Bobby Lemaire, Staff Writer
When you think of the most important soccer players for the United States Men’s National Team in the 21st century, a lot of solid players come to mind. Former captain and midfielder Claudio Reyna, midfielder Clint Dempsey and goalie Tim Howard. But there is one player who is far above everyone else in their importance to the USMNT and the growth of American soccer in general and that man is Landon Donovan.
Donovan, 30, who currently plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer and was normally always in the lineup when the national team had either a friendly or a World Cup Qualifier. That was until the last two qualifying games, one was against Antigua and Barbuda and another against Guatemala. Donovan was left off the roster due to a knee injury he suffered during an MLS game.
In an interview with ESPN, Donovan admitted that he was getting tired with soccer and was unsure how long he will continue to play the sport professionally. He said that he would have to “push through these next games” until the Galaxy’s playoffs end. After the season, he spoke about taking some time off and to see if his body will recover and if the intensity he plays with will eventually come back.
If Donovan does go through with this plan, that means he will miss the next round of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Sitting out such a pivotal group of games will put head coach Jurgen Klinsmann in very tough spot. If Donovan does realize he has some gas left in the tank and wants to make a comeback, it could be an issue. What if the USMNT gets into a groove; would Klinsmann risk ruining the team chemistry just to insert Donovan back in to the lineup? Will Donovan’s skills be up to par if he does try and stage a comeback? Klinsmann is going to face a tough decision and no matter what he decides, there will be people who both agree and disagree with him.
Along with being the face of the USMNT, he is also the face of the MLS. Young American soccer players idolize him, and they have good reason to do so. He is a four-time U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year, last winning the award in 2010. He also holds the record for career goals (49) and assists (48) for the USMNT. The most important goal he scored was in South Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In the final match of the group stage, America needed a win to advance to the next round. The match against Algeria was high intensity with an American goal taken away by a questionable offside call. In the final minute of the game, the U.S. made one last push, with a shot by Dempsey saved by the keeper, but the rebound was put in by Donovan.
If this is really the end of Donovan’s career that will be what he is most remembered for. He brought attention to soccer in a country where most people don’t watch it. Whatever decision he chooses, all of the soccer fans who did watch him should consider themselves lucky to have seen him play at all.