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Why It’s Time To Bring Landon Donovan Back to the USMNT For World Cup 2014

On top of the Hex, and looking a sure bet for a place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, it may seem like this isn’t time for the United States men’s national team to make changes to their soccer team. Things are finally starting to click after two rocky years under Jurgen Klinsmann – leaders have emerged, a captain has been named, and a goal-scorer has been rediscovered.

So why is it time to change things? The USA need all the talent they can get.

Things are going well right now in World Cup qualifying, and although it’s debatable how impressive a sweep of Jamaica, Panama and Honduras is, the impressiveness of this team’s resiliency is not up for debate. When acrimony or injustice or failure strike, the US are at their best.

After a Brian Straus article filled with anonymous quotes from inside the US camp slammed Klinsmann, the US tuned the mayhem out and qualified for the Hex. After they lost their first game of the final round of CONCACAF qualifying in Honduras, the US picked themselves up and haven’t lost in World Cup qualifying since. After they were thrashed by Belgium at the beginning of an incredibly important stretch of games, Klinsmann’s side shrugged off the critics, beat a Germany B team, and won three qualifiers in a row.

The USA have righted the ship many times under Klinsmann, but it’s certainly a ship with holes in it, and when righting the ship, the US have gotten a fair bit of luck. If Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund don’t make the Champions League Final and Germany brings their A team to play the US, do the Americans win and gain crucial confidence?

If Brad Evans doesn’t score an improbable stoppage time goal in Kingston, how embarrassing does a draw with lowly Jamaica look? If Jozy Altidore doesn’t remember how to score for his country again, where is this team? What if the US’s opponents in the Hexagonal weren’t falling apart?

What if Mexico was still a force to be reckoned with, or Honduras didn’t pull a disappearing act? The US should automatically qualify from the region by default with all the struggles their opponents have had. Absolutely, credit to the Yanks for staying steady, but the US have had a lot of luck. A nice winning streak and a place at the top of the Hex shouldn’t mask the problems with Klinsmann’s team.

I worry about the attacking creativity and overall talent of this US team. I worry about the lack of World Cup experience on the roster, and the lack of a clutch player. Who is the face of this team anyway?

Silent assassin Clint Dempsey? The Texan got the armband because Klinsmann wanted to give him more responsibility and make him more vocal, but Dempsey just isn’t cut out for the role. Is the leader Michael Bradley, or Tim Howard? They were both more deserving candidates for the captaincy than Dempsey, and both were passed over.

The real leader of the national side, the face of US Soccer, the clutch player, the World Cup experience, is sitting at home in Los Angeles, waiting by the telephone. Landon Donovan wants back into the national team. Klinsmann would be stupid not to utilize his best weapon in the remaining World Cup qualifying games and, presumably, World Cup 2014.

The US aren’t crushing teams. They need Donovan’s quality. The LA Galaxy star has been named to the USA’s Gold Cup team this summer, a competition which will be played by a B squad. Still, Donovan has expressed his eagerness to play again for his country in any competition, with any group of players.

Donovan, of course, lost his place in the national team when he took a five-month long break from soccer over the winter, a decision which Klinsmann wasn’t exactly thrilled with.

But why should Donovan be punished for taking a sabbatical from soccer? He was so worn out last season that he hardly celebrated the LA Galaxy’s MLS Cup triumph. To put it simply, Landon was exhausted. He needed to recharge the batteries, and that’s exactly what he did. He’s a better and more committed player for it today. Despite taking a lot of negative press and badgering from his club and country, Donovan knew what was best for him, and he handled his time off and return with professionalism.

If Jurgen wanted to sit Landon for one cycle with the national team to reward the players who were in the team in the spring while Donovan was in Cambodia, fine, and it he wants to put him through his paces in the Gold Cup this summer, fine. But Klinsmann can’t afford to leave one of his best players at home when the US goes to Brazil. He can’t. This isn’t Spain we’re talking about. The US needs its best players. All of them.

And there’s no question, Donovan is still one of the USA’s finest footballers. Donovan still has his jitterbug pace and an impeccable eye for the right play on the field – he leads his national team in both goals and assists. Donovan is an astoundingly unselfish player, and the US could use his vision and direct style to contrast the hard-working central midfield of Jones, Bradley and Dempsey.

But never mind all of that. Donovan has the big game chops unmatched by any US player. Donovan defines this US team’s resiliency. There’s a ready-made place for him in the team on the wing opposite Graham Zusi, and he’s simply a World Cup legend. No US player has ever scored more times than him on the world’s biggest stage.

