Last month’s friendly in Krakow against Poland, was exactly that: a friendly which should not be considered some sort of great conquering victory of the US National Team. Sure you’d rather win than lose these sorts of matches, but realistically I still saw some of the same issues that have worried me about the United States since the end World Cup 2006 in this performance.
One thing I was overly pleased with was the outstanding play of Landon Donovan. For all the criticisms of Donovan from some quarters of the American soccer community, he continues to be hands down the best player the United States has produced in this particular generation. Those who criticize him and make up silly nicknames do not understand soccer in this country and the types of quality Donovan brings to the field.
Donovan’s set piece taking in the Poland match was reminiscent of his early days on the national team. Even better was to watch Donovan’s breakaway. While he didn’t finish the goal off, my point to so many critics of Donovan and of MLS in general has been consistent: Landon Donovan is more fit and has greater pace than almost any player on the planet. While many of these same fans are obsessed with speed and feel MLS is somehow inferior to leagues in Europe simply because it is slower paced (by that logic the Mexican league which is hands down better than MLS would be in an even lower tier because it is even slower than MLS) and by extension Donovan is inferior to any player in Europe need to watch the Poland match. Having been returned to midfield along side Clint Dempsey, the two played well off one another and linked together well with a rather inept striker tandem.
On his day nobody does it better than Donovan. The loudmouth critics can climb under a rock for now, as Landon Donovan has once again fired a statement across the bow as to his quality and pedigree. Thank goodness the US National Team, deficient in so many other areas has his services whenever needed. Donovan has also matured from a young hot head to a grown veteran leader whose skill level and quality is unmatched in the modern history of soccer in the U.S.
Those who don’t like Donovan make up clever nicknames and attack him for his lifestyle choices. The Poland game and the first month of the MLS season should give these critics pause. I will go a step further: Without Donovan it is highly likely the US would not have improved its status in world football and in CONCACAF since hosting the 1994 World Cup. It is also conceivable to see the US miss the world cup if Donovan were to be injured or as some critics suggest, dropped from the national team.