World Cup 2014: Part 6: USMNT (and Landon Donovan) Myths and Facts

Okay, okay. This is late. But some of my best work is in here. I do some funny stuff, and some deep stuff. Read it. You’ll like it or your money back. Not that you paid me, but still.

Soon I’ll start talking about other teams. Because they do exist. In fact, tonight I’ll write up a nifty report on Portugal-Mexico. But for now I’d like to get all the Landon Donovan/roster controversy stuff out of the way with a game of myths and facts.

Also, even if you know nothing about the US, it’s an interesting team to follow, and I think you’ll enjoy my style of writing, at least enough to lethargically read through my blog until the England game comes on.

Alright. Game of myths and facts. Go:

Fact: Landon Donovan is past his prime

It’s a fact. You can’t deny it. He isn’t as good as he once was…

Myth: Landon Donovan can’t produce for the national team anymore

…but he’s still better than most US players called up to the 23-man roster.

Myth: Landon Donovan quit on the national team

I normally enjoy ESPN FC, and I oftentimes agree with their commentary and find them amusing. But sometimes I get upset: like when they bash Fernando Torres for the 426th time (we get it, he’s been a bit of a flop, you don’t need to repeat and exaggerate that talking point twice weekly) and when some of them bashed Landon Donovan for his “sabbatical.”

It’s not just them, several people still think that he “quit the national team.” Well, if he wouldn’t have taken that break, he’d be retired!

It was getting too much for him. People often think that when people are rich and successful, they don’t get depressed. This is definitely not true. They get depressed, because money and success isn’t really fulfilling, and in a way it’s worse because unlike others they don’t think that they have a reason to be depressed. So they feel guilty, whether consciously or not. That makes them more depressed. They dismiss their feelings, and it bottles up and it gets worse.

I’m not sure how depressed he was, but Donovan stopped enjoying soccer. He needed to take a break. To see what life was like not being a professional soccer player so that he can re-evaluate what he wanted to do. I mean, it’s not like he has a responsibility to play soccer, and if you think he does you are crazy. So he took some time off, and ended up coming back refreshed, and more effective.

Fact: Jürgen Klinsmann and Landon Donovan don’t have the best of relationships

I’m not saying that they hate each other, but it seems to be a fact that they aren’t really on great terms. Like, if Donovan was getting married, I doubt Klinsmann would be the best man. Or even get an invite.

Myth: Jonathan Klinsmann is an upstanding citizen who eats his vegetables, gives to the needy, and likes Landon Donovan

Okay, okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh. And if any lawyers are going to come my way, you must remember that I’m as much a comedian as I am a journalist, and that I use hyperbole like a pop singer uses auto-tune.


I know that Twitter is a place where common rules of the English language and of decency are thrown out the window like Florentino Perez being thrown out of a Catalan Independence meeting, but let us still take time to analyze young Klinsmann, a member of the US U-18 team who will go to Cal as a goalkeeper, and his refined opinions:


Did you mean to put two “H”s there? Because it looks kind of stupid like that. Were you intending for it to sound like someone is loudly breathing on the first sound?


You misspelled his name. The first rule in mocking someone is to get their name right, Jonothen.


Again, you end with two “A”s. Are you saying that the last “HA” is held out longer? Is it supposed to be read in an operatic voice?


Let me introduce you to a friend of mine: THE APOSTROPHE! What is your problem? You’re graduating high school and you don’t know what an apostrophe is? I just used two in that sentence! And I didn’t experience blood loss!


“Until phone notified me?” What are you, a caveman? Do you have a friend named “Phone” who told you? Did you actually name your phone?


Again with the “HAHA”s. You’re an unfaltering fountain of wisdom.

Now, I’m not saying that Jürgen Klinsmann agrees with his son on this. I’m not saying he doesn’t, either. Where else does the Donovan hatred come from, then, if not from his dear old dad?

Klinsmann said that Jonathan is a Landon Donovan fan and that he has a Donovan jersey in his room. I don’t believe that someone who likes an athlete would mock them like this. Unless maybe he was drunk, but even then I doubt it (by the way, we will probably never know if he was drunk or not, because the legal drinking age in the US is 21, in case you didn’t know, and Jon here is only 17).

What else could Klinsmann have said, though? Here is a list of some of his options, and how the typical cynical people would react to them:

Statement: “yeah, Jonathan really hates Landon Donovan.”

Cynic reaction: where did he pick that up from, hmmm?

Statement: “no comment.”

Cynic reaction: does he have something to hide?

Statement: “he’s a big Landon Donovan fan.”

Cynic reaction: he’s lying.

