Landon Donovan is coming back. He's not back quite yet, but he will be by the end of March and after a couple months with the LA Galaxy, he will be back in consideration for the United States team that will play three crucial World Cup qualifiers in June.
And Donovan should be picked for that U.S. team.
There has been some discussion about whether Donovan will or should be welcomed back to the U.S. after his sabbatical. After all, he ditched the team for their first World Cup qualifier in Honduras this month and will likely miss their two qualifiers in March, one of which is at Estadio Azteca. Why should they welcome back a player who didn't want to be around for several months?
It's a compelling argument on the surface, but it is also a very flawed one. Donovan took a break from the sport completely, not just a break from the U.S. He didn't walk out of his American teammates, he walked out on the spot altogether. You can argue whether or not that was wise, fair or justifiable, but his loyalty and commitment to the U.S. wasn't in question. It was his commitment to the sport.
The same can't be said of Timothy Chandler.
The German-born right back refused call-ups to the U.S. for months, all while he continued playing for his club. Some speculated that he ensured he wouldn't be cap-tied to the U.S. in case Germany came calling, which may or may not be true, but regardless, he was fit and willing to play soccer, just not for the U.S. Still, when he said he would be happy to be called up for the Americans' February World Cup qualifier -- which did finally cap-tie him -- Jurgen Klinsmann called Chandler in.
Klinsmann would have a tough time questioning Donovan's loyalty to the U.S. and leaving him off the team on those grounds months after he welcomed Chandler back with open arms. That is doubly true when you consider the decade-plus that Donovan answered each and every call for the U.S., a run slowed only 18 months ago when injuries and fatigue caught up with the 30-year-old.
Maybe the U.S. won't be able to count on Donovan to be ready and willing to play in the fall, even after playing in June. Maybe he'll ask off the team next spring instead. With this team, in Klinsmann's system, it doesn't matter anyways.
Klinsmann has built this U.S. so they are not dependent on any one player. Questions about whether the U.S. can build around Donovan now that he has stepped away from the game and may step away again are moot because Klinsmann isn't going to build around any player. Moreover, even if he did, he would build around Clint Dempsey or Michael Bradley.
Donovan is coming back with with a couple months under his belt, he should be in good enough form to make the U.S. team in June. At that point, it would be pretty tough to call in Chandler and not Donovan. It would be pretty tough to say he can't be depended upon to build around, too.
The only question Klinsmann will have to ask himself in June is whether Donovan is fit and in form enough to help the team. Check off those boxes and put him in a U.S. shirt.