It’s really no big deal if the United States is left to thrust and parry with a stubby sword in Wednesday’s friendly with Belgium.
Yes, Belgium looks like the tougher of this week’s two opponents, considering the depleted German roster set to arrive into Washington, D.C., for the weekend’s friendly there. But, again, it’s a friendly. So who really cares if the United States gets punched in the nose in Cleveland?
Reinforcements are on the way and by the time Klinsmann’s kids face Germany, the roster will look far more muscular.
But the withdrawals of Corey Ashe, Maurice Adu and Brek Shea do subtract from the larger picture when it comes to two areas: midfield depth and options along the flank. As for those choices to provide quality in wide areas, there really wasn’t a lot to begin with.
All of this is to say: the pressure to add Landon Donovan over the coming four weeks will continue to mount.
Klinsmann is attempting to deliver a larger message here in not naming Donovan, reinforcing the tenets that he wants to guide the players and the program: that nothing less than 100 percent commitment to personal betterment and to the team’s larger aims can be acceptable. He needs guys to “buy in,” as he likes to put it, and fair enough.
But isn’t “buying in” somewhat relative? Isn’t Donovan’s “buy in” a little cheaper than, say, Shea’s? Donovan has substantially more “been there, done that,” after all.
Consider that Klinsmann has just six midfielders available for Wednesday’s match in Cleveland, and one of those is really just a practice player for the time being, Stuart Holden. Otherwise there’s Brad Davis, Brad Evans, Jermaine Jones, Sacha Kljestan and Graham Zusi. Of the five real choices for Belgium, there is a notable lack of foot speed there. Donovan could help solve that problem.
If the United States takes down Belgium, great. If they boss the field against Germany and then go get a result as qualifying resumes in Jamaica, wonderful. The call to add Donovan will remain on back-burner simmer.
But an injury here, a yellow card suspension there, and with perhaps a bad result … you don’t need a crystal ball to see what’s coming then.