Which one is better? Obviously no one wants him to lie, but since he’s already lied about guaranteed spots (he said that no spot is guaranteed but several people say that the 23 was selected before the 30-man camp and other people say that Julian Green was given a “golden ticket”) his reputation has been stained and in my opinion everything he says has a good chance of being only rhetoric.

Summary: I’m not sure if Jürgen Klinsmann has an extreme hatred of Landon Donovan, but he very well might. That’s good enough for me and my tin-foil hat.

Fact: Julian Green was selected over Landon Donovan

Jürgen Klinsmann selected two players for each outfield position. Check it:

Striker: Jozy Altidore, Chris Wondolowski

Second Striker: Clint Dempsey, Aron Jóhannsson

Left Midfielder: Brad Davis, Julian Green

Right Midfielder: Graham Zusi, Alejandro Bedoya

Central Midfielder: Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud

Defensive Midfielder: Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman

Left Full-back: Timmy Chandler, DaMarcus Beasley

Right Full-back: Fabian Johnson, DeAndre Yedlin

Left Center-back: Matt Besler, John Brooks

Right Center-back: Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez

Yeah, there’s versatility. And you can switch around Johnson and Chandler if you like. And yeah, this is just my theory, but it all works out, doesn’t it?

In this formation (diamond or 4-2-3-1, really), Landon Donovan can play at Left-mid, Right-mid, or second striker. So who beat him out to those spots? Dempsey, Jóhannsson, Zusi, Bedoya, Davis, and Green.

BUT, not Brad Davis. Because he’s left-footed. Klinsmann was always going to bring one lefty to Brazil, for sure. Dempsey, Jóhannsson, Zusi, and Bedoya have all earned their place with solid play for club and country. Green? Not so much. You could say that the other guys took his spot, and that’s partially true, but on merit Green would’ve been the guy not going if Donovan was selected instead. If you have to pin it on one guy, it’s definitely Green.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to hate on Green for it. He didn’t pick the team, remember. If you blame anyone, it’s Klinsmann. So why did I just waste 10 minutes of my life re-typing my argument of how Julian Green was the guy selected over Landon Donovan? So that I can have Julian Green stuff in a mostly Landon Donovan article.

Myth: Julian Green going to the World Cup is similar to X, Y, and Z

A lot of people raise examples of players who they think are similar to Green. See, Julian Green is as unproven as it gets. He’s made a very small cameo for Bayern’s first team, played in some friendlies for Bayern, and he played 30 minutes in a friendly for the US vs. Mexico, plus 27 terrible minutes for the US vs. Turkey. Outside of that he’s only played in the German 4th division.

Here are some of the players people use to compare, and why people who make those comparisons as a justification for Green’s inclusion should be punished to the fullest extent of the law:

Brazilian Ronaldo: he was called in to the 1994 World Cup as a 17-year-old, but he had played in 14 games, scoring 12 goals, in the Brazilian League. That’s more experience than Green.

Theo Walcott: this is the closest to Green, as he was called into the 2006 World Cup at 17 without top flight experience, but he did already have 21 apps and 4 goals for Southampton in the Championship (England’s second tier, which is better than Germany’s 4th tier). By the way, many people, including Steven Gerrard and I believe Walcott himself, have criticized his inclusion. Still, though, why would we do something just because England did it?

David Odonkor: he was surprisingly selected at age 22 by Jürgen Klinsmann for the 2006 Germany team, and he did well as a substitute, but he had already made 75 league appearances for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, so the comparison is pointless.

Thomas Muller: selected at 20 for the 2010 World Cup, he scored 5 goals and had 3 assists at the World Cup when people didn’t expect him to do so. But he already had 38 appearances for Bayern Munich so, again, the comparison is pointless.

Landon Donovan: he was selected for the US at age 20 for the 2002 World Cup, and he went on to be named the tournament’s best young player. People point to the fact that when he was first capped in 2000 he was a German 4th division player (Bayer Leverkusen reserve team), but by the World Cup he had played a season and a half for the San Jose Earthquakes in MLS.

Also, very few other countries do things like this. 9 teenagers will play in this World Cup. Only 3 of them have less than 10 league appearances for their club team: Ecuador’s Carlos Gruezo only has 7 apps for VfB Stuttgart, Uruguay’s Jose Maria Gimenez only has 1 app for Atletico Madrid, while the USA’s Julian Green only has 0 apps for Bayern Munich. And the other guys have apps in South American leagues (Gruezo had 77 league apps for the Ecuadorian club Barcelona; Gimenez had 10 league apps for the Uruguayan club Danubio). So the only team calling up a teenager with no first-division experience is the US? If I was an anti-US troll (aka British) I’d have a field day.

Fact: Julian Green going to the World Cup is SCANDALOUS

In no way does Julian Green deserve to be at the World Cup.

