They still need more conditioning, more time together and a full recovery from injuries, but the U.S. men's soccer team's 4-0 victory over Honduras yesterday before 38,534 at Safeco Field is an indication this could be the most proficient offense this country has ever put together.
Clint Mathis, 25, in his first game back from a right knee injury (torn ACL) on April 25, 2001, and brilliant 19-year-old attacker Landon Donovan each scored two goals for the Americans. And on defense, goalkeeper Kasey Keller of Lacey made an outstanding save midway through the first half to prevent the Hondurans from gaining momentum.
"I certainly haven't studied the history of attacking play, but we have some good players," U.S. Coach Bruce Arena said. "When we get everybody healthy and on the field for an extended period, we could be a dangerous team."
Donovan, who turns 20 tomorrow, doesn't need a history lesson.
"Without a doubt, in my opinion it is (the most offensive team), and I think most other guys would say the same thing," he said.
Donovan is among the most exciting players and should make the final 23-man roster for the World Cup this summer in South Korea and Japan. But he isn't assured of starting at forward because the competition for a spot will be intense.
Mathis is a strong candidate, although Arena said, "He's really about two months away to really be in form. He needs to get fitter."
Brian McBride, 29, who had two assists yesterday and was the MVP of the Gold Cup in Los Angeles in January, will be tough to displace from the starting role.
There will be four, or possibly five, forwards to make the final cut. Joe-Max Moore, who was not released by his English Premier League team (Everton) to play here, and Josh Wolff, recovering from a right knee injury, will be in the mix. As will Ante Razov and Jovan Kirovski.
Arena has four more "friendly" games to evaluate the talent before making his decision.
The United States played well from the start yesterday, going on the attack immediately against the Hondurans. Veteran defender Jeff Agoos set up the first goal with a 30-yard pass after a foul. The ball was crossed from McBride to Mathis, who headed it past goalie Victor Coello into the lower left corner of the net at the 14-minute mark.
Honduras' best player, Saul Martinez, just barely on-sides, came down the middle with his team's best chance at the 27-minute mark. He snapped a low drive just inside the box, but Keller collapsed to his right and made the save with his right arm. He received a loud ovation from the home crowd.
"It was one of the few times the defense got out of shape," Keller said. "The key to that is the defense not giving up. They continued to put pressure on the man as he came in so he doesn't have as much time."
Donovan put two or three moves on Coello on his first goal in the 44th minute. Chris Armas broke through the middle and had McBride and DaMarcus Beasley on his left. With the defense drifting that way, he went right and found Donovan, who took it across the goal mouth with Coello chasing before scoring with his left foot.
Mathis got the third goal in the 59th minute. Eddie Lewis, charging down the left side, crossed it in front to McBride, who headed it to where Mathis was waiting. Coello had no chance on the header by Mathis.
Donovan scored in the 67th minute, again using his ball skills to head down a long pass from Brian West. He split the defense then worked his way around Coello for an easy goal.
United States.......................2 2 — 4
Honduras.............................0 0 — 0
First half — 1, US, Clint Mathis (Brian McBride), 14th minute. 2, US, Landon Donovan (Chris Armas), 44th. Second half — 3, US, Clint Mathis (Brian McBride), 59th; 4 Landon Donovan (Brian West), 67th. Yellow cards — Landon Donovan, US, 45th ; Jose Luis Pineda, Honduras, 57th; Saul Martinez, Honduras, 78th. Red cards — none. Referee — Jerry Proctor, Canada. Linesmen — Simon Fearn, Canada, Martin Reed, Canada. A — 38,534.
United States — Kasey Keller; Jeff Agoos (Eddie Lewis, 46), Eddie Pope, Pablo Mastroeni, Richard Mulrooney, Chris Armas (Bobby Convey, 62), DaMarcus Beasley (Richie Williams, 62), Brian Maisonneuve (Brian West, 46), Landon Donovan, Clint Mathis (Jeff Cunningham, 67), Brian McBride.
Honduras — Victor Coello; David Carcamo, Sergio Mendoza, Jaime Rosales, Robel Bernardez (Oscar Bonilla, 81), Jose Luis Pineda, Rony Morales, Edgar Alvarez, Daniel Turcios (Junior Izaguirre, 89), Saul Martinez (Jerry Palacios, 80), Limberth Perez (Cesar Obando, 60).