There’s a school of thought that holds Landon Donovan is due some extra respect for the time he’s given to U.S. soccer, an argument that makes sense on a lot of levels. The man’s been playing for his country since his mid-teens, and the toll it’s taken contributed to his need to do walkabout this winter. If you’re going to pave a path into the national team for anybody, it’s going to be Landon Donovan.
But Jurgen Klinsmann’s not a paved path kind of guy. As we saw with Carlos Bocanegra’s exclusion from last round’s qualifying squad, the U.S. boss is an on-the-field guy, which is why these comments shouldn’t be much of a surprise.
Speaking to assembled media in Washington, D.C. (and captured here by Reuters’ Simon Evans), Klinsmann hints we’re a ways away from seeing Donovan with the national team:
“I’m not talking names but there are players clearly ahead of Landon Donovan right now …”
“Things will develop over time, we will see how he will do in the next couple of weeks, months and we will look at the entire picture and make our calls.”
Donovan supporters who saw the LA star’s goal and assist against Sporting KC won’t like the sound of that. If they happen to subscribe to the theory that Donovan’s not only an obligatory choice but a must on the team sheet, Klinsmann’s words will be anathema. This is Landon Donovan we’re talking about.
But Jurgen Klinsmann can’t make his Bocanegra decision one day and open the door for Donovan the next. He can’t take a stand on Jozy Altidore last fall and roll out a red carpet for Donovan in spring. There are standards players have to meet, Klinsmann does a good job of articulating those to his players, and when you don’t meet them, your spot in the team isn’t assured.
Taking a prolonged period of time off from soccer doesn’t endear you to your national team coach. Donovan knew that when he took time off – time he deemed he needed to recharge . Add that sabbatical to the camps Donovan missed during Klinsmann’s first year-plus, and the national team icon has missed most of the team-building that’s happened since Bob Bradley left.
From Evans’ reporting:
“There is a chemistry being developed of a group and you have to feel where it is moving towards. He hasn’t been part of the development of that team most of the time over the last two years, so chemistry is extremely important,” he said.
“Most of the time, he was not part of that process, that was his choice and I totally understand that, it’s no problem. But at the same time we are moving forward at our speed and therefore it is not down to one game when you score a goal and say now I am back in the team – it doesn’t work that way.
Donovan will be watched and evaluated, Klinsmann went on to way. Just like anybody else. That may not be good enough for some, but at least it’s consistent.
And that consistency is why Donovan fans shouldn’t worry. If he keeps playing like he did against Kansas City, Donovan will be back in the national team in no time. It’s just how Klinsmann works.
Come fall, this will be a non-issue.