Skip to content

Distorted reality: Donovan’s comments understate problems with his candidacy

May 24, 2014, 8:13 PM EDT

donovan_scrum AP

Eddie Johnson played his way out of Brazil. Brad Evans’ injuries and play certainly didn’t help his standing in the U.S.’s battle at right back. Their candidacies for Brazil 2014 may have been doomed by other factors, but after playing regular roles in World Cup qualifying, neither U.S. international did themselves any favors through the first two months of the Major League Soccer season.

Landon Donovan is in that group, too, but unlike Evans and Johnson, the U.S. icon didn’t have a litany of qualifying contributions to fall back on. Last month’s camp in Arizona as well as his play throughout the MLS season were even more important. While Donovan hasn’t been terrible for the Galaxy this season, he has played well below his standards, creating a World Cup candidacy that was more about legacy and potential than the form he carried into Palo Alto, Calif.

Tellingly, Donovan doesn’t see it that way. Speaking to the media for the first time since Thursday’s surprise announcement, the 32-year-old pointed to his “performances’ before the U.S.’s May camp as part of the reason he deserved a place in Brazil:

“Based on my performances leading up to camp, based on my preparation for the camp, based on my fitness, based on my workload, based on the way I trained and played in camp, I not only thought I was a part of the 23, I thought I was in contention to be starting. That’s why this has all been pretty disappointing.”

Donovan has every right to be disappointed. There’s a strong case to be made that, even amid a slow start to the season, he is one of the 23 best U.S. soccer players available. To act like his current play reflects that, however, trivializes the complexities of his candidacy.

If one of Donovan’s arguments to be included is “performances leading into camp,” what is he looking at? A season with the Galaxy that’s seen Stefan Ishizaki and Baggio Husidic play as well as one of the team’s Designated Players? Based on that alone, Klinsmann is more than justified in doubting whether Donovan would have an impact in Brazil.

If Donovan’s “preparation for the camp” was so strong, why didn’t we see that on the field in the weeks leading up to his arrival in Palo Alto? Perhaps that was just the fluke of a small sample, but the returns from the sample were no different from what we’ve seen from Donovan throughout the season. While he hasn’t been as bad as his more ardent detractors claim, Donovan never made the case for his indispensability in Brazil.

While talking to the press on Saturday, Donovan noted he’s traditionally very level-headed when evaluating his own performance, but his descriptions of his recent performances don’t reflect reality. Going into Palo Alto, he’d done nothing to move off the bubble that’d formed post-Mexico. If Donovan had a case for Brazil, it wasn’t on the strength of his MLS performances.

source: AP

Through seven games this MLS season, Landon Donovan has no goals and two assists. His next goal will leave him alone on top of MLS’s all-time scoring list. (Photo: AP)

That he can’t recognize his own struggles hints at a huge dissonance – a difference between his perception of his candidacy and what we’ve seen over the last two months. Did the same view that saw his pre-camp performances as World Cup-caliber also overvalue his fitness? Donovan needed to show up to Northern California in better shape than he did in Arizona. How much really changed in the month between the April friendly and the May camp?

Potentially a lot, but Donovan may be suffering from the same biases that undermine every person’s ability to assess their own strengths. He’s created a standard that’s put a premium on something he’s capable of attaining: competitiveness in the May camp.

From Klinsmann’s point of view, that standard may have never existed. Talking about how well he performed in Palo Alto, Donovan implies outplaying teammates in one week’s worth of workouts should overshadow the information Klinsmann collected over the last three years. Clearly, it did not.

It’s reasonable for Klinsmann to side with all that information instead of one week’s worth. It’s also reasonable for Donovan to expect being named to the 30-man roster meant he time to improve his case. That, unfortunately, is the saddest part of this saga. There is no right or wrong, here. There’s only what could have been.

Klinsmann and Donovan are both intelligent men, particularly as it concerns soccer. Unfortunately, they could never get on the same page. After three years with Klinsmann as his coach, Donovan still didn’t know what it took to make the World Cup.

Latest Posts
  1. Premier League will use vanishing spray for 2014-15 season

    Jul 30, 2014, 1:07 PM EDT

    Morocco Soccer Club World Cup AP

    After success at the 2014 World Cup, vanishing spray is coming to the PL.

  2. Manchester United’s Luke Shaw agrees he’s not fit enough after Louis van Gaal criticism

    Jul 30, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT

    Luke Shaw Andrea Ranocchia AP

    Shaw: “I didn’t come into United thinking it’s going to be much harder and that’s something I made a mistake on.”

