Skip to content

Graham Zusi keeps making it harder for Landon Donovan to get back into U.S. national team

Jun 19, 2013, 12:48 PM EDT

Graham Zusi, Arnold Peralta AP

SANDY, Utah – The more Graham Zusi delivers performances like the one in Tuesday’s second half, when the Americans finally punched a hole in the Honduran defensive dam, the more Landon Donovan’s return to the national team scene disappears into doubt.

Donovan is on the provisional roster for the Gold Cup, and he will probably be called once the 23-man roster is handed into CONCACAF – and presumably made public that day – on June 27.

But there is a little bud of a theory developing around the U.S. camp that Donovan’s estrangement could become more or less permanent, that the team is doing fine without him – and it’s hard to argue the point at the moment. That could change when the opposition improves, but for now …

It’s certainly fair to debate whether Donovan’s presence next year in Brazil – We can all agree that the United States is going, right? – would be an asset. If he can add just a little more polish to his game with the Galaxy, folding in more consistency to the performances, Donovan would certainly be an upgrade over other attackers in the pool now appearing regularly on Jurgen Klinsmann’s depth chart.

(MORE: U.S. player ratings vs. Honduras)

Klinsmann clearly isn’t happy with the message Donovan delivered last year through some of the player’s choices regarding the national team. Donovan maintains that he did what he needed to do to prolong his career – and it’s hard to argue that point, too.

But if Klinsmann wants to cut ties in a bigger way … well, what better time to do so than now? Take the PR hit now before the relatively low-profile Gold Cup, get it over with and move on well ahead of next year’s World Cup, when Donovan’s roster omission would potentially become a talking point distraction.

Which brings us back to Zusi, who was nominal in presence through the first 45 against Honduras beyond those set piece dandies (something else he does expertly, helping to mitigate Donovan’s absence). Zusi isn’t quite as versatile as Donovan, unable to deliver crosses with either foot the way Donovan can. We saw it once Tuesday as the Sporting KC attacker got into position along the left but badly over-hit a centering ball.

(MORE: What we learned about the United States in Tuesday’s win)

Zusi also misses Donovan’s burst of speed and instincts near goal, too. But while the dropoff is noticeable in those areas, it certainly isn’t fierce. Plus, other elements of Zusi’s game, the tidy work in tight spots, the defensive tracking and the overall awareness, are roughly equal.

(Talking about awareness: How sweet was that dummy to help spring Fabian Johnson, which set up Jozy Altidore’s game winner?)

Zusi was a major influence on the U.S. attack throughout the second half; almost everything dangerous after the break went through him at some point, arranging balls for Clint Dempsey, aiming more of the dead-eye restarts toward Omar Gonzalez and finding more of the spaces against a tiring Honduran defense.

(Some of his slow first half was about Brad Evans, who was quite conservative along the right; a bigger push from the makeshift U.S. outside back would have forced Honduran defenders into choices, which would have pried open more room to roam for Zusi.)

Either way, here’s how the MLS All-Star explained the change from first half to second:

“It was a gritty game [early], very physical, not a whole lot going on,” Zusi said. “A lot of possession changes toward the middle of the field. I think our play in the first half wore them down a little bit and it allowed us, in the second half, to spread the field a little bit and get in behind them a little more often. So the second half we could be more dangerous in creating opportunities.”

Latest Posts
  1. Howard’s international sabbatical means opportunity for Guzan, Johnson and Hamid

    Aug 21, 2014, 5:22 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-EVERTON-NEWCASTLE Getty Images

    A new starter will have his chance to stake his claim, while another player will get more looks in camp with the third keeper’s role.

  2. Tim Howard taking a break from U.S. international duty

    Aug 21, 2014, 4:09 PM EDT

    Brazil Soccer WCup US Germany AP

    The 35-year-old is taking a step back, making himself unavailable for selection until Sept. 2015.

  3. LMA describe Malkay Mackay texts as ‘banter’ as online apology issued

    Aug 21, 2014, 3:19 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    LMA statement: “These were two text messages sent in private at a time Malky felt under great pressure and when he was letting off steam to a friend during some friendly text message banter.”

  4. Queens Park Rangers sign Chilean international Eduardo Vargas on loan

    Aug 21, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT

    SSC Napoli v PAOK - Preseason Friendly Getty Images

    Exciting attacker arrives at Loftus Road for the 2014-15 season.

