Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tic-tac-Landon Donovan X.0

Numerically, it doesn't matter what version of the U.S.' all time leading score this is.

Tuesday night, we saw a man who clearly wanted to be playing, was quietly the best player on the field and quite clearly, had a blast.

The Landon Donovan who still punctuates Patrick Ianni's nightmares may be gone. And that's OK, as long as the U.S. gets to keep this one through the next World Cup.

This guy has a point to prove: that he belongs on the national team he's led for a decade. But also that his sabbatical meant something. The latter, he really only has to prove to himself, and surely has.

To the viewing public, and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, though, that point is still crystallizing – yet quickly. Donovan just seems happier on the field now.

You can see it when he actually smiles away a bad call or tries to backheel a goal in from five yards. Last cycle's Donovan spouts off to the referee while back-skipping into the wall, set to launch himself downfield on a 70-yard gut-buster of a counterattack.

The Donovan of a few years ago turns and rips that dummy from Chris Wondolowski into the top of the net, goalkeeper's facial structure be damned. That Donovan drove himself to the point of retirement.

This man just laughed his way into the 50 goals, 50 assists club.

A more goal-minded Donovan might have had the hat trick instead of Wondolowski tonight. The U.S. would have won either way.

Belize is truly awful, Donovan doesn't need to tell anyone that, so there's no need to pronounce him as fully returned. He's not. He's not even the same player or person as a player. For the U.S. to succeed though, he doesn't have to be.

Donovan can be the guy who peels to the right wing on an 80th-minute breakaway to let Mix Diskerud lead the counterattack. Because a player as talented as Donovan, who's shown us he can pass, create, run and score with anyone just needs to enjoy himself now to be effective.

Many kids have been told by parents and coaches that “It's not about winning, it's about having fun,” to which most people of any age reflexively call BS.

Right now, if Landon Donovan has fun, the vision pours out of him, opportunities and goals become an inevitability and the U.S. wins. When he's just playing out there like he did Tuesday night, the sport really is reduced to a game.

- Jacob Klinger

12 comments:

Andy said...

Well said.

Kurt breckheimer said...

Very nice article. The quality of his runs, service, and touch far surpass his current US teammates. They are made more evident when other high quality players (Holden)are introduced to the line up. He will be more efficient and dangerous with the full national side.

The Streetsweeper said...

A front six of Altidore - Dempsey; Donovan - Zusi; Bradley - Holden; in whatever permutation you like, would represent a very dangerous and very exciting team.

Tony M said...

Last year, when Donvoan, sitting on 49 goals, earned a PK but let Dmepsey take it I thought, "Uh oh. He's in the place again." Then on Friday, when it was clear he and no one wlse was going to take that PK, I thought, "He's back."

Donovan is pure class on the field. He is exactly what we need. And not to pick fights with Streetsweeper, but Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley and Altidore (and Holden, as long as he stays healthy) are a cut well above the rest of the team. Zusi is a good player, but he is not at their level.

heythisisrobbie said...

Nothing against Zusi, but Donavan operates on another level. I think that is clearly evident.

The real roster battle will be between Holden and Jermaine Jr.

A 4-1-3-2 makes a lot of sense right now. JJ is the 1, with LD-Bradley-Fab J as the 3, and Deuce-Jozy up top.

You know JJ will reach his card limit at some point making Holden a pivotal player....

Greg Seltzer said...

I disagree quite a bit with two things you said.

1 - Jones is not a gate-keeper. He wanders too much.

2 - I would not advocate us using the 4-1-3-2 against teams of normal quality. Unless you have monster destroyer with flawless distribution, that set can get you in big trouble against quality and/or counter speed.

Jacob Klinger said...

Thanks guys.

I agree Donovan's in a different class from Zusi.

@heythisisrobbie I don't think we'll see a 4-1-3-2 as you have it unless Maurice Edu gets back into it. Beckerman's not good enough for me against top competition for that spot. Bradley works there, and Jones could, but he tends to get too jumpy in that spot.

Mix could work there, maybe someday. I don't think it's this cycle though, and if it were it'd have to be against a team like Algeria back in South Africa.

The Streetsweeper said...

I actually think that Zusi brings something a bit different to the table than Donovan.

It seems to me that Zusi is a bit superior to Donovan in tight spaces, or when the opposition is playing an overly physical game (think Brazil's Marcelo). There is no one better, or at least more dynamic, in the open field, than Donovan; but when the opposition is pressing in an organized manner that is taking away both open space in the middle third and the counter attack, I think Zusi has the ability to find space on the outside and beat a man one-on-one a bit better than Donovan at this point in his career (I am thinking about some of his assists during June here).

That said, we are taking four central midfielders to Brazil, and if those four guys get to be Bradley, Holden, Jones and Cameron, that is a very competent and versatile group.

(I have Mix as Deuce's understudy.)

paul said...

@ the streetsweeper

True. Zusi has surprised me a few times recently by bringing some good, deep width to the party; by approaching his defender, beating him to the touchline with various fakes and stepovers and getting in a workable cross (with either foot). In these cases he had his back to the sideline. I guess you're calling "tight space" work from him as these instances, with his back to the sidelines. But I don't recall him impressing me much in tight spots away from the sidelines.

Only in the first half of the Guat. game was Donovan even positioned to showcase such behavior. And then the Donovan/Parkhurst duo were unable to tilt much through Guat's clogging, bus parking.

Since then "Zusi's role" has been filled by Corona, and the Donovan du jour hasn't had much oppurtunity to prove whether he's better or worse at getting through a guy to the touchline.

I need more data.

(Feels funny to say that, given that Donovan's been around for so long. Maybe this is the first cycle where I've been soccer savvy enough to have such conversations. ;) )

Justin said...

It appears the more likely situation we have is a 4-2-3-1, with Bradley, Jones, Donovan, Bradley, Altidore, and either Holden or Zusi taking the 6th spot:

------------Altidore--------
---X----------Y--------Z----
-------Jones------Bradley---

Scenario 1:
X-Donovan, Y-Dempsey, Z-Zusi

Scenario 2:
X-Dempsey, Y-Holden, Z-Donovan

Lampard in the End Zone said...

Right now, I prefer the starters against Honduras and Costa Rica, even with Donovan. Both Zusi and Johnson provide width which makes Altidore more dangerous. Both do not eschew their defensive duties as well.

The Streetsweeper said...

Interesting quotes from Stu here.

Looks like he sees himself in the middle of the park as opposed to out wide.

http://www.mlssoccer.com/goldcup/news/article/2013/07/11/gold-cup-usmnts-stuart-holden-says-he-wants-push-michael-bradley-and-jermain