If Donovan’s back in the team, the US have a much-needed dead ball specialist and stone-cold penalty-taker. They also add experience and a huge amount of leadership from a player who has been there and done that. I don’t believe Donovan doesn’t get along with Klinsmann,. After all, it was the German manager who brought Donovan to Bayern Munich on loan during Klinsmann’s ill-fated spell at the Allianz Arena.

Klinsmann’s biggest mistake would be deciding he doesn’t need Donovan. If the US want to progress from the group stage in Brazil, they must put their best team on the field. And Landon Donovan is in that team every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

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  1. gbewing

    June 25, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    all the players the author questions are not who Donovan would replace, he would replace Zusi and Zusi is doing quite well along with Bradly- Altadore up front -promising. Donovan left the team and sport for whatever reason as is his right but he must out play the current team to get it back and right now Zusi is the better option-

    Wally Pipp was a very good 1b then he got a headache and a guy named Gehrig played- time and sports move forward not backward. Landon opened the door- and right now his position is filled nicely. Would he come off the bench or is that beneath him?

  2. Mickey the Celt

    June 25, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Some of you really need to do more research before you start talking. The EPL comments are crap. He has a contract to honor. He can not just decide to go to EPL, etc. He had to sigh that contract so that MLS would allow him to go on loan in the first place. A loan that was successful enough that he was brought back for a second spell. Secondly, the MLS is known for overpricing its star players. Donovan has made MLS a lot of money and they are not going to part with him without recouping the loss. Secondly, the Beckham comments are incorrect also. Read the ‘Beckham Experiment’. Donovan gave up and put up with a lot more than Beckham did to make that situation work. The first 3 years, Beckham was there to collect a paycheck and draw fans. He was not the player that he was the final two years. Donovan has to earn his way on to the National Team. If he does, so be it. If not, we move on. I agree with the earlier comments: there is no room for sentimentality on the team for the world cup. Arm band goes to the guy who will get the job done. For my money, that is Michael Bradley.

    • David

      June 25, 2013 at 4:28 pm

      Half of the people on this site are EPL/Euro snobs that don’t get world soccer. It’s easy to expect any player to go to Europe to prove himself. He has taken the road less traveled and to an extent, it has cost him.

      I’ve always wanted to see him at a club abroad for a while to see how he does for sure. But I’ve also been very impressed with how he’s honored the Galaxy and still delivered for the USMNT, despite any preconceived notions about MLS.

  3. David

    June 25, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    I don’t know what’s dumber. The article, or the comments.

    The article leaves so many “what if” scenarios. The US team looked good in qualifying. Qualifying is difficult regardless of who you play because it’s for the World Cup. Upsets happen, and tournament berths are won and lost at home.

    But to see so many people in the comments saying that Donovan’s overrated, a cancer, bad for the team, etc. I don’t even know what to say to that. He’s without question one of the most important players the USMNT has ever had, if not the most important. That’s not even debatable.

    What is debatable is how much strength he brings on the field now. Age is starting to show potentially, but it’s hard to say since we haven’t seen him on the field for the Nats in a while. It sucks he’s missed such a big camp with the senior squad, being that 90% of the WC team will probably come from that group of players.

    But we’ll see how he does in the Gold Cup, and see if he gets a shot with the 1st team guys in the fall.

  4. StellaWasAlwaysDown

    June 25, 2013 at 9:59 am

    While the USMNT could definitely use Donovan, I don’t feel like he is entitled to play. Yes, he might have been worn out, but he decided to play those amount of matches, play overseas, etc. What kind of precedent would Klinsmann be setting if players could quit/resume when they wanted? Or worse, only certain prima donna players? Many players like Altidore have had to swallow their pride and work hard to be included. Donovan won’t be around forever to “save” USMNT every time they are playing poorly. Better to blood some of the younger players coming through and let him sweat some more.

  5. christian

    June 25, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Glad to see there are others who feel the same as I do about Donovan.

    Klinsmann has done a very good job to this point. Lando needs Jurgi far more than Jurgi needs Lando.

    • Bergkamp_10

      June 25, 2013 at 9:52 am

      When crunch time comes, then Klinsmann will need Landon far more. Winning against mediocre teams and all of a sudden Jurgen thinks he doesn’t need US’s best player.