It doesn’t matter how good he will be, this is the World Cup. Hold on, I don’t think I got the point across. THIS IS THE WORLD CUP!!!!!!! It’s NOT for experience; it’s for cold, hard results. Julian Green isn’t someone who can get results, if his previous games are anything to go by.

The story goes that Julian Green was bribed a World Cup spot. I’m not sure if that’s true or not that he was explicitly bribed, but he could’ve been implicitly bribed, where Klinsmann was definitely going to give him a spot, whether he deserved it or not. Based on how he’s done in the friendlies, he totally doesn’t deserve to be at the World Cup on merit.

Fact: here in 2014, Landon Donovan is much better than Julian Green

Do I have to expound on that?

Myth: the 2014 US World Cup roster is all about planning for the future

Sure, some people were selected because of promise and not because of actual accomplishment (Green, Yedlin, debatably Brooks), but the team is more inexperienced than young, as 8 players are 30 or over. It’s a fact that only 5 players on the team have ever played in a World Cup before, but that doesn’t mean that the team is young.

The strategy to plan a World Cup roster for experience for the next World Cup is a bad and defeatist strategy, and Klinsmann isn’t really following it anyways.

Fact: Landon Donovan is a legend, and there’s nothing wrong with lamenting his removal from the team

Lots of people are criticizing other people for criticizing Klinsmann for not selecting Donovan. They’re saying to “support the team” and whatnot. Some even dare to say that he didn’t belong on the team, for whatever false reason (he is not as old as people think he is, he is committed to the team, etc.).

Hey, it’s quite possible to support a team and criticize it. Like, for example, every sports fan in the world over 10! What is this new thing where you’re a bad fan if you don’t blindly trust a coach that in your honest opinion is making terrible mistakes?

Also, you know what? It doesn’t matter what people say. Will Julian Green read an article saying that he doesn’t deserve to be on the team (e.g. the one you are looking at) and start crying and then do terrible and/or bring the whole team down? No. They’re professional soccer players. If Julian Green is at World Cup level, which he should be because he’s, you know, in the World Cup, then he should be freely criticized if he isn’t nearly World Cup standard. It’s part of the job description. If you’re going to a World Cup, you need to learn how to either ignore the criticism or use it as motivation, because it will surely come. For example: “Daniel? That hack? I’ll show him just how wrong he is!”

Back to Donovan. I don’t have anything against these people who are criticizing people who are criticizing Klinsmann for dropping Donovan. They’re entitled to their opinions, even if their opinions are that people shouldn’t have opinions. See how that works? It’s called liberty, you dirty communists.

(That last sentence was a joke, by the way. Save the hate-mail.)

Throughout times, people haven’t liked Landon Donovan. They’ve said he’s too soft. They’ve criticized him for not trying too hard to make a career in Europe. They’ve criticized him for just about everything he does, going with the narrative that he’s just some punk, who played for the punk-iest team in the league (the San Jose Earthquakes) who became someone who coasted on his fame, who played for the most fame-centered team in the league (the LA Galaxy). Oh, and did I mention they’ve said he’s too soft?

He’s never gotten the respect he deserves from a vast amount of people. He’s the best American player of all time (or at least one of the best) and throughout his career he’s been loathed and underestimated and criticized, and his national team career has ended in the worst way. It’s like if your favorite TV show got cancelled so that they didn’t make the last few episodes. Donovan had more in him, I’m telling you! But we’ll never know.

It’s perfectly okay to feel sad that he’ll never play in a World Cup again. It’s a good thing to feel that. It shows that you’re human, and are a fan of the US team. All of these emotionless people who are upset about people being upset about Donovan never really had a connection with the US team, or they truly don’t have emotions. Since his breakout performance in the 2002 World Cup, he’s been the face, or at least one of the faces, of the US Men’s National Soccer Team. Last World Cup, he scored one of the greatest goals in this nation’s soccer history. If you don’t feel a connection to Landon Donovan, you probably aren’t actually a human, and/or an American.

Donovan’s World Cup career is over. He will never play in a World Cup again, unless he can stay around to make the roster at 36, but he’ll probably be retired by then (bold prediction: he’s a commentator , or at least an analyst, at the 2018 World Cup for FOX; and/or the author of a New York Times bestseller, his autobiography which will have a particularly interesting chapter).

Focus, Daniel. Focus.

The greatest American player of all time will never play in a World Cup again. Sure, still support the team. Still watch the World Cup, and if you’re an American, still cheer for the US. But don’t feel guilty if you feel sad for the best ever to play for your national team. Because all that is just confirmation of your fandom.

To quote a wise man: go, go, USA.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s