Instead, in a succinct 1:21, is an illustration that cuts deep to my point. What you're watching is a clip toward the end of the HBO series Band of Brothers. David Webster, the lad hopping on the back of the Jeep, was pegged by machine gun fire in Holland and left Easy Company for the hospital. Unfortunately for Webster (or fortunately, depending on your vantage), his absence forced him to miss the Siege of Bastogne, one of the toughest periods of the war for the 101st Airborne. The group suffered untold losses and its share of grief while Webster was laid up in a hospital bed. When Webster returns, he faces a group changed by the battle and cold to a soldier they felt somewhat abandoned by.
Without making light of war, the parallels between Webster and Donovan are obvious. If this period now isn't the USMNT's Battle of the Bulge, I don't know what is.
Let me add that I don't think Donovan owes fans anything. After the last 10+ years, I don't necessarily think he owes the team anything either. For better or worse, though, I think the coldness shown Webster here is part of the reality of going missing when the heat gets highest. There is a level of camaraderie amongst teammates involved simply with being there that cannot be replicated, and it cannot be shared with outsiders. For the rest of his career, Donovan will have at least a hint of Webster's taint. Whether he deserves it or not.
- Will Parchman