U.S. opens Gold Cup with 6-1 win over Belize
Portland, Ore. • Chris Wondolowski's misspelled jersey was about the only thing that was amiss for the U.S. men's soccer team.
The national team jumped on Belize with Wondolowski's first-half hat trick and cruised to a 6-1 victory to open the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament Tuesday night.
Landon Donovan had a goal and two assists, becoming the first national team player with at least 50 career goals and 50 assists.
But Wondolowski, who just had his first international goal last weekend, stole the show, sporting an extra "W'' "Wondowlowski" on his red and white jersey when he popped in his three goals against Belize.
Laughing about it afterward, he pondered whether he should wear it for the remainder of the tournament.
"I'm pretty superstitious, so we'll see what we can conjure up," he said.
Costa Rica defeated Cuba 3-0 in an earlier match at Jeld-Wen Field.
The 12-team Gold Cup is played every other year between national teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean. The Group C teams next meet on Saturday in Sandy, Utah, with the U.S. facing Cuba followed by Belize against Costa Rica at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Wondolowski is the third American to score three goals in a Gold Cup match, joining Donovan and Brian McBride. The United States has won four Gold Cups since the tournament's inception in 1991. Mexico has won the past two.
"It's just great to get the start, especially in front of some great fans, and they provide such an atmosphere that makes it exciting and it makes you want to go out there and play," Wondolowski said.
The U.S. men were coming off a 6-0 rout of Guatemala in San Diego on Friday, a exhibition warmup for the Gold Cup. Donovan scored twice, extending his American record to 51 international goals.
That was Donovan's first match after an 11-month break from the national team. He was not included on rosters for the U.S. team's June World Cup qualifying matches.
Wondolowski scored his first international goal against Guatemala. Tuesday night's match was just his 11th with the national team.
"I think Wondo realizes, 'Every time I'm on the field, I have an opportunity, and I need to take advantage of it,'" U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said.
Belize was making its first Gold Cup appearance. The Jaguars, as they are known, qualified for the competition with a fourth-place finish in the Central American Cup.
The U.S. struck early when Wondolowski who plays for Major League Soccer's San Jose Earthquakes knocked in a rebound off Belize goalkeeper Shane Orio in the 12th minute.
The United States relentlessly peppered Orio with shots and he made a dramatic save when Joe Corona fired at him in the 27th minute. But Wondolowski was able to get another one past him in the 36th minute to make it 2-0.
Belize scored on a penalty kick two minutes later when Elroy Smith fed Ian Gaynair for the header to beat U.S. goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
But Belize, a team made up of a mix of amateur and professional players, lost steam after the goal, coach Andrew Mork said.
"It didn't last long enough," Mork said. "And that really turned the game around for us."
Wondolowski added a third goal in the 40th minute.
The United States took a 4-1 lead in the 58th minute when Stuart Holden scored with an assist from Donovan, giving him 50 for his career.
Donovan got another when he passed to Michael Orozco for a header in the 72nd minute to make it 5-0. He got a goal the 52nd of his career with a penalty kick in the 76th minute.
"The crowd was great, the energy was great, I thought we started really well," Donovan said. "A little disappointed to give up a goal, but I think it was a great night for us, a great night for the fans and a good start for the tournament."
After the round-robin phase, the winners and runners up from each group, and the two top third-place finishers, advance to the knockout round. The Gold Cup tournament concludes July 28 at Soldier Field in Chicago.
It was the first visit to Portland for the U.S. men's team since 1998. Attendance was announced at 18,724.