      Landon is a world class player. US needs world class players. Clint is a good player but he is not World Class and far more selfish than Landon.

      • jtm371

        June 25, 2013 at 9:08 pm

        yeah he is world class in his mind!

      • Wongo1

        June 25, 2013 at 9:35 pm

        Please stop using the term World Class when talking about Donovan. He is NOT world class.

  6. Wicks

    June 25, 2013 at 7:37 am

    Is Abe Asher a pen name for Bob Bradley?

  7. trickybrkn

    June 24, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Not sure Donovan is even better then Zusi at this point. But, I do want to see him in Brazil. He will bring experience, as long as he doesn’t bring his attitude. You know the attitude that forced a me or him battle with Beckham. A battle he lost. And now that Eddie Johnson looks at least bright, the need to beg Landon back is over. Do I want to see him back, yes. Do I want him to have the spotlight, no. So if he can be a roll player great. If not… We really don’t need the distraction in the squad.

    • Brandon

      June 25, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      Beckham acknowledged that he had become distracted and behaved like a poor teammate. Then the two of them patched things up and they won a lot of games together. So, it was in fact a battle they both “won.” I don’t know what you’re on about here. If anybody has a problem with Donovan it’s Jurgen, not his teammates.

  8. Sam

    June 24, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    Although he may not be as good as he was 10 years ago, he’s still good. 49 goals for the United States at the international level is better then Dempsey, who has the second most with 35. This will most likely be his last World Cup, so I say give him the spot, and hell, give him the armband. He is America’s most well known soccer player and has gotten us out of situations before. He deserves this as a farewell from international play.

    • trickybrkn

      June 24, 2013 at 9:59 pm

      He doesn’t deserve the armband. In my mind that HAS to be Bradley’s in Brazil. Landon is about 12th on my list.

      • Sam

        June 24, 2013 at 11:06 pm

        Bradley does deserve the armband, but not for Brazil. Donovan’s a veteran of 3 world cups. He deserves the armband for brazil for it will be his last World Cup. Give it to him for the honor, not because he is the best anymore

        • jtm371

          June 24, 2013 at 11:14 pm

          maybe give it to adu.

    • Matt

      June 25, 2013 at 2:32 am

      First, he absolutely is not the most well known player on this national team. At best he is fourth behind Dempsey, Howard and Bradley.

      Second, I’m not against him earning both his spot in the team and the armband back again. In my mind this can only happen if he rips the league apart this fall. Afterwards, he will need to elevate his game the same way he did before SA2010: by going on loan to a strong premier league club to stay sharp.

      I don’t see this second point happening. Because we have a very strong grip (not by any means done and dusted) on qualification, I’d rather see Juergen continue to use Zusi/Fabian/EJ/Shea out wide.

      Honestly, Landon could be very effective as a substitute in matches where a change in tempo and mindset are needed after an hour or so…

      • Brandon

        June 25, 2013 at 12:25 pm

        Shea should play ahead of Donovan? You can’t really believe that. Nobody could, because there’s zero evidence for it on a national level unless you consider the one fluke against Mexico. After moderate success he has just about disappeared this last year. Donovan and Zusi playing wide is a nice pairing.

        • Matt

          June 25, 2013 at 12:53 pm

          No I’m not saying that. I’m saying I’d rather tinker with the young players with potential than the known commodity that is Landon. I’d certainly start Landon over him now.

    • Clampdown

      June 25, 2013 at 11:40 am

      A little unfair to compare Donovan’s and Dempsey’s goal numbers for the national team. Donovan took all of the penalties for years, while Dempsey did not.

      That being said, I think Bradley should be the captain.

      Donovan needs to show he is completely committed to the US side, regardless of his past contributions. I have no problem with him being on the US squad for the World Cup, but let him prove to Klinsi that he deserves a starting spot now.

    • COYS_USA_D1

      June 25, 2013 at 2:59 pm

      Hahaha! This post prooves you know nothing about international football. You earn your spot on the team! Donovan has not earned a spot for 2014. He cant be given a spot because he has 49 intational goal. If he earns the spot then sure he can be on the team. He def doesnt deserve the armband. He doesnt deserve a farewell. You never give a farewell spot in the world cup. No country does that. Rather see Shea on the USMNT in 2014 than Donovan.

