Skip to content

What Landon Donovan did last night … THAT is why he will be in Brazil next summer

Jul 17, 2013, 5:18 PM EST

Landon Donovan, Kenny Cunningham

Costa Rica packed the back, and knew how to make a strategically cynical approach work.

With five defenders and four midfielders organized tightly in front of them, there was precious little operating space for U.S. attackers Tuesday in Hartford. The occasional cross got through, but generally arrived with negligible threat.

As I said last night, U.S. problem solvers were in short supply. Jose Torres seemed to have something crafty in him before the break, but then ran out of energy or lost initiative or something. Stuart Holden didn’t appear to have the legs or the confidence to launch the late runs that tend to sew confusion and leave someone open somewhere.

The U.S. right side (Michael Parkhurst and Alejandro Bedoya) was a big bundle of “Meh.”

But the breakthrough did arrive … and it came off Landon Donovan’s alert mind and his smooth right foot. Credit Brek Shea for a lung-busting run of faith, one that so many players might not have seen or might not have attempted in a match that never meant much to the ongoing tournament. (Although, as we know, these moments certainly could mean something in the ongoing, bigger picture player evaluations.)

But the goal was really about Donovan – and that is why the national team’s all-time leading scorer and assist man will be in Brazil next year. Book it. (All this with the usual caveat of injury, obviously.)

(MORE: U.S. beats Costa Rica on late Donovan-Shea hookup)

(MORE: What else we learned from Tuesday’s U.S. win)

Donovan is a game-changer. Period. Even when he’s not at his best, that is the kind of moment he, and precious few others in the U.S. pool, can manufacture.

Do not underestimate the savvy elements of that one pass:

  • The vision to know that Shea was there.
  • The confidence to try a 40-yard pass on a first-time hit; so many lesser players would have taken a controlling touch, a less aggressive and safer course of action – and one that would have likely seen the United States forfeit the initiative.
  • The instant understanding that to allow Costa Rica, which had sent men forward on a set piece attempt, to retreat once again into that defensive crouch would have been throwing away one of the best chances his team had left of finally breaking through.
  • The skill to pull off such a thing. That’s not a terribly difficult ball to hit – but it’s hardly a piece of cake to put it in the right spot. Donovan situated that ball between defenders, out of reach of Costa Rican goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton and into a spot where Shea never had to break stride.

If you watch the video closely, you see U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann point toward Donovan as Joe Corona gets the ball. The manager knows where it needs to go at that point; he understands that Donovan can do something highly productive with it, even if so many others could not.

For Donovan, this Gold Cup was all about proving he can fit in, about proving he has the will and the dedication and that he isn’t just along for the ride.

The ability, the experience and the high-level acumen are still there. Klinsmann knows it; the guy is no dummy.

Moments like that one reiterate it, and reminds us all why getting Donovan’s mind right will mean a lot in Brazil next summer.

Watch the goal one more time:

.

Latest Posts
  1. Making the case for the Eastern Conference as a better option

    Mar 3, 2015, 9:30 PM EST

    Joze Altidore AP

    Oh MLS: What fun is there in following the narrative?

  2. I Was There: Austin Gooners have their best singing voices ready for Everton

    Mar 3, 2015, 8:40 PM EST

    Austin Gooners

    If you’d like your supporters group to be featured on future episodes of ‘I Was There’ simply send pictures/video to @NBCSportsSoccer or NBC Sports Soccer on Twitter on Facebook using the #IWasThere.”

  3. 2015 MLS season preview: Vancouver Whitecaps

    Mar 3, 2015, 7:47 PM EST

    vancouver_whitecaps

    Vancouver may be missing that huge, huge name but is solid top-to-bottom.

  4. 2015 MLS season preview: Colorado Rapids

    Mar 3, 2015, 7:00 PM EST

    Colorado Rapids logo

    It could be a dark year in Commerce City, but don’t forget that this was a promising young team that floundered last year.

  5. VIDEO: Tim Sherwood thinks Villa found turning point in dramatic 2-1 win

    Mar 3, 2015, 6:47 PM EST

    Aston Villa v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    The brash Englishman is happy to call the win a turning point for his club, which moves out of the relegation zone for the time being.

  6. Tuesday’s Premier League roundup: Saints, Villa win; Hull, Sunderland draw

    Mar 3, 2015, 6:28 PM EST

    Videos, recaps, analysis and more from the three PL games during Week 28 on Tuesday.

  7. Ronald Koeman on Saints’ late win: “This is a key moment in our season”

    Mar 3, 2015, 5:53 PM EST

    Southampton v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    After a late win against Palace ended their goal drought, Saints remain in the top four hunt.

  8. After touchline spat and water bucket destruction, Bruce and Poyet both bring humor

    Mar 3, 2015, 5:52 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-HULL-SUNDERLAND Getty Images

    The pair of managers had to be separated on the touchline after Poyet angrily approached Bruce, who had been loudly criticizing a dive from Sunderland’s Jack Rodwell.

  9. 2015 MLS season preview: Toronto FC

    Mar 3, 2015, 5:17 PM EST

    Toronto FC logo

    This should be the year TFC breaks its MLS playoffs’ duck. But nothing’s ever certain in Toronto.

  10. Southampton 1-0 Crystal Palace: Mane’s late goal gets Saints back on track (video)

    Mar 3, 2015, 4:45 PM EST

    Southampton v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    Relief for Southampton, as Mane’s goal seals crucial win to keep top four hopes alive.

  11. Hull City 1-1 Sunderland: Rodwell helps Black Cats steal a point (video)

    Mar 3, 2015, 4:42 PM EST

    Hull City v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    The Tigers stay a point ahead of Sunderland. Hull is in 15th place with 27 points.

  12. Referee in Cyprus reveals match-fixing amid accusations from South Africa

    Mar 3, 2015, 3:29 PM EST

    Panayi AP

    A referee in Cyprus has come clean, describing an incredibly deep-rooted problem of match-fixing in the country that makes us wonder how prevalent this problem really is.

  13. FA delays Mackay racism decision as Cardiff board boycotts Wigan trip

    Mar 3, 2015, 2:35 PM EST

    Mackay Getty Images

    The FA says the finding of “significant new information” has led them to extend the investigation.

  14. Watch Live: Hull City vs. Sunderland (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Mar 3, 2015, 2:09 PM EST

    Hull City v Aston Villa - Premier League Getty Images

    A massive relegation six-pointer between these two north east rivals. Watch live online, here.

  15. Watch Live: Aston Villa vs. West Bromwich Albion (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Mar 3, 2015, 2:00 PM EST

    Tim Sherwood New Aston Villa Manager Press Conference and Photo Call Tim Sherwood New Aston Villa Manager Press Conference and Photo Call

    Can Villa get their first win under Sherwood in this huge Midlands derby? Watch live online, right here.

  16. Watch Live: Southampton vs. Crystal Palace (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Mar 3, 2015, 1:50 PM EST

    Southampton v Crystal Palace - FA Cup Fourth Round Getty Images

    Can Saints get back to winning ways as old boss Pardew brings Palace to town? Watch live online, here.

  17. Update on MLS labor strike: Players Union, league at impasse as situation looks dire

    Mar 3, 2015, 1:33 PM EST

    Don_Garber

    With just over 72 hours to go until the MLS season kicks off, talks between the league and the Players Union still ongoing.

  18. 2015 MLS Season Preview: Houston Dynamo

    Mar 3, 2015, 1:08 PM EST

    Dynamo

    The Dynamo have a few new pieces and Owen Coyle is a trailblazer, but things still smell of the failures of last year, and this season looks to be a mountain for the Dynamo to climb.