This week's topic does not cover the Union and for good reason in my eyes. We are a soccer country that usually leans toward country over club and when a club is as poor as the Philadelphia Union it's really easy to see why I'd rather talk about the US National Team.
So I asked the staff here at the Brotherly Game their opinion on the huge bombshell that Landon Donovan was cut from the US National Team's World Cup roster.
Here's what they said.
Justin F. - Nope. And this game illustrated his issues perfectly despite the Union defense aided brace. Donovan has declined to the point of being near useless. His speed and fitness are long gone and he has never been the strongest finisher to make up for it. Right now he is just tough and intelligent, but sadly, he does not enough in the way of tangible skill set to complement those assets anymore. Great player in his prime, did a lot for soccer in the U.S. when they needed someone like him, but the experience argument holds no water, the "make the roster has a final honor to him" argument holds even less water, and Brad Davis (set pieces) and Chris Wondolowski (finishing) both bring something more to the table than a Donovan lacking speed, fitness, finishing, and passing.
Frank Cobbina - How many different ways can I type no? Sunday's result means nothing; it shouldn't take getting cut from the USMNT roster for Landon to score his first (and second) goal for club or country since early October of last year. In his prime, Landon had three distinct qualities that made him a great player: his intelligence, his pace, and his fitness. He's only got the first one left to help him beat world class talent. It's no coincidence that Klinsmann insists he's a forward, because as a winger he doesn't have the pace to beat the athletic fullbacks that he'll see in Brazil. The most infuriating stat I've seen since the roster came out is Landon scoring more goals at the World Cup than Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, Neymar, and Messi combined. Well, I'm pretty sure each of those greats (who are in their prime or approaching it, by the way) have scored more than 2 goals since October, no? He doesn't belong, not even on the bench.
Barry Evans - Yes. He isn't going to be there as a starter, but he has the quality and experience to make an impact in the World Cup if needed. He wouldn't even necessarily have played a minute, it's just good to have him as an option. I think Klinsmann went more with a squad getting experience this year, and going for 2018WC instead of making an impact in Brazil.
Jared Young - Yes and Brad Davis is my rationale. In training or on the big stage I still want Donovan over Davis. I don't care if Donovan was labeled a forward. If Davis sends in two gorgeous left footed crosses into the box in the World Cup then I will gladly say I'm wrong.
Eugene Rupinski - No. The Union aren't Germany, Portugal, or even Ghana. Sure Donovan looked good against the Union, but so did Teal Bunbury the week before and no one's ready to buy his tickets to Brazil.
Heather Reppert - Yes. I'm not even looking at this performance for my answer either. Even if Klinsmann wasn't going to use him as a starter, he still should have gotten the spot over Brad Davis. He has the knowledge and decision making ability under pressure of big games such as this to be able to make up for youthful inexperience that a few of the players on the squad have.
In regards to Landon Donovan I see both sides of the coin. In arguments where either side is represented by the most stoic of combatants, I tend to shift to the middle and Landon Donovan is no different. On one side it's unbelievable to suggest Landon isn't on the 23 man roster whereas on the other hand Landon is an old fart who's got nothing left.
I will start with why he should be on the roster.
I have several reasons why Landon Donovan should be on this roster and I'll start with the one that has been circulating in my head the most. Landon Donovan is the greatest player to ever put on a US Men's jersey. I am of that opinion perhaps because my memories of Claudio Reyna are fuzzy, but I'll stand by what I said. It is almost unfathomable to think Donovan is not on this roster because of that fact. Look at this roster and tell me who strikes fear into the hearts of opponents? I do believe that just by his name recognition alone Landon Donovan boosts the chances of the US side. Germany and Portugal have fond memories of the havoc caused by Donovan in 2002. Ghana knows two names in the US shirt and I guarantee one of them is Landon Donovan.
He has experience and a resume that speaks volumes about the contribution he can make to this national team. Is Landon as explosive and potent as he once was? No, but I can certainly say I have more confidence in him than I do of Brad Davis or Alejandro Bedoya (Not to take anything away from the two of those players who are good in their own rights). Landon is an American soccer god and I do believe, as he showed against the Union Sunday night, he can muster up an amazing performance when motivated.
Now why should Landon Donovan be off this roster?
It starts with himself. He has damned himself more times than not in the past year hasn't he? Whether it is a personal issue between him and coach Jurgen Klinsmann or not, Landon has certainly given the German plenty of ammo to send Landon into an early international retirement. Repeatedly saying that you're unable to train consistently or play at 100% every game, while absolutely reasonable and completely refreshing, is not smart to say with a coach who demands perfection.
Is there an issue I can see with Donovan not being on this roster due to tactical implications? Sure, he doesn't fit the mold of a player that Jurgen wants. He isn't as fast as he was and to play out wide in Jurgen's system you either need pure speed (Julian Green and Bedoya) and/or the ability to give tremendous service (Davis and Graham Zusi). Clearly, Landon doesn't have enough of either to make it. Playing up top? Landon is not the type of striker, especially with Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey in the player pool, that Klinsmann wants. And unlike the Union head coach, Jurgen probably isn't willing to play Donovan at defense.
The cold reality is that Landon Donovan will not be in Brazil for the United States' seventh consecutive World Cup campaign. I disagree with the decision despite being able to argue on both sides of the coin. Do not fret though, this is the deepest roster the US has ever taken to a World Cup and even though the draw wasn't kind, the US will play very well against very good opposition. Landon may not be on the roster but there is no doubt this is a roster to be celebrated and a team to be cheered for. So, root for the US in June and don't be "that guy" who immediately blames a lack of Landon Donovan as the USA's failing attribute.
I'll end in the wise words of Ian Darke, "Go! Go! USA!"