(ussoccer.com) Landon Donovan became the all-time leading scorer for the U.S. Men’s National Team after scoring from the penalty spot in the second half to help defeat Sweden, 2-0 on Saturday night.
For Donovan, his penalty kick in the 48th minute was his 35th goal in international play, pushing him past Eric Wynalda for the all-time lead in his 97th appearance.
“I wouldn’t classify it as important but it’s something that I’m very proud of,” said Donovan of the record. “More so than scoring goals, being part of the team for a long time it’s something I’m proud of. For me, the most important part of any game is helping the team get a victory.”
Donovan wasn’t the only one who made history on the night as defender Eddie Robinson’s opening strike put him into the history books as well, although not as exclusive. By burying his one-timer off a deflected save in the 15th minute, Robinson became just the 44th player in U.S. history to score a goal in his first appearance – something Donovan, still just 25 years old, had done himself back in 2000.
The victory was the 10th straight time the U.S. has either tied or won their opening game of the year, with the U.S. also defeating Sweden to start the streak, 1-0, in 1998.
“For us it’s a good way to start the year. This camp is always a challenge because guys have been off for a while, but we felt throughout the camp that things we worked on throughout last year were coming back, especially working as a team. Our fitness levels came along quickly, and tonight we played against a team who is always a good match for us. The game had tempo. It was physically challenging. I think to come out of it with a good result was important.”
The U.S. started the game brightly and created the first real chance of the game in the seventh minute. Left back Ramiro Corrales, making his first international appearance since 2004, lifted the ball towards Taylor Twellman near the edge of the area. The New England forward cleverly flicked the ball behind him to Revolution teammate Pat Noonan, who dropped the ball back to midfielder Ricardo Clark just outside the area. Clark’s stinging one-timer was saved well by Rami Shaaban, who parried the ball away.
Brad Davis, starting on the left flank for the U.S., took the majority of the free kicks and his deliveries were dangerous all night. In the 12th minute, his well-placed free kick just missed an onrushing Twellman at the edge of the six yard box.
The U.S. was getting the better of their opponents, and in the 15th minute Robinson gave them the deserved lead. Davis whipped in an enticing corner, and Noonan’s flicked header caught the Sweden goalkeeper Rami Shaaban by surprise, but he was still able to punch it off the line. The ball deflected inside the area and Robinson pounced on the rebound, slamming the ball into the roof of the net from seven yards out.
The goal was the wakeup call Lars Lagerbäck’s side needed, and Sweden began to come back into the game. Brad Guzan was forced into action in the 30th minute after a Sweden free kick fell invitingly for forward Pontus Wernbloom. Guzan was quick to react, however, and he made himself big to deny Wernbloom from close range.
Three minutes later, Guzan was called upon again and denied Wernbloom for the second time. A mixup between Robinson and defender Jimmy Conrad gifted Wernbloom the ball in the box. But Guzan flew off his line and smothered the shot to deny Sweden its best chance of the match.
The U.S. carried its one goal advantage into the break, and made three changes to start the second half. One of those subs, forward Jozy Altidore, stamped his authority on the game almost instantly, as he was brought down in the box in the 48th minute. A good combination from Donovan and right-back Drew Moor lead to a low cross into the area. Noonan controlled well, and found Altidore streaking to the edge of the six yard box. The New York Red Bulls forward wound up to shoot, but was impeded by Sweden’s Mattias Bjärsmyr.
Donovan took it upon himself to dispatch the spot kick and came through for the U.S. as he has done so many times before. The weight of history seemed to have no effect on the California native, but he clearly knew what his achievement meant to U.S. soccer history, grabbing the ball immediately after the goal and taking it to the sidelines to be saved.
Now up 2-0, the U.S. began to stroke the ball around with confidence. Altidore was causing all sorts of problems for the Swedish backline, who had to resort to physical play in order to stop the athletic 18-year old.
In addition to Robinson, Bob Bradley handed debut caps to defender Clarence Goodson and midfielder Jeremiah White. The young U.S. internationals were unfazed by the bright lights and the team closed out the final whistle without ever really being threatened in the second half.
The U.S. Men’s National Team will next play host to CONCACAF rival Mexico on Feb. 6 in Houston. Kickoff at Reliant Stadium is set for 8 p.m. CT, and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and Univision. Fans can also follow the match live online via ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker.