Mar 30, 2012, 6:31 PM EDT
Landon Donovan just might be in for a weird year ahead.
Some of that is about injuries and advancing age. Bummer, I know. It hits everyone – the U.S. national team’s all-time leading scorer, and one of the most decorated MLS men in league history doesn’t get a pass.
For Donovan, the growing tax of sprains and strains might be difficult to deal with because he’s been such a remarkably durable figure. He’s missed time in MLS before, but almost always for U.S. national team duty. Lengthy, injury-related setbacks have been few and far between so far. But he’s 30 years old now, so dealing with docs and rehab specialist may be a bigger part of the landscape ahead.
There’s something else at work, too, less related to the inexorable sands of time.
Could we be near a time when Donovan sees his role reduced or even marginalized with the national team?
ESPN Soccernet’s Leander Schaerlaeckens posted a lengthy Q&A last week with national team boss Jurgen Klinsmann. At the caboose end were interesting comments regarding a speculative “rift” between Klinsmann and Donovan. I doubt anything acrimonious was ever at work. So I might quibble with the syntax a bit, but sniffing around this issue is good journalism. Here’s Klinsmann’s response:
No. There’s no problem at all with Landon. It’s for us way unfortunate that he wasn’t available for the last eight games, whatever reason it was. We take it as it happened and are straightforward in our relationship, and obviously we want to see him back in the team. This time it was bronchitis. The other times was other injuries that hit him. There’s absolutely no problem with Landon.
But we need Landon with the team to move forward because the train has left at 200 miles an hour and he was not on the train for eight games, which was not ideal for us but it is what it is. [Friendlies in] May and [World Cup qualifiers in] June comes quickly, and that’s when Landon needs to be there and understand where is the team. We need him here as soon and as quickly as possible.
I thought about it then, but the Olympic train was pulling out of the station (bound for that fatal curve as it came around the Nashville bend, as we know) and our patriotic gaze went elsewhere. Now I’m circling back.
Donovan has played in two of Klinsmann’s 10 matches in charge. More important, the Galaxy attacker has missed most of the training sessions and road trips. Donovan appeared in Klinsmann’s debut, which was more or less just a howdy and handshake session for all.
Later, Donovan went through about three practices and then played in the Sept. 2 loss to Costa Rica. The team went on to meet Belgium, but Donovan remained behind as part of an arrangement made before Klinsmann came on board. So that’s it. Donovan has neither played for nor trained under Klinsmann since, unavailable due to injury, illness or club needs.
I have no problem believing Klinsmann and Donovan are cool, personally. I have no doubt that Klinsmann isn’t personally put out by Donovan’s absences. The U.S. manager is bigger than that.
Read those comments again. I think Klinsmann is being typically candid about things.
In his mind, something much bigger is at work, something transformative. The concepts and systems he’s preaching aren’t just schlocky motivational truisms up on the corporate pegboard. He believes in them. Plus, it’s tough getting others to buy in when someone rarely around can still be such an essential cog.
Again, that’s not Donovan’s fault. It really has been a series of bad luck or circumstance.
I assume, along with everyone else, that Donovan will be in camp in a few weeks when Klinsmann gathers his side ahead of the May-June friendlies and World Cup qualifiers.
Donovan is a smart soccer player; he’ll catch up quickly on whatever he’s missed. Clearly, Donovan starts from a point well ahead of pretty much everyone in the U.S. pool – this side of Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard, at any rate. Klinsmann knows so.
If something happens along the way, forcing Klinsmann and Co. to motor on, “200 miles an hour” through May or June without Donovan? Given what we know about Klinsmann and his quirky ways, would anyone be floored if the coach leaves Donovan off rosters moving forward?
Klinsmann has a noted history of committing to his system and beliefs, then implementing through choices not always in line with populist or conventional thinking. Klinsmann smiles affably and confidently right through any resulting controversy or criticism.
Donovan has meant so very much to U.S. Soccer for 10 years now, from massive goals at World Cup 2002 to his critical role in qualifying for World Cup 2010. (If you don’t understand how important Donovan was to a qualifying road that got squeezed pretty good here and there, you weren’t paying attention.)