      • Sam

        June 25, 2013 at 4:32 pm

        This post shows how much of a jackass you are. I know international soccer. Although I love seeing Zusi play and the other winger will do well, I believe that Donovan deserves this. To everyone who believes Bradley should be captain, I agree because the aggression increased with him playing. Donovan, however, I think deserved the captain band because of his experience and commitment to the game. A break is good for everyone, even professionals. This is my opinion and I don’t need people saying I’m stupid. Hate him or not, Donovan’s a key player and if he plays or not it’s Klinsmann decisions.

  9. Smokey Bacon

    June 24, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Donovan hasn’t done himself any favors with his attitude of late and his lack of ambition is there for all to see. But he is still the best player ever produced by this country and the team is worse for him not being in it. I think he deserves to finish his international career in Rio next year. But with or without him, the USA will do well to make it out of their group. They are no more world beaters than England.

  10. Flyvanescence

    June 24, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Donovan: im tired and worn out and i need an extended rest.

    Chelsea’s players: . . .

  11. CTBlues

    June 24, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Lets see what he does in the Gold Cup and in the league leading up to the next round of qualifying. The biggest problem the team has is the back line. I would almost rather see them play together in the Gold Cup to gain more experience together instead of the old fogies Bocanegra and Onyewu.

  12. Bart

    June 24, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    I grew up playing Olympic developmental soccer with Donovan and Beasley, and continued to play soccer in college at the d1 level. With that being said, Landon Donovan is the most overrated men’s soccer player in the history of us soccer. His kick and run selfish style of play has been the downfall of us soccer even when we played back in the day. The guy is not a leader, with him out of the lineup there is a chemistry that cannot go un noticed. He is more of a cancer than a solution. It is guys like this author who for some reason or another do not understand this game, and in turn lead people to believe things that are untrue and hinders people from understanding the game of soccer.

    • jimmy

      June 24, 2013 at 10:11 pm

      Your an idiot. Best american soccer player ever

    • Mike

      June 24, 2013 at 11:39 pm

      You really are an idiot. Sounds like your personal hatred for Donovan has blinded you. The best US player we ever had.

    • Wongo1

      June 25, 2013 at 9:30 pm

      Sorry Mike and Jimmy but you are both wrong; not only is Donovan not the best player the USA has ever had he is as Bart correctly pointed out a very selfish, overrated player.

      Give me Dempsey, Reyna, McBride or even Ramos over Donavan any day of the week.

      Donovan is spoiled and coddled, when he was in Europe he bolted home when he was not first choice in the team. I blame USA football because if they had even an ounce of cajones they would have told him to take his butt back to Europe fight for his place and better himself. His game has NOT changed in all the years I have watched him.

      • jtm371

        June 25, 2013 at 9:50 pm

        i second that motion.RIGHT ON!

  13. AJ

    June 24, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    Your using a lot of what ifs to justify the teams poor play. Granted, in the past most of those situation would’ve gone against the U.S. but they didn’t this team is achieving no matter how small it is. I think the team as is could be a in the last 8

  14. jtm371

    June 24, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    could not disagree more with this article.he QUIT on the team and please he was so exhausted could not party with the Galaxy.Was all his travel on Southwest and staying at Super8 modern players are if your a player with talent to play at the highest level (EPL) and you choose not to it shows your not driven to challenge the best in your in a nutshell l Donovan can pound sand they don’t need you.

    • Flyvanescence

      June 24, 2013 at 6:40 pm

      Agreed 100%. He brings the team down with his satisfaction for mediocrity.

    • Wigglesworth81

      June 24, 2013 at 8:18 pm

      I agree with you as well. I feel like at this point he would be more of a mascot or “feel good story”.

    • Austin

      June 24, 2013 at 9:56 pm

      He didn’t quit on the team he took a much needed break. From 09 till his break he played on loan 3 times and played in the confed cup, gold cup and World Cup. He arguably played and traveled in more games then anyone on the planet. He hadn’t had a proper break and considering he had been the face of US soccer since he was about 19 he needed a break. Was it a terrible time to do so, yes. But Donovan taking a break 18 months before the World Cup and missing games is better then a burnt out unmotivated Donovan at the World Cup. Hate him or love him, motivated or not he is still without a doubt one of the best players this team has today. Not to mention he doesn’t need, require or want the spotlight on him.

      • jtm371

        June 24, 2013 at 10:05 pm

        was ha available when it was time to play?NO.was he hurt?NO he quit take a break for the next 40 years you have no heart.would rather star in the mls then play against the best in the EPL tells you all you need to know.go to Sri Lanka and find yourself.

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