strikers: The Fort Lauderdale Strikers acquired 6-5 defender Bryan Gaul and midfielder Kenney Walker on loan from the Galaxy. The players will train with the team immediately in preparation for their fall season opener on Aug. 3 against the New York Cosmos in New York.
“We are extremely excited about Bryan and Kenney joining our squad for the fall season,” coach Günter Kronsteiner said. “It’s been challenging to prepare our team for the first game in such a short time frame, but I believe both Bryan and Kenney can be huge assets to the Strikers and should make an immediate impact on the field.”