March 3, 2002
The fiery midfielder who sparked the United States to its World Cup berth dispelled any doubts about his ability or fitness Saturday at SafeCo Field, scoring twice in a 4-0 blanking of Honduras before some 30,000 fans.
Donovan, a teenage phenom, added a pair of his own to bring down the hammer and surely cement his place in the starting lineup.
The news should be heartening to American fans, who eagerly have been awaiting the chance to see what Mathis and Donovan could do paired with Brian McBride. The answer? Be very dangerous.
McBride had three assists and was involved in the fourth goal as the trio gave the Honduran defense fits.
"This was a good way for me to come back and get a sniff," said Mathis, who was sidelined for much of 2001 after undergoing knee surgery. "I watched a lot of soccer during that time and just did a lot of rehabilitation, getting my leg strong, but this was a great way to come back."
The U.S. came out strong from the start. Coach Bruce Arena allegedly had challenged his forwards to score three times, and they did not waste time. It took just 14 minutes for Mathis to strike.
"I think this was a really good afternoon for us," Arena said. "We played really well and got a good effort out of the guys today. It was good to get Pope and Mathis back on the field and Donovan had a really solid performance. I think that Clint is a couple of months away from full match fitness, and he knows it."
Defender Jeff Agoos sparked the goal by serving the ball on a restart following Sergio Mendoza's takedown of McBride in the 13th minute. A swinging, long cross into the box, it found McBride's head. And with a deft flick, he shoveled the ball to Mathis, who headed the ball home past a startled Victor Coello.
The attacks continued as DaMarcus Beasley, McBride, Donovan and Mathis all had further chances on goal. Mathis nearly returned the favor to McBride in the 25th when he fed the lanky striker a strong cross across the box with which McBride should have done more. Instead, he headed it into Coello's arms despite being all alone.
Donovan and Beasley both enjoyed breakaways but were foiled -- until the 44th minute.
Chris Armas sparked the second American goal with a dazzling run from the halfway line, beating three defenders to slot a pass into Donovan. Donovan deftly brought down Coello by dribbling around him and calmly slid in the ball. The 19-year old made it look easy.
"We don't give up too many goals," Donovan said. "If we get two goals in the first half like we did, we were very comfortable going forward."
Mathis got his second in the 57th minute when second-half substitute Eddie Lewis sprung Beasley down the left gutter. Running the overlap, Lewis received the ball again and delivered a rare, perfect cross that found a diving McBride at the near goalpost. Again, he headed it on to Mathis.
Mathis almost got a hat trick, bouncing a free kick off the crossbar and post in the 63rd minute after Donovan was upended at the edge of the area.
Donovan netted his second in the 67th minute as he seized a loose ball in the box after Richard Mulrooney and McBride combined to create havoc. Again, Donovan coolly hold the ball around Coello and slipped it past him.