  3. PHOTOS: Scantily clad Cristiano Ronaldo poses for record-breaking magazine cover

    Jul 30, 2014, 12:03 PM EDT

    ronaldo cover final

    Ronaldo flexing the abs as he is set to appear in the largest-ever Men’s Health front cover campaign.

  4. VIDEO: Manchester United dominate Inter, win on penalties in Washington D.C.

    Jul 30, 2014, 11:18 AM EDT

    International Champions Cup 2014 - Inter Milan v Manchester United Getty Images

    United make it three wins from three on their U.S. tour. Watch the highlights from Van Gaal’s men in action.

  5. Manchester United reach “verbal agreement” on $80 million Arturo Vidal deal

    Jul 30, 2014, 10:45 AM EDT

    Arturo Vidal AP

    Will United splash the cash to sign Vidal in central midfield?

  6. Transfer Rumor Roundup: Cuadrado to Manchester United, Lukaku to Everton

    Jul 30, 2014, 9:11 AM EDT

    Colombia v Uruguay: Round of 16 - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    United to splash the cash? Lukaku on his way out of Chelsea? All the latest gossip, right here.

  7. Yaya Toure confirms he will stay at Manchester City

    Jul 30, 2014, 8:27 AM EDT

    Cardiff City v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Toure: “My decision is that I will stay at Manchester City for as long as possible.”

  8. Steven Gerrard endured “worst three months” of his life after Liverpool, England heartbreak

    Jul 30, 2014, 7:48 AM EDT

    Steven Gerrard believes Liverpool will prove themselves champions come next season. Getty Images

    After losing the PL title late in the season, then England being knocked out of the World Cup, can Gerrard bounce back?

  9. Edin Dzeko in talks with Manchester City over new contract

    Jul 29, 2014, 11:20 PM EDT

    Edin Dzeko

    “I can only say that I’m very happy at City and at the moment we are talking about a contract,” Dzeko said.

  10. San Lorenzo to use Viagra to counter elevation in Bolivar match

    Jul 29, 2014, 10:36 PM EDT

    San Lorenzo

    The 3,600 meters of elevation will provide a stiff challenge, with many opposing clubs having fallen victim to the altitude.

  11. Premier League on tour, Tuesday roundup: United beat Inter in penalties

    Jul 29, 2014, 9:43 PM EDT

    louis_van_gaal Getty Images

    Manchester United continued their success in the US with a third consecutive victory.

  12. WATCH: Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Ibe sing Drake’s ‘Too Much’

    Jul 29, 2014, 9:01 PM EDT

    England Press Conference Getty Images

    Sturridge and Ibe step to the mic and hold their own.

  13. Watch Live: Manchester United vs. Inter Milan (Lineups and Discuss)

    Jul 29, 2014, 8:24 PM EDT

    International Champions Cup 2014 - AS Roma v Manchester United Getty Images

    In team news, van Gaal has decided to go with his fabled 3-5-2.

  14. Instagram Transfer Rumors: Radamel Falcao heading to Real Madrid

    Jul 29, 2014, 8:03 PM EDT

    Radamel Falcao AP

    In a startling revelation, AS has revealed that Radamel Falcao has begun following three Real Madrid players on Instagram.

  15. Report: Southampton set to swap Dani Osvaldo for Inter Milan’s Saphir Taidar

    Jul 29, 2014, 7:08 PM EDT

    Norwich City v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Big day for headlines coming out of Southampton but this one looks to be quite promising for Saints fans.

  16. Luis Felipe Scolari hired by Gremio for third stint with Brazilian club

    Jul 29, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Brazil - 2014 FIFA World Cup Training Camp - Day 1 Getty Images

    Twenty-seven years after his first stint with Gremio, Luis Felipe Scolari is returning to the Brazilian side as its new manager.

  17. WATCH: Bojan Krkic scores first goal for Stoke City in 2-1 defeat to Schalke

    Jul 29, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Bojan Krkic AP

    Krkic, who made the $6.7 million move from Barcelona last week, scored a cracker of a first goal for Stoke City.

  18. Report: Carlos Tevez’ stepfather freed by Argentine kidnappers

    Jul 29, 2014, 5:25 PM EDT

    Juventus v Atalanta BC - Serie A Getty Images

    Tevez’s family was then phoned and told to deliver a ransom of $5,000 (40,000 pesos).

  19. Southampton chairman claims club will reinvest $165M in this transfer window

    Jul 29, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT

    Saints have a new Saints have a new

    “Every penny of that will be up for reinvestment as transfer fees and wages,” Krueger said.