LA, Donovan Are Right

It wasn't till I read Paul Oberjuerge's article for the Daily Breeze that I gave much thought to the tiffle over whether Landon "Golden Boy" Donovan should play in both of this summer's tournaments, the Gold Cup and the Copa America. Oberjuerge makes his case more from the Galaxy's point of view than anywhere - and he extends this to a case that this would be "better for American soccer" which I don't quite buy, though I get his thinking.

But my recently-claimed choice of sides on this comes from something simpler: there's no compelling reason for Donovan to play in the Copa. At best, he'll lead a squad of inexperienced sheep to the slaughter; at worst, he'll dilute the biggest upside the Copa offers U.S. Soccer. As such, he kind of defaults back to playing for LA...and, on that, I don't really care much, probably 'cause I don't like LA....

Here's the thing: playing in the Copa appeals to so many fans on the theory that it will pit American players against better teams than what CONCACAF has to offer and in hostile environments. But the reason I wouldn't mind Donovan not going grows from the composition of the team we're likely to send: by general consensus, it won't be the U.S. "A-team" - and the argument for sending our best was lost months ago. As such, this won't be a case of working out the kinks with a likely first team - e.g. building a better team in the crucible of a tougher tournament - but in carrying the U.S. team (much like he's doing, to a sometimes disturbing degree in the Gold Cup) as far as his small frame can take them in Venezuela.

Given the above, I'm not seeing what either Landon, or U.S. Soccer, gains by having him go to Venezuela. With two World Cups to his credit, it's pretty easy to argue Donovan already knows from high-pressure situations against better teams; he shined on one occasion and shrank on the other, so let's call the experiment so far a draw. But the expectation that one South American tournament will substantively change this is hard to credit.

With the decision to send a weaker squad to Venezuela already made, I see greater value in building the experience of other field players - i.e. training the U.S. team to win/get results/score without Donovan. Why not work on unearthing successors and alternates to the Golden Boy in the best possible environment? As I see it, Donovan being there will just get in the way of figuring that out.


1 comment:

John said...

I think the more important question is, why is Donovan permitted to play in the Gold Cup at all? As you may know, Donovan turned down the honor of representing his country in South America, thereby neglecting his responsibility, as captain, to lead the team. Donovan showed his disdain for Bradley and U.S. Soccer by picking and choosing which tournaments he was willing to play in. The MNT is in dire need of a leader on and off the field, and they have not found it in Primadonovan. It seems to me that U.S. Soccer needs to stop pretending he is some kind of superstar and find a replacement for their Golden Boy.