Given the modern fascination with statistics and infographics, last week saw a particularly interesting nugget of information come to the fore. Blessed with 5 goals in 12 World Cup appearances, Landon Donovan has scored more World Cup goals than Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic combined (the quartet holding 3 in 31 games).
As well as temporarily exalting Donovan to the pinnacle of US soccer, it also served as a reminder of the concern being raised during discussion of the US Men’s National Team. Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and the aforementioned Donovan — on paper — are a strong trio of forward options — yet only one of the three is heading into Brazil in potentially good club form.
Altidore continues to toil at Sunderland, with Sunday seeing him excluded from the 18 selected to face Manchester City. Meanwhile for Dempsey, a meek end to his second stint at Fulham saw him promptly depart down the tunnel at full time. The prodigal son had not proved potent during his second stint.
While Aron Johansson continues to display potential, he remains an unknown quantity in a tournament setting. After USA’s poor performance against Ukraine on Wednesday, the opportunity for a striker to break into the squad and begin scoring goals presents itself.
Terence Boyd bleeds red white and blue. If the American flag tattoo on his arm was not enough, his constant patriotic declarations and desire to do well for the USMNT should further convince.
In stellar form for Rapid Wien, he netted his 14th goal of the season on Sunday, as he desperately tries to book a seat on the plane to Brazil. When I spoke to the exuberant Boyd in November, his plan was clear. “I just need to get on the pitch, and run around like I’m being chased by bees,” he said with a large grin.
Boyd has a relaxed attitude. Speaking with him last week, he displayed his selfless nature again: “For me it is all about the team. We’re trying to do the best for this country,” he explained. With such a harmonious locker room, it makes sense for Boyd not to rock the boat.
Speaking to Goal earlier this week, he said: “There are a lot of good strikers up front for the national team now. I just have to focus on myself, just play my game and score as many goals as I can get. Hopefully it will be enough. If not, I have to work harder.”
Alongside Boyd is another young US prospect, Juan Agudelo. The former New York Red Bull recently completed a dream move to Europe. Farmed out to FC Utrecht due to work permit issues, Agudelo scored against PEC Zwolle — reminding everyone of his talent. An expert finish, his partnership with former Southampton man Steve De Ridder has already shown potential.
Replace the small, nippy De Ridder with Donovan, and Klinsmann could forge a pairing that has the exuberance of youth and the kind of guile a 32-year-old Donovan brings to the table. Speaking to mlssoccer.com earlier this week, Agudelo said: “I need to make it hard for [Klinsmann] to not pick me to go to the World Cup. I can only do that through working hard and working even harder than the rest, because the competition is there and there aren’t enough places to please everyone.”
Barring injury, it seems unlikely Altidore or Dempsey will fail to make the final 23 for Brazil this summer. However there remains a spot in the squad for another striker. While Boyd holds more experience and a better record at club level, he also benefits from playing in a lesser league.
Meanwhile for Agudelo, there remains just the faintest memories of his goal against Argentina, and the early promise he displayed in his teens. A player that holds the potential to conjure something special (such as his goal for New York against D.C. United), that kind of clutch play could just be the difference between emerging from the group stage or not.