Landon Donovan’s increasingly tenuous status on the national team remains topical, and last night the national team’s all-time leading scorer had something quite interesting to say about it.
During ESPN’s national MLS broadcast, the network aired a pre-recorded interview with Donovan, a veteran of three World Cups.
Julie Foudy asked Donovan if his inability to join the national team for no more than 8 of Jurgen Klinsmann’s first 20 matches in charge has affected his relationship with the manager? Donovan acknowledged that it probably has … but he didn’t stop there.
It has probably affected my relationship with everybody on that team. You know, when you’re a guy who has never been hurt, for the most part, and then all the sudden you you have all these injuries, I think people begin questioning it. Maybe he’s faking it. Maybe he’s not really hurt. Maybe he doesn’t want to come in. And that’s really frustrating. Candidly that’s hurtful.”
Hurtful, I’m certain, because Donovan has generally been healthy and available and has always answered the country’s call – even when he surely could have used a break.
So, yes it is probably hurtful – but is it even true? Are there teammates, coaches and staff that really begrudge Donovan, a guy who has played hurt, who has jumped the marketing and PR hoops for more than decade for the national program, for MLS and for the game in general? Truly, he has been the face of domestic soccer since 2002 or thereabouts.
It certainly is possible that some creeping, internal animus has sprouted. This has been a period of national team change, including some relatively difficult moments during a window where Klinsmann is asking a lot from the national team regulars, trying to squeeze every drop of talent and production from the group. Donovan has been largely absent for the transition – and he is suggesting that his inability to go all-in has been misinterpreted or unfairly scrutinized by people he respects.
Truly, only those inside the U.S. locker room can know the answer to that question, and the extent to which any friction has developed.
FYI, if the Los Angeles Galaxy advance to Major League Soccer’s conference finals, Donovan will not be available as Klinsmann’s U.S. side closes out the 2012 season.
The United States faces Russia in Krasnodar; Kickoff is set for 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2.