When the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) heads to Brazil this summer, the team could be missing some of the top names in USA soccer. With Eddie Johnson missing out on an invite to training camp, now Landon Donovan is questioning if there will be a spot on the 23-man roster for him. The 32-year old face of US soccer for more than a decade may not be able to lock in a position to compete in his fourth World Cup.
The forward is feeling like he is trying to make his first World Cup team all over again. In 2002, then 20-years old, Donovan did not know for certain if he was a lock for the team. Now, 12 years later, he has a similar feeling of uncertainty. The difference now is that Donovan came into the 2014 camp as the leading scorer in USMNT history and is regarded as one of the best players in the history of American soccer, if not the best player. At 32-years of age, nearing the end of his career, national team statistics does not guarantee Donovan a trip to Brazil.
Feeling that this is his last chance, Donovan has gone into camp feeling confident that he still has the ability and talent to be part of the team. The 32-year old forward knows he must take the field every day and prove to Jurgen Klinsmann and the rest of the coaching staff that he deserves a spot on the final 23-man roster. When it came to Donovan making the 2006 and 2010 teams, he knew entering camp that he was on the team, unless he just blew it during training. Now Donovan is fully aware he must fight to earn his spot.
Landon Donovan may not be a lock for the final World Cup roster for this summer. There is little chance, however, that Klinsmann would leave him off of the squad. Since Klinsmann took over the US coaching job in 2011, rumors surfaced that the coach and Donovan had issues with each other. In 2009, Donovan had an unsuccessful stint with Bayern Munich, where Klinsmann was the coach at the time. When the coach took over the job for the USMNT, Donovan played in the first two games and missed the next eight matches. This led to speculation that there was something that occurred in Germany between the two. Donovan then walked away from the game after the 2012 MLS season, which led to more speculation that the two did not respect each other. However, both the forward and the coach have stated numerous times that there is no animosity between them.
Donovan was having issues with the game and needed to take a break, and Klinsmann knew it and respected his decision to walk away. The sabbatical Donovan took at the end of the 2012 season, rejuvenated the forward. Donovan came back to both the MLS and the USMNT on a tear. Donovan was playing with a new-found love for the game. Donovan was a major factor for the USA claiming victory in the Gold Cup tournament during the summer of 2013. Donovan also was a major factor for the United States in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
Donovan has struggled since the current MLS season has started, not scoring a goal for the LA Galaxy this season. Still, the forward is considered a threat whenever he is on the field. Goalkeeper Tim Howard feels that anytime Landon Donovan is on the pitch for the US he is a threat to score. Donovan brings a level of intimidation to the United States squad. Howard, baring a catastrophic injury, is the only player in camp right now who is certain to be on the final roster.
While the World Cup roster for the United States will not be announced until the end of the month, Donovan has accepted that this is likely the last battle of his national team career. The battle to lock a spot on the roster may end up the hardest of his career. However, if the forward does make the final 23-man roster to head to Brazil, it may just end up as the most rewarding fight for Landon Donovan.
Commentary by Carl Auer