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Anybody missing Landon Donovan on the morning after?

Feb 7, 2013, 10:05 AM EDT

Jurgen Klinsmann

I never quite figured out why so many U.S. Soccer supporters were so quick to dismiss Landon Donovan’s contributions to the national team.

A lot of fans did appreciate how Donovan’s speed, technical ability, versatility and clever soccer brain could gin up the product. But a significant slice of the supporter pie did not like the fellow, for whatever reason, and allowed that to could their judgment and diminish how they perceived his talent.

Well, to that group I ask: What do you think about Landon Donovan today?

Because the United States sure as shootin’ missed the man last night.

(I keep thinking of the Filter song Take a Picture, which builds to the lead singer screaming, “Hey, Dad, what do you think about your son now?” Such anger!)

To put a very fine point on it, the United States did not have an Oscar Boniek Garcia.

Honduras has a swell team, one that likes to attack and has a good plan built around strong elements. One of those is right-sided attacker Boniek Garcia, a Designated Player with the Houston Dynamo, the two-time MLS runner-up.

His ability to run in behind defenses kept U.S. outside back Fabian Johnson honest along the left side. And Boniek Garcia’s ability to take on defenders or to slash into spaces between defenders is exactly what the United States missed. They needed someone to inspire something better out of a languid attack.

He was a “difference maker.” Honduras had one yesterday in San Pedro Sula and the United States did not. Thus, the home team came up with the second goal and walked with all the points.

Tied at 1-1, this was exactly the kind of tight, crucial game that Donovan had ripped open several times before with a shrewd and assertive run off the ball, or by going around a defender for a game-changing shot, or with a laser-precision free kick.

Think of it this way: Jurgen Klinsmann used Eddie Johnson on the left. We can all debate about whether Brad Davis, Sacha Kljestan, Jose Torres, Brad Evans or someone else entirely might have been a better choice. In retrospect, use of Johnson in that spot, in this situation, does look somewhat naïve.

But we know Klinsmann would have used Donovan there (or on the other side) if he was available rather than on sabbatical.

(MORE: Klinsmann talked in December of Donovan situation)

Not only would Donovan have improved on U.S. midfield possession (Yuk!), his presence alone might have shifted the balance. Honduras bossed the midfield, partly because there wasn’t much to worry about coming from the visitors. Someone likes Donovan helps move the initiative the U.S. way; yesterday, Honduras always had the initiative.

There’s a reason Donovan is the country’s all-time scoring leader.

And he hits a pretty good assisting ball, too.

  1. Sam - Feb 7, 2013 at 10:18 AM

    I’d have a hard time talking to anyone who believes we’re better off without Landon Donovan. In a lot of ways, for better or for worse, he’s the spark plug for the usmnt.

  2. greej1938l - Feb 7, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    I agree with most of the article….but to say we would have got 3 points last night because of him…isnt fair either

    • Steve Davis - Feb 7, 2013 at 11:01 AM

      I don’t believe I quite said that. I may have wandered into that area … but I never quite got there.

  3. whordy - Feb 7, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    We 100% need him and I can’t wait to see him again.
    At the same time, we need to look at the big picture. What does it say about the results of our program from 2002-2013 that our savior is the same player from 11 years ago. There WILL be life with Donovan – sooner rather than later. And that points towards a bigger structural issue more important than can we ride Donovan for a little while longer.

  4. jamezyjamez - Feb 7, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    definitely missed him, but i think we also just missed speed in general in the attack and a desire to take on players. dempsey and altidore can be nifty in the box, but neither is formidable in a 1v1. EJ has some speed but as you mention is a fish out of water playing wide, not to mention poor touch that often has him carrying the ball right into a defender. still he was the only one who looked to take people on. zusi and kjlestan may be good in possession, but does either one really make an outside back/midfielder feel the need to ‘stay home’ and not join the attack? and dont even get me started on the CMs who, aside from the nice ball from JJ on the goal, looked like they were struggling to hold the ball at all. what i saw was a team that really needs contribution from a landon, brek shea, gatt type of player..heck even demarcus beasley. as you put it, who is going to be able to ‘make a difference’?

  5. tsingletonvt - Feb 7, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    Landon playing a good game would have helped the team yesterday, but there is no guarantee what kind of game he would have had. For some reason the team was off and if Landon was there it might have been different or maybe not?

    I like Landon, appreciate what he has done, what he CAN bring to the team, but it is his choice and there are a lot of variables. I always liked Reyna too and could never understand why so many undervalued him.

    • Steve Davis - Feb 7, 2013 at 11:51 AM

      Yup … I’ve made the same parallel ‘tween Donovan and Reyna and the lack of regard. Everyone undervalued both, ignoring the obvious that for whatever flaws, the team was consistently, measurably better with them on the field.

  6. tsingletonvt - Feb 7, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    Additionally, JK responded to the question of what went wrong by saying that there were too many players who did not play up to there potential. I believe that the problem that many fans have with Landon is that they believe he never reached his potential and lacked the drive to meet his potential.

  7. wingeratheart - Feb 7, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    Yes, Landon is sorely missed. He could have been the difference maker. In the past Donovan, Bradley and Dempsey have played well together — the source of one touch and one/two combinations, something we haven’t been seeing a lot of lately. I hope he comes back, and soon though I can imagine even if he does, Coach K as well as some of the players may have some lingering resentment toward him which could be bad for the team overall.

  8. pmacd82 - Feb 7, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    He’ll be back, of this I have no doubt. But specifically yesterday? Considering his sabbatical I don’t think his form would have been any better than Graham Zusi, a player who starts if this match were in the heat of the MLS season.

  9. charliej11 - Feb 7, 2013 at 3:00 PM

    You have to realize that LD is hated because he never went to England. Many don’t watch MLS, or watch it as a second league and they want him to go. They are crying over it and don’t want him to succeed. They want him to succeed….in England. They have lost all perspective.

    He like all of CONCACAF is doing just fine, developing along very well. I like to write that just to bug them.

    Let me phrase it another way..You HAVE to realize that many rip on LD for never going to England ?

    • Steve Davis - Feb 7, 2013 at 3:33 PM

      Of course I understand the reason on its surface. (He didn’t go to Europe for a longer period … not necessarily just England). What I don’t understand is why people begrudge him so for that. I’ve written for years that we all have the right to live the life we want, and we don’t really owe others anything. That’s what I meant … and have said many times.

      • charliej11 - Feb 8, 2013 at 7:16 AM

        Well they knew what was best for him……playing for Everton who will never compete for anything anyone in the US really cares about. Oh wait a minute, he was going to go down in history for his great Semi final appearance in Europa league !!!!! Silly LD.

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