Just minutes after the shocking news of Landon Donovan’s return to professional soccer hit the media circuit, the dream scenarios of a USMNT return began spilling out. Landon’s back and will save us against Mexico in the Hex! At least that’s the way the dreamers see it happening.
I hate to break it to the hopefuls out there, but there’s a 99.5 percent chance that Landon Donovan is not playing for the U.S. national team ever again. But, if we’ve learned anything from this news, it’s never say never. What about that .5 percent? That glimmer of hope in the dark well of a joyless, Donovan-less national team?
Let’s try to put on our most optimistic thinking caps and brainstorm a scenario in which a Donovan return could happen.
First and foremost, the biggest obstacle would be convincing Jurgen Klinsmann to give him the time of day. Lest we forget, Donovan wasn’t even getting call-ups in his last season as an active player before his retirement. You all know the whole Klinsmann-Donovan feud story, I’m sure. If you are somehow new to American soccer and missed that saga, let’s just say that they had a falling out and Klinsmann didn’t invite Donovan to his birthday party.
What you may not know is that during the Copa America this summer, the two met before the USMNT beat Ecuador in the quarterfinals and supposedly hashed out their differences. So, maybe...just maybe, that obstacle isn’t as insurmountable as we once thought.
Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that Klinsmann would be willing to call Donovan up to the national team. There is still the matter of plenty of players being in front of him currently. If you hadn’t noticed, the U.S. have been quite good this year and the player pool has gotten surprisingly deep.
That’s not even the main concern. We haven’t see Donovan play in nearly two years. What type of player is he today? What position would he be competing for? We have to assume that at his age, winger and/or wide midfielder is out of the equation. His role would likely be as a supporting striker to sit behind a No. 9. If it’s at striker then you have players like Jordan Morris, Bobby Wood, Clint Dempsey, Rubio Rubin, Aron Johannsson, Terrence Boyd, and Chris Wondolowski to compete with.
However, Dempsey is on the shelf indefinitely with a heart problem. Boyd and Johannsson are still working their way back from various injury problems and haven’t been in the picture in a long time. Rubin is still really young, without much USMNT experience, and has been benched by his club already this season.
I threw that last one in there for a reason. Wondo is still getting call-ups to this day. He’s just 10 months younger than Landon and about 1/50th as productive in their international careers. Assuming that Donovan returns in September and still looks like a competent attacker, it’s arguable that he’d be more deserving of a call than Wondolowski as a poacher off the bench. Considering the LA Galaxy are stacked with talent and able to make any attacker look good, there’s a fairly good chance that Donovan will bang in some goals. You just know as soon as he does, the calls for him to be called up will begin.
As absurd as a Landon Donovan USMNT call-up may seem to the logical mind right now, imagine him with 5 goals and 6 assists heading into November. Who would you rather have on the bench against Mexico? Chris Wondolowski or Landon Donovan?
I rest my case.
Donovan playing for the USMNT again is likely not happening. But when you break it down piece-by-piece, it starts to become at least plausible. A lot of variables would need to come together, but soccer is a crazy sport and anything can happen.