  5. Luis Suarez not included in Uruguay’s squad for upcoming friendlies

    Aug 21, 2014, 1:51 PM EDT

    Uruguay's Luis Suarez kicks the ball during the group D World Cup soccer match against Italy at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. Uruguay defeated Italy 1-0. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan) AP

    Despite being eligible to play for his country, Suarez left off Uruguay’s roster.

  6. Sami Khedira rejects new contract at Real Madrid, alerts Arsenal, Chelsea

    Aug 21, 2014, 12:44 PM EDT

    sami_khedira Getty Images

    Khedira turns down new deal at Real. Will the Spaniards cash in on him now?

  7. Report: Xabi Alonso heading to Manchester United

    Aug 21, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    Spain v France - UEFA EURO 2012 Quarter Final Getty Images

    Former Liverpool star could be heading to United as Real Madrid seek to trim squad.

  8. Tottenham eye Champions League spot via Europa League title

    Aug 21, 2014, 11:16 AM EDT

    Mauricio Pochettino AP

    Spurs boss in dramatic U-turn on Europa League after previously dismissing tournament.

  9. Influential CEO Tim Leiweke to leave Toronto FC, MLSE

    Aug 21, 2014, 10:46 AM EDT

    Tim Leiweke, seen here at the announcement of the NBA's 2015 All-Star Game in Toronto, has taken two steps toward reversing the exodus out of BMO Field. (Source: AP.) AP

    Leiweke to leave MLSE, as leading sports executive calls it quits in Toronto.

  10. VIDEO: Watch LA Galaxy launch astonishing comeback, beat Colorado 4-3

    Aug 21, 2014, 10:05 AM EDT

    landon_donovan Getty Images

    After trailing 3-1, LA came roaring back to win 4-3 as Donovan bagged the winner.

  11. Angel Di Maria wants to leave Real Madrid, rejects new contract

    Aug 21, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT

    angel_di_maria Getty Images

    Di Maria wants out of Real, will Manchester United be able to pounce for his signature?

  12. Crystal Palace’s Sporting Director Iain Moody resigns after text scandal

    Aug 21, 2014, 8:54 AM EDT

    West Ham United v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    Moody, pictured center, has resigned from his role at Palace following damaging allegations.

  13. Mario Balotelli edging closer to shock $26 million Liverpool switch

    Aug 21, 2014, 8:20 AM EDT

    Balotelli Getty Images

    Liverpool, AC Milan agree Balotelli transfer as player, agent set to arrive at Anfield.

  14. Thursday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Tiote to Arsenal, Destro to Chelsea

    Aug 21, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT

    Italy Soccer Serie A AP

    Monster moves rumored. Check out all the latest gossip, right here.

  15. Angel Di Maria gets love from Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Diego Simeone

    Aug 20, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT

    Portugal Soccer Champions League Final AP

    Both Ronaldo and Ramos have gone to Madrid president Florentino Perez to ask him to keep Di Maria.

  16. Jozy Altidore is the happiest he’s ever been, says Gus Poyet

    Aug 20, 2014, 10:20 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Sunderland manager Gus Poyet believes United States striker Jozy Altidore is the happiest he has ever seen him.

  17. Malky Mackay and Iain Moody investigated by FA for ‘sexist, racist and homophobic’ text messages while at Cardiff City

    Aug 20, 2014, 9:11 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Cardiff City - Premier League Getty Images

    Malky Mackay has been reported to the Football Association for being involved in a series of racist, sexist and homophobic text messages.

  18. WATCH: Kid asks Jamie Carragher if he was ever bitten by Luis Suarez

    Aug 20, 2014, 8:35 PM EDT

    Jamie Carragher AP

    If Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher showed up to your training to sign autographs, what would you ask him?

  19. Mikel Arteta out at least two weeks with sprained ankle, will miss Besiktas clash

    Aug 20, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT

    Should age matter when evaluating a player's contract extension? Getty Images

    Arteta’s status means that Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini will be the holding midfield partnership against the Turks.

  20. UEFA Champions League Roundup: Porto and Zenit win, all others draw

    Aug 20, 2014, 7:25 PM EDT

    Hector Herrera

    Champions League play-offs continued on Wednesday with a series of tight contests headlined by a 1-0 victory for FC Porto at Lyon.

Featured video

Top five PL goals, Week 1