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Landon Donovan and a Gold Cup squeeze? He deserves better

May 16, 2013, 10:15 AM EDT

U.S. national soccer player Landon Donovan controls the ball during a practice session at the Azteca stadium in Mexico City Reuters

The “compromise” on the ongoing Landon Donovan debate – should he or should he not find a spot on Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster, set to be announced later today? – is a Golden one in some minds.

Leave him off the United States’ “senior” roster for the summer, the one that will compete in two major friendlies, but then add the program’s all-time leading scorer for the Gold Cup in July. That U.S. roster will be made up primarily of “junior-level” members of the extended national team pool.

And that’s the point: Donovan is no “junior level” member. By definition, the program’s all-time leading scorer is no junior member.

Jurgen Klinsmann has laid out a plan for summer roster building. It’s about the best strategic use of the extended pool while targeting success in those critical World Cup qualifiers and the far less significant Gold Cup. (The Gold Cup is CONCACAF’s semi-annual fight for regional bragging rights.)

(MORE: Donovan makes his case in destroying Philadelphia)

Everyone knows what Donovan can and cannot do when fit and sharp. The only question that needs asking for today (and for today’s announcement) is just that: is he fit and sharp. Despite last night’s big performance, you can rightly question whether Donovan is “there” yet to impact games internationally, consistently.

More of that, and he will surely be “there” by July.

But it’s fair to ask whether having Donovan on the Gold Cup is the right thing? (It is especially fair to ask because I get the suspicion that very thing is going to happen.)

Yes, it will be important for Donovan to establish himself back in the U.S. locker room. But the players with which he needs to re-build relationships are not the players who will be in the U.S. locker room during the Gold Cup.

Meanwhile, Donovan has responsibilities to his MLS club, too.

The bottom line is that asking Donovan to participate in the Gold Cup feels like a litmus test of his loyalty to U.S. program. And that makes it feel wrong.

Yes, Donovan has balked on U.S. invitations before when he probably should not have. But that was at a darker time in his career, when he was just hanging on, grappling with whether he even wanted to remain in the professional game.

Donovan has done plenty for the United States program and for U.S. soccer at large over the years. He should be past litmus tests. If he can assist in the World Cup qualifying efforts, then great. Let him.

Otherwise, leave the Gold Cup for the Will Bruins, the Mix Diskeruds, the Sean Johnsons, etc.

  1. mancitysshabbysheik - May 16, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    why shouldnt he have to have to prove his loyalty to the US? His actions in the last year have suggested that he in fact, ISN’T all that loyal to the USMNT, and its players. I see absolutely nothing wrong with asking him to play in the Gold Cup. Don’t forget, he himself said he has a lot of off field things to bring to the table. Could the Mix’s, WIll Bruins, and others benefit from having him around? I think so….

  2. mazblast - May 16, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    Not nearly what he once was, and hasn’t been working with the national team. Despite what his supporters say, you can’t just plop him in with the national team (supplanting someone else) and expect results. Klinsmann would be right in seeing if he works well with the current team in lower-leverage situations first.

  3. spikenyc - May 16, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    I thought the main objective was to qualify, and by any means necessary. With his skill set and experience, there’s an extremely good chance he can continue to get back to his old self and help the team win over the coming weeks. If he can’t show that in camp, he and 4 other fringe players won’t dress for the matches. Of course he should be on the senior roster.

  4. schmutzdeck - May 16, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    No need to wait. Jamaica, Panama and Honduras are not pushovers to be taken lightly.

    Including last night’s Union game, the Galaxy and Landon have 5 games between now and June 8th.

    Three of those games (Union, NYRB and Sounders) come before the Belgium game (5/29) and all of them are over before the Panama (6/11) and the Honduras (6/18) qualifiers.

    Including last night LD will have five shots at impressing everyone before Panama and Honduras.

    These camps have plenty of late call ups. The Euro guys are tired, injuries are always a question, and I don’t know what the card situation is for the qualifiers. If LD does well and there is any problem with Jamaica do you really think JK won’t call LD in?

    A perfectly sensible thing to do would be to leave LD with the Galaxy for the bulk of these games and then call him in for Panama or Honduras or both. The Galaxy get to clear up their schedule and LD gets a few games to get acclimated. He certainly doesn’t need the camp.

    This all depends on LD continuing to play like he did against Philly. If he does then all this controversy can go away.

  5. charliej11 - May 16, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    Insane that we are having this conversation.

    Can you imagine if we lose without him and don’t qualify ? It is a possibility, did you see Jamaica play in Mexico ? Panama is in first place. Honduras is tough.

    I see all the Landon hating trolls scambling while jumping ship on JK. “……….I knew he shoulda pick up Landon, what was he thinking…” “…I mean he was never my favorite, but come on Xxxxx Xxxxx (insert worst playing mid ) over him ? What was he thinking ?….”

    • joeyt360 - May 16, 2013 at 5:58 PM

      Let me blow the mind a little further:

      The US currently sits tied for second to last in CONCACAF in goals scored.

      And we’re leaving our all-time top scorer at home.

      I know, we’re one of the few who’ve already played @Azteca, but still, second to last. Two goals in three games. In the semi-finals, we won our group, but with the fewest goals scored of any of the three group winners. In fact, Costa Rica came in second in their group and scored more than we did, so we were fourth place in that round.

      We obviously need the offense. We don’t have the luxury of trying to make points if it hurts our ability to score them.

  6. wandmdave - May 16, 2013 at 3:10 PM

    “The bottom line is that asking Donovan to participate in the Gold Cup feels like a litmus test of his loyalty to U.S. program. And that makes it feel wrong.”

    Why is that wrong? He bailed on the team and its fans why should either trust him again without testing his loyalty first? I realize that he is talented (rust or no), plays in a position the team is thin at, and that his replacements are equally out of form if not more so but the best performing teams have the mantra the team comes before the player. If the coaching staff, the players, or the fans allow Donovan to waltz off and on the team whenever he likes simply because he’s deemed indispensable you’re setting up a poor team culture and chemistry both short and long term. I’d rather be mediocre and even miss qualification this round than set us on the path to having the French locker room.

    • joeyt360 - May 16, 2013 at 6:26 PM

      If you don’t think he should be playing with the team, putting him in the Gold Cup is a tease.

      If you do, putting him in the Gold Cup is just jerking him around to try and make some kind of point at his expense.

      It’d be just a different flavor of douchebag sauce.

    • schmutzdeck - May 17, 2013 at 12:23 AM

      wandmdave,

      If you seriously believe the USMNT locker room could possibly bear any resemblance to the French locker room anytime in the near future, you are extremely naïve.

      JK has total control and everyone knows it. And JK haters notwithstanding, he is no Domenech, a true wack job.

      At this point few if any of the vets will have any issue with LD treatment. They didn’t say much after Boca’s demise was poorly handled did they? And the new guys ain’t going to say nothing. The only problem here will be if JK overplays his hand and is seen as torturing Donovan in his attempt to make everyone especially Donovan fight for his place.

      Overall, I don’t have a problem with how JK is handling this.

      Most of the media and the fans are way overreacting but then it is obvious they aren’t really following the story that closely and are just reacting to provocative and misleading posts and headlines. JK has been pretty consistent for a manager in his treatment of the team and the players

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