Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Donovan's Polish exam

The U.S. will face a tough European test in Krakow on Wednesday as a Polish squad with its sights set on Euro 2008 will stand in the Americans' way.

The roster was nearly composed of all European-based players save for three MLS standouts, one of them being Landon Donovan. The Galaxy ace will undoubtedly go down as the United States' all-time caps leader when all is said and done, but there are some questions whether Donovan should have even been called into this match. Ridge Mahoney of Soccer America brings this up here.

He makes a strong case for not having called in Donovan. There tends to be a comfort factor when Donovan is on the field, and without him there another player would be forced to step up and take a more assertive role. Granted, Donovan has been rather quiet in recent U.S. games but that doesn't diminish his usefulness to the team.

Like Ridge mentions, I can see why Bob Bradley called him in. He's a valuable player and will be for the foreseeable future. Without Donovan on the team, the U.S. would still have the games against England, Spain and Argentina to get Donovan and his teammates ready for World Cup qualifying.

Anyway, what do you think? Should Donovan be an automatic call-up? Or should Bradley keep him off the team in select matches?


Anonymous said...

Interesting, but he is the best player in the country, and still quite young. He should be called up automatically, and he should be captain. I just wish they would play him as an attacking mid or second striker, not out on the wing.

Jon E said...

I'm ambivalent. I don't think there's an overwhelming case to be made either way.

I'd have no objection to keeping Donovan off the squad selectively, and I'd be fine with keeping him out this time (but mostly because I'm a Galaxy fan too, and I'd like to see the team getting some practice time with everybody healthy). And if Bradley were going to omit Donovan for one of this year's friendlies, Poland is the weakest of the four teams we'll be playing.

On the other hand, I'm not really bothered by including him either. The Galaxy is in its preseason, and although Poland is the weakest opponent the US will face in upcoming friendlies, it's still a very solid side that will beat us unless we play well. Also, this roster is pretty thin on midfielders (downright scanty on match-fit midfielders), so it's good to have Donovan there even if he only plays a half.

just another one of you said...

LB, doesn't this go back to what Bob Bradley was saying, i think, at the end of last year in one of those press conferences he had. As I recall he spoke about encouraging his veteran players to be more assertive and demanding at camps. Sure there are plenty of vets that are already included on this squad, but I think Bob has this idea of getting the 'core leaders' together as much as possible.

The way I see it, the more Lando and Demps play together the better.

There are plenty of other players on this squad who are much bigger question marks (given they can't crack the starting XI, or even bench in some cases) than Landon. Why is no one questioning the merit of their call-up? Probably b/c they aren't as famous I would suppose.

Marmaduke said...

I think I've commented before on my ambivalence towards Donovan. He is probably the most talented player in the pool, maybe the most talented we've ever seen. But I haven't seen the consistent quality and leadership from him to justify the way the team is being built around him. There are young players coming up who will likely be just as important as he is in just a couple years, if not sooner. (Adu, Bradley, Altidore, ...) Adu is already in Europe, match fit, and needs to get a chance to get into the mix before South Africa.

Also, I want to disagree with the first anonymous commenter. Even if he is the best player in the country, that does not make him the captain. He seems like a great guy, and even a great player to coach, but from what I can see from the stands, he doesn't seem like the field general that makes the 10 players around him better just by his presence.

Beckham was never the best English player, but he was the undisputed captain because of the type of person and player he is. It's even more true, I think, of July Foudy. She was skill-wise, probably in the middle of the pack in her generation, but add her leadership, and she's your first pick every time they took the field.

The talent in the US pool is looking great these days, but we are still missing this type of player. Maybe it'll be Bradley or Edu in a few years. I think Jimmy Conrad was there, just a hair lacking in speed/skill (for the full international level, I mean, love him in the MLS).

I agree with JonE, though, that there are some bigger question marks on the list. I love Eddie Lewis, but it may be time for national team to move on to younger folks. To be fair, he gives good cover at our weakest spot: left back. I'm excited to see Cory back. I hope he's fit and can stay there.

Ching is another player I love in the MLS, but is not quite complete enough to be the answer for the US at striker. There's not really many better options, though.

Phillip said...

I'm more upset that Adu wasn't called in than the fact that Donovan was.

I think Bob needs to give Landon the armband and say "This is your shot. Take it and run with it or this is it." We have to find someone to really LEAD this team.

I don't care if that person is a 27 year old defender, an 18 year old striker, or a 20 year old midfielder. Someone needs to grab this team by the horns and lead.

Anonymous said...

I jsut hope Bradley puts Donovan in his best position to be the most effective for the U.S.

A.C. said...

It does seem a bit of a conundrum when Bradley says he wants Donovan to lead and then places him in somewhat of an isolating position on the wing. However, if Donovan is going to make the adjustment to be successful there, he probably needs all the practice he can get.

Anonymous said...

The premise of this post and the Ridge Mahoney article is puzzling. Didn't the US just play Switzerland and South Africa without Donovan? Why yes they did. Ridge even mentions this in his article. Nothing has changed enough in the last four months that we need to see a Donovan-less US again.

brucio said...

to me it's a real easy call, you HAVE TO bring in LD

sure he has had some rough spots,
but we all know he can do it

i sure would like to see him at forward/attacking midfielder though, and not stuck out on the right wing

he needs freedom on the field to be at his best