In a new role for Team USA, Landon Donovan may have seen his last start. Donovan started on the bench due to tendonitis during the April 2 friendly between the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) and Mexico.
Coming off the bench will be something new for the 32-year-old forward, and it appears that he is ready to accept the role. Donovan, who hinted during the 2012 Major League Soccer (MLS) season that he may retire, stepped away from the game. Donovan had played 240 games from 2008 through the MLS Championship with the LA Galaxy in 2012, taking only a two month break in those five seasons. Between MLS games and playing for the USMNT, it had taken a toll and exhausted Donovan.
When the 2013 season started, Donovan was not with the Galaxy, and did not join the squad until the end of March. By coming in late, he had forfeited his role as Galaxy team captain, and he was not playing as well as he had in the past. When it was time for the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Gold Cup tournament, many questioned the USMNT adding Donovan to the roster.
Landon Donovan quickly showed that he still had a roll on Team USA, as he led the USMNT to the championship of the Gold Cup and was named Tournament Most Valuable Player. Donovan was starting to play with a new-found love of the game and showed the world that he was still a threat.
Donovan, who has been suffering from tendonitis in his knee, had not trained well leading up to the April 2 friendly. USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann made the decision to sit the leading scoring in team history, and the veteran had no complaints. It was not until the fourteenth minute of the second half that Donovan entered the game. While Donovan did not score, he did get some looks at the goal and seemed to handle the ball very well.
Donovan is willing to do whatever Klinsmann needs. He just enjoys being with the USMNT and is open to do what ever it takes to win. So if Klinsmann wants him in the starting line up, or coming off the bench, the veteran is ready to do his part. And that may also include a mentorship role.
In the friendly against Mexico, the USMNT debut 18-year-old Julian Green. In his first cap for Team USA, Green looked a little out of his element when he entered the game with Donovan. After few minutes he settled down and showed a bit of the talent that secured him a spot on the roster, for the friendly. Green is not ready yet, and he could learn a lot from Donovan.
Landon Donovan could see a new role as mentor for young talent on Team USA. The experience that he brings to the team would be a big asset to young players finding spots on the USMNT roster. With the upcoming World Cup likely to be Donovan’s last, unless injuries keep him off of the roster for the summer, the World Cup veteran seems ready to accept whatever the USMNT needs from him.
Commentary by Carl Auer