Donovan leads US against Panama for Gold Cup
US all-time scoring leader Landon Donovan, who has netted five goals in his past six matches, leads the Americans against Panama in Sunday's Gold Cup final.
The 31-year-old striker, a three-time World Cup standout for the US squad, has sparked the team to 25 goals in an unbeaten run to what could be their first title in the North American biennial battle for football supremacy since 2007.
"I've never been part of a run like this," Donovan said. "It's a lot of fun, not only the goals, but we're creating lots of chances and that's enjoyable."
Overall, the Americans are 11-2-2 this year and on a record 10-match win streak that includes three World Cup qualifying triumphs and a friendly victory over Germany in June.
Donovan has not played in a qualifier this year, having taken almost four months off between seasons for the Los Angeles Galaxy and prompting US coach Jurgen Klinsmann to say he had to work his way back into the squad that is in prime position to qualify for next year's World Cup finals in Brazil.
"He's proving a point that he's hungry to come back into our picture," Klinsmann said. "Every game he wants to prove it and show that, and he's doing very well.
"We all are very pleased with the way he's playing. You're always going to be measured on the maximum. I told him that (his) benchmark is the best Landon Donovan ever. I'm not taking anything less than that."
He is succeeding and figures to have proven himself worthy of a spot in the US lineup for the next World Cup qualifying match on September 6 at Costa Rica.
"I'm enjoying myself," said Donovan. "It's the most relaxed I've ever felt. When that's the case, I do really well."
Donovan has also shown leadership with young US talent that will challenge for World Cup spots in other positions.
"There's really good chemistry in this group," Donovan said. "For whatever reason, it's a group that has come together really well and meshed really well. And we understand each other."
The Americans seek their fifth Gold Cup crown after previously taking the title in 1991, 2002, 2005 and 2007.
It will be the fifth final in a row for the Americans, who beat Panama on penalty kicks in 2005 and Mexico in 2007 only to lose to Mexico in 2009 and 2011.
The Panamanians, 1-9 with two drawn all-time against the Americans, have only reached the final once but are a threat after knocking off Mexico twice in the tournament, including in the semi-finals.
The winner of Sunday's final will face the 2015 Gold Cup champion to decide a berth in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.
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