SAN DIEGO – Meaningless friendly or not, the United States men's national team got its first and final look at the squad it's sending into the CONCACAF Gold Cup with a thrashing 6-0 victory of Guatemala on Friday.
Although it was worrisome to start, the United States delivered the optimism it needs going into a major tournament. With five players making their 2013 debut for the team, including 2010 World Cup hero and record goal scorer Landon Donovan, USA slogged through the start in San Diego against a meager Guatemalan team that won't feature in the Gold Cup and has already been eliminated from contention for a spot in the 2014 World Cup.
"It was a great night for us," Donovan said after the match. "We were a lot of guys who haven't played a lot together. We wanted to get to know each other and this was a great way to do it."
Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is using the biennial North American championship, which kicks off Sunday and sees the US have its first game on Tuesday, as an opportunity to evaluate some lesser-used, mostly North American-based talent ahead of the four remaining World Cup qualifying matches. Though Friday's game was troubling to start as the team lacked cohesion, the end result was just what the United States was looking for against the 93rd-best team in the world according to the latest FIFA rankings.
During the first 40 minutes of the match, the US was sloppy - missing key passes, which prevented any significant chances on goal and allowed the first handful of opportunities to get created by the visitors despite the Americans having the lion's share of possession.
Guatemala squandered its opportunities, failing to put any of the four shots it took on frame to challenge Nick Rimando, allowing the US to up its performance right before the half. And with just four minutes left in the opening stanza, midfielder Jose Torres hit a cross into the box where it just went past the sliding Joe Corona but went right to Herculez Gomez, who slotted it into the net to take a 1-0 lead.
A renewed vigor, a move to a more attacking role for Donovan and the additions of Mikkel "Mix" Diskerud and Stuart Holden for Kyle Beckerman and Torres sparked the US at the start of the second half. The team created several opportunities early on, including a cross into the box in the 54th minute that forced Guatemala's Carlos Castrillo to bring down Donovan before receiving the cross - leaving Jamaican referee Valdin Legister no option but to call a penalty, which Donovan took himself and scored his 50th while wearing the red-white-and-blue.
U.S. improved as the half continued, but this is still a work in progress. Not enough sharpness. Need more tempo in possession. #usmnt
-- Kyle McCarthy (@kylejmccarthy) July 6, 2013 The floodgates opened from there as substitute Chris Wondolowski (71') and a second from man-of-the-match Donovan (72') benefitted from side-to-side passing before teammates found them wide open in front of goal for their respective goals.
Donovan, who had been absent from the team since Aug. 15, 2012, extended his US career goal-scoring record to 51 with his brace on Friday.
The attacking continued, allowing defender Clarence Goodson (84') and midfielder Alejandro Bedoya (88') to get on the scoreboard as well before the final whistle to extend USA's win streak to five straight - including victories delivered by the "A squad" throughout May and June against Germany (friendly), Jamaica, Panama and Honduras (World Cup qualifying matches) - although the scorelines were not as lopsided as Friday evening.
There were points where the Americans looked disjointed, but Klinsmann is confident his team will improve during Gold Cup play.
''This group hasn't trained together much, so we need to adjust to each other and build chemistry,'' Klinsmann said. ''It's not so fluid right now, and the guys know that. We'll keep working and keep training with the goal of peaking towards the end of the tournament.''
USA gets another chance to see what this roster can do as it kicks off its quest for the Gold Cup against FIFA-ranked No. 130 Belize ( live, FOX Soccer, Tuesday, 11 p.m. ET ) at JELD-Wen Field in Portland, Ore.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.