wherein DF travels to Deutschland for the 2006 world cup to follow the US men's national soccer team

Thursday, March 16, 2006

LD on the DL

The one player the US can't afford to lose, Landon Donovan, is lost to the US for the March 22 friendly versus Germany. The injury itself is not a big deal: Landon just has a calf strain that is going to take a few weeks to heal. We're not talking MCL tear or anything career- or even World Cup-threatening. But this is bad news for a couple reasons:

First off, we want to mount a credible threat to Germany. We don't need to win this game, but it would be good for our confidence to show well. Without Donovan, this is going to be much harder. He holds the keys to our offense, cemented like an unlucky mafioso's feet in the A-mid position. It's one thing to lose a wing back or even a forward, but the US without Donovan is __. My inability to complete that sentence is the point; he's so central to our team's identity that I'm not sure what we'd look like in his absence.

This suggests my second point of pessimism: in the absence of Donovan, we're not really playing like we will with him in the lineup. Thus it's a lot less meaningful to look at the players because their ability to combine well in a Donovan-led offense won't be on display. This is a marginal loss; Bruce will get a passable look nevertheless, but it's not ideal.

Which raises interesting questions. Most evidently, who plays A-mid? Convey? He never really shone in that position for DCU, but has been stellar for Reading, though I must admit I'm not sure if it's been as a left wing mid or a pure #10-style A-mid (I suspect the latter). This also opens up a spot on the left; who plays there with Convey in the center? These are all interesting questions, but since LD will almost certainly be on the field for the WC, they're kind of moot. I'd much rather see how Convey performs at left mid where he's likely to contribute for us in the Cup, than filling in at a position he'll likely not play for us this year.

Finally, the absence of Donovan and the angst it's causing US fans should remind us all how damned lucky we are to have Landon on our team. He takes way more crap than he deserves from MLS and US fans, largely related to the questionable conclusion that his move from Leverkusen last year was a sign of weakness. I've always been of the opinion that Landon deserves the utmost appreciation from US fans for his unquestioning committment to the team as well as his consistently excellent play. The fact that he shows up for every game leads some to take him for granted, but now that he's missing I hope the haters begin to realize just how integral Donovan is to our success.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's cool, we'll sandbag it and then wreck shop once the WC begins. Other teams will be us lose and misunderestimate us.

3:25 PM, March 17, 2006

Blogger DF said...

Fair enough. I'm reassured by memories of the disaster that was our pre-2002 World Cup against Germany. A 4-2 loss that included a particularly embarrassing barrage of three goals in like ten minutes soon after the restart. That game was unrecognizable from the one we played against the Huns in the quarters of the Cup itself.

4:51 PM, March 17, 2006

Blogger mirarchi said...

Without doubt, I think Donovan is the most talented soccer player (setting aside goalies) that the U.S. has produced in the modern era. I remember reading an interview with Arena sometime around the '02 WC, when Donovan was 19 or 20, and would have been a sophomore in college had he gone that route. Arena was asked whether he had ever seen a player at UVa comparable to Donovan at the same age. Arena responded that he had never seen anyone even close to Donovan (and keep in mind that, of course, Reyna played for Arena at UVa).

Donovan really has it all -- he's blessed with world-class speed, has an incredible first touch, great skill on the ball, and amazing vision. Beasley might be as fast, and Reyna might have comparable vision or skill on the ball. But there's no one in the U.S. who combines all those qualities the way Donovan does.

The one main weakness I see in Donovan's game is primarily a mental one -- he seems to fade in and out of games, and is prone to disappear for long stretches. I think this is largely a mental problem -- he's either suffering from soccer fatigue, or he gets knocked off his game by bigger, physical opponents, or his heart just isn't in it, for whatever reason.

5:01 PM, March 17, 2006


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