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US men defeat Belize 6-1 in Gold Cup play
By ANNE M. PETERSON
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Maybe next time they'll spell Chris Wondolowski's name right.
The striker scored a first-half hat trick in a 6-1 victory for the U.S. men's national team over Belize in the opening round of the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Tuesday night.
Wondolowski, who plays for Major League Soccer's San Jose Earthquakes, sported an extra "W" on the back of his red and white jersey for the first international meeting between the two teams.
Landon Donovan added a goal and two assists, becoming the first player with at least 50 career goals and 50 assists for the U.S. national team.
Costa Rica defeated Cuba 3-0 in an earlier match Tuesday at Jeld-Wen Field. The 12-team Gold Cup, which includes national teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean, is played every two years.
Wondolowski is the third American to score three goals in a Gold Cup match, joining Donovan and Brian McBride. The United States has won four Gold Cups since the tournament's inception in 1991. Mexico has won the past two.
"It's just great to get the start, especially in front of some great fans, and they provide such an atmosphere that makes it exciting and it makes you want to go out there and play," Wondolowski said.
And as for his jersey?
"I heard there was a lot of W's in there," he laughed.
The U.S. men were coming off a 6-0 rout of Guatemala in San Diego on Friday, an international friendly to warm up for the Gold Cup. Donovan scored twice, extending his American record to 51 international goals.
That was Donovan's first match after a five-month break from the national team. He was not included on rosters for the U.S. team's June World Cup qualifying matches.
Wondolowski scored his first international goal against Guatemala.
"I think Wondo realizes, `Every time I'm on the field I have an opportunity, and I need to take advantage of it,'" U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann said.
Belize was making its first Gold Cup appearance. The Jaguars, as they are known, qualified for the competition with a fourth-place finish in the UNCAF Copa Centroamericana.
The U.S. struck early when Wondolowski knocked in a rebound off Belize goalkeeper Shane Orio in the 12th minute.
The United States relentlessly peppered Orio with shots and he made a dramatic save when Joe Corona fired at him in the 27th minute. But Wondolowski was able to get another one past him in the 36th minute to make it 2-0.
Belize scored on a penalty kick two minutes later when Elroy Smith fed Ian Gaynair for the header to beat U.S. goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
But Belize, a team made up of a mix of amateur and professional players, lost steam after the goal, coach Andrew Mork said.
"It didn't last long enough," Mork said. "And that really turned the game around for us."
Wondolowski, whose jersey read "Wondowlowski" added a third goal in the 40th minute.
The United States took a 4-1 lead in the 58th minute when Stuart Holden scored with an assist from Donovan, giving him 50 for his career.
Donovan got another when he passed to Michael Orozco for a header in the 72nd minute to make it 5-0. He got a goal - the 52nd of his career - with a penalty kick in the 76th minute.
"The crowd was great, the energy was great, I thought we started really well," Donovan said. "A little disappointed to give up a goal, but I think it was a great night for us, a great night for the fans and a good start for the tournament."
The Group C teams next meet on Saturday in Salt Lake City, with the U.S. facing Cuba followed by Belize against Costa Rica at Rio Tinto Stadium. The winners and runners up from each group, and the two top third-place finishers, advance to the knockout round. The tournament concludes July 28th at Soldier Field in Chicago.
It was the first visit to Portland for the U.S. men's team since 1998. Attendance was announced at 18,724.
Updated July 10, 2013