Jul 29, 2013, 12:05 AM EDT
The lasting influence of this year’s Gold Cup may be at an individual level While winning a confederation title will always be an honor to the players who made up the United States’ CONCACAF champions, the tournament came in the middle of a World Cup cycle. Not only did that mean many key players were rested, but it also placed the past two weeks’ results in the context of the States’ path to Brazil. Which players were improving their stocks was more discussed than the matches’ results.
That perspective wasn’t lost on the media post-match, a group who were quick to ask about Landon Donovan. After a tournament where the returning attacker was clearly the competition’s best player, there was a natural curiosity as to his status with the national team. Is he back in the fold, fully re-established after this winter’s sabbatical? Or will the U.S. continue to forge through qualifying without him.
You don’t have to be the U.S.’s most ardent fan to know the answer. If you’re playing well and fit what Klinsmann’s trying to accomplish, you’re going to be called in. And after raising his Most Valuable Players’ trophy after today’s victory, there’s no doubt Donovan’s both playing well and fits.
It’s absolutely normal that there’s a high probability that he joins us for the September games. It’s absolutely a non-discussion. But he also knows that it’s always the present. It’s always about today and tomorrow. He took that very well. He accepted that role. He swallowed a couple pills, which is normal.
Donovan’s biggest backers won’t want to see references to “pills,” taking things well, or anything short of a guarantee of a qualifying role. But beyond that loyalty-fueled perspective, this is as positive an outcome as Donovan could have hoped for from this tournament.
There are very few players Klinsmann would give a rosier prognosis than “high probability.” Maybe the Dempseys, Bradleys,and Howards of the world get some rope, but we saw what happened to Jozy Altidore last November. He international play waned, he ceased fitting what Klinsmann was trying to do, and he missed a call up. Nine months later Altidore seems like an obligatory call up, but his arc also shows how quickly things can change.
What if a player’s form dips? Or they get injured? Or other players step up, or there a specific tactical considerations that influence a callup? Along with this absence from previous qualifying teams, that’s where a player like Donovan goes from lock to high probability, and while other coaches may be more willing to give assurances, this is how Jurgen Klinsmann goes about his business. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Besides, any lingering conspiracies about Donovan being held out because of some personality conflict or internal rift were addressed by the player himself, reflecting on the process that led to his Gold Cup triumph:
I wasn’t in a place to contribute then … I wanted to come back and contribute, so it feels good to help.
Provided Donovan carries his Gold Cup form into the MLS’s second half, he’ll be called in come September. There doesn’t need to be a big sit down. There are no hatchets to bury. He’s a player in the pool, and when he warrants a spot, he gets it.
The more interesting consideration is what, exactly, that entails. The U.S. is at the top of their qualifying group, seemingly cruising to a spot in Brazil. While that doesn’t preclude Donovan claiming a spot in Klinsmann’s starting XI, it does hint there’s some competition. Something is working right now. There may be nothing to fix. In that picture, where would the Galaxy star fit in? And at what expense?
Some feel he’s best suited for an impact sub’s role. At least initially. Others obviously feel a player of his talent should go right into the team. If he does, does that mean Graham Zusi loses his spot? That was the dynamic that seemed to be in place last month, but now it’s worth wondering if Donovan would move Fabian Johnson to left back and take the left midfielder’s spot.
But also consider: Donovan was used exclusively as a supporting striker in the Gold Cup. While that may have been a function of the squad’s make up, did it also hint at what Klinsmann sees as Donovan’s best role? Be it as Clint Dempsey’s understudy or moving the team’s captain to another position?
As the cliché goes, these are all problems a coach would love to have. And as a credit to how far Donovan’s come in the last few months, they’re also the most pertinent questions surrounding his national team future. Though there’s still a chance he won’t be called into September’s qualifiers, all indications are he will be. Now the discussion shifts to how (and where) he fits.
May 5, 2015, 11:25 PM EDT
If you’d like your supporters group to be featured on future episodes of ‘I Was There’ simply send pictures/video to @NBCSportsSoccer or on NBC Sports Soccer on Facebook using the #IWasThere hashtag.
May 5, 2015, 10:46 PM EDT
Adam Jahn scored with his head while David Bingham made a big penalty stop to lead San Jose to all three points.
May 5, 2015, 9:43 PM EDT
Pep Guardiola faces his former club when Bayern Munich travels to Camp Nou to take on Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal matchup.
May 5, 2015, 8:58 PM EDT
The struggling Tottenham striker seems to have more problems than just scoring goals.
May 5, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT
The Real Madrid boss is confident his side can overcome the 2-1 deficit following a first leg defeat in Italy.
May 5, 2015, 6:56 PM EDT
Aliko Dangote has a net worth of nearly $16 billion, and he wants to use some of that cash to buy the Gunners.
May 5, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
The duo won the Champions League together with Manchester United in 2008, and Patrice Evra thinks that gives them an edge with Juventus.
May 5, 2015, 5:05 PM EDT
The Italian champs take a slender lead to the Spanish capital with them after a classic European encounter.
May 5, 2015, 4:44 PM EDT
A second-half penalty from Carlos Tevez led Juventus to a big home win over Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals.
May 5, 2015, 4:16 PM EDT
CR7’s personal duel with Messi continues after grabbing his ninth UCL semifinal goal.
May 5, 2015, 3:36 PM EDT
The Reds’ striker will now begin his rehabilitation towards next season after a disappointing campaign riddled with injuries.
May 5, 2015, 3:04 PM EDT
The captain came to his team’s defense, but it ended up coming out quite awkward.
May 5, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT
The Italian champions welcome the reigning European champions to Turin for the first leg of their semifinal. Follow all the action live.
May 5, 2015, 1:49 PM EDT
Thought to be on his way out, Rais Mbolhi is back with the club. For now.
May 5, 2015, 12:22 PM EDT
Oscar hasn’t appeared since his collision with David Ospina, but Dunga says the midfielder’s injury is training related.
May 5, 2015, 11:11 AM EDT
Didier Drogba is 37 years old, but still represents the best option for his role that Chelsea can buy.
May 5, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
Just four days before opening the Gold Cup, the US will host a familiar CONCACAF opponent.
May 5, 2015, 9:54 AM EDT
Newcastle appears to have lofty goals, but the prospects of bringing a Champions League striker to St. James Park while trying to stave off relegation appear grim.
May 5, 2015, 8:38 AM EDT
The 21-year-old Packwood saw his playing time significantly diminished this season, and finished the year on loan in League Two. Meanwhile, his experienced teammate Jonathan Spector is staying on.
May 5, 2015, 7:57 AM EDT
With Jose Mourinho “here to stay” Chelsea has looked to make that sentiment official.
- UEFA Champions League preview: Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich 0
- Three things we learned from Juventus vs. Real Madrid 0
- Juventus 2-1 Real Madrid: Tevez penalty lifts Juve over defending champs 3
- Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge undergoes hip surgery 0
- LIVE – UEFA Champions League semifinal: Can Juventus beat Real Madrid in Turin? 0
- Reports: Chelsea gearing up contract extension talks with Mourinho 0