But sooner or later, Donovan’s influence will naturally fade. I don’t expect the sun to begin setting in the summer of 2012.
Then again, one good tenet of journalism says never to let your audience be completely caught off guard by something. So keep an eye on this one.
Jun 19, 2013, 11:05 PM EDT
MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Thursday’s United States women’s national team match falls smack in the middle of the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League season. It’s a friendly. It’s against the same team, Korea Republic, that the United States just handily defeated 4-1 on Saturday. But its relevance is critical, particularly to Abby Wambach – and for…
Jun 19, 2013, 10:21 PM EDT
Among the many assets in Jurgen Klinsmann’s portfolio, few are trending down.
Jun 19, 2013, 8:44 PM EDT
Confederations Cup completely worth it when it provides matches like these.
Jun 19, 2013, 7:35 PM EDT
There’re no shortage of players to praise after the U.S. completes a nine-out-of-nine run.
Jun 19, 2013, 6:47 PM EDT
Most U.S. players were still in the locker room an hour after final whistle Tuesday … watching a basketball game. Hmmm.
Jun 19, 2013, 5:58 PM EDT
Even while struggling, LA’s still the standard, but can they turn things around enough to keep Portland from the top of the West.
Jun 19, 2013, 5:25 PM EDT
Neymar’s show compounded problems for CONCACAF’s champions.
Jun 19, 2013, 4:52 PM EDT
The 42-year-old American revealed he is taking coaching courses to prepare for whenever his career is over.
Jun 19, 2013, 4:17 PM EDT
Some of those old issues of communication and understanding between Jones and Michael Bradley were on display once again in Utah:
Jun 19, 2013, 3:32 PM EDT
Montréal can open a gap atop the East with a win tonight. If Houston springs the upset, they’ll be within one point of the conference leaders.
Jun 19, 2013, 2:44 PM EDT
He didn’t exactly say much, but Pepe Reina’s club is Liverpool – at least, right now.
Jun 19, 2013, 12:04 PM EDT
Cameras caught a message from Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea, could it foreshadow a move?
Jun 19, 2013, 11:22 AM EDT
Fabio Capello is the latest manager to say “no” to the defending Ligue 1 champions.
Jun 19, 2013, 10:23 AM EDT
Liverpool take a huge net loss on the 24-year-old while West Ham set their transfer fee record.
Jun 19, 2013, 9:48 AM EDT
Tragedy struck Chivas USA’s youth squad Monday night.
Jun 19, 2013, 9:15 AM EDT
At the call of fans and media alike, the FA Cup final at Wembley will return to its post-league date.
Jun 19, 2013, 8:35 AM EDT
The United States had the perfect lineup to slowly whittle away at the Honduras defense before it finally broke.
Jun 19, 2013, 7:45 AM EDT
The 24-year-old American has found a new team after spending 5 seasons at Villa Park.
- Stock Falling: Which U.S. players’ statures are slipping … 2
- Get to your DVRs as soon as possible, because that Italy-Japan match was a classic 1
- Stock Rising: United States men whose values are rising out of Salt Lake 2
- MLS Preview: Portland Timbers at LA Galaxy 0
- Goal, assist from Neymar give Brazil win, prolong Mexico’s woes 2
- Graham Zusi keeps making it harder for Landon Donovan to get back into U.S. national team (29)
- Broadcast of U.S. v. Panama was second highest audience for World Cup Qualifier (14)
- Marseille’s hideous away kit one of the worst of all time (14)
- Orlando City dumps Sporting Kansas City out of U.S. Open Cup, extend unbeaten streak to 14 matches (13)
- It’s time FIFA reconsiders the Confederations Cup bid to the Oceania region (13)
- Play Video: Police clash with protesters in Brazil
- Play Video: Highlights: Sounders win in final minutes
- Play Video: Highlights: Revolution dismantle Galaxy
- Play Video: What does New York FC have to do to succeed?
- Play Video: The Hype: Bending the screen like Beckham
- Play Video: Galaxy's Rogers talks about coming out to the public