With the US through, does Landon Donovan have a place in the future of the USMNT?
So, the US is through the Group of Death. Jurgen was right, we didn’t need Landon – yet. I don’t want to talk about this World Cup though. I want to talk about the 2015 Gold Cup, 2016 Copa America, World Cup Qualifying, 2017 Gold Cup, and 2017 Confederations Cup.
I think Donovan is still a part of this team going forward. Donovan has not announced his retirement. He was part of the pre-World Cup 30. Jurgen still rates him, to a degree. Below
2015 Gold Cup
Gold Cup squads have traditionally been weaker squads. You want a few veterans to go along with some youngsters. Donovan played the veteran role in 2013. Why not again in 2015? Donovan probably wants to put as much distance between Jozy and himself for the all-time scoring record. Jozy has a long way to go, but he’s 7 years behind as well. Donovan may want to put some distance between him and Green as well. It’s hard to see who else might take the lead other than those two. It’s harder to get into the US team than it was when Donovan started. Who ever takes that record from Donovan will have to earn it. Of course, qualifying for knockout rounds and for Confederation Cups means
2016 Copa America
The 2016 Copa America is being held in the US. This is a tournament the US has entered in the past as an invitee, but never won. No invitee has ever won, but Mexico has finished second twice. How CONCACAF will work World Cup Qualification around the tournament I don’t know, but one thing is sure – the US will need bodies. Donovan will be on the roster for either the 2016 Copa America or some World Cup Qualification games, if not both. That assumes there is no huge influx of Julian Green types and that the Brek Sheas of the world don’t start lighting it up. I’m a huge Landon Donovan fan, but I’d like nothing more for him to be out of the picture by 2016 because we have better options. I just don’t think it is going to happen.
2018 World Cup Qualifying
“CONCACAF will choose the March 2015 ranking for seeding,” which means we won’t know for a bit when we’ll play. If you’re a casual World Cup fan, just know that qualification is a long, painful process. The US will almost certainly not come in until the third round, so it will take a bit. Qualification for 2014 began on June 8, 2012 for the US. Let’s just say things start on June 8, 2016. Donovan will be 34. Pirlo is 35. No, Italy didn’t make it out of their group, but even in hindsight, would anyone not have taken Pirlo? Maybe you just sit back in that England game. I’m not saying Donovan is Pirlo. Even if Donovan was at Pirlo’s level, they are entirely different players. I’m just saying that 34 isn’t an immediate bar. Remember that the US has 4 players that are 32 at this year’s World Cup. That means age isn’t the only reason Donovan was left out. Who could step up and take Donovan’s place in qualification? Brek Shea is an obvious candidate, but he needs game time. Luis Gil is another candidate, but will still just be 22. Depending on whether you consider Landon a MF or FW, Boyd maybe takes the spot, though they are entirely different players. Mike Magee buys you a little with age, but the forward core is weaker than the midfield core.
2017 Confederations Cup & 2017 Gold Cup
We have to get to the Confederations Cup first, but winning the 2013 Gold Cup means we are halfway there. If we win the 2015 Gold Cup, we’ll have booked our spot. With CONCACAF’s new format, every Gold Cup matters. The 2017 Gold Cup will be part of the qualification for the 2021 Confederations Cup. Much like World Cup Qualifying and the 2016 Copa America, we will need bodies. I had thought Donovan might figure in the 2018 World Cup. He still might. This is by no means a great insight, but Russia will not be as hot and humid as Brazil. The need for young legs will not be as important. Out of the role of spotlight, maybe Donovan has a role-player role in 2018 much as Beasley has in this World Cup, though you have to think he won’t be starting like Beasley is now. Even if Donovan doesn’t make the 30-man roster in 2018, he’ll be a year younger in 2017 and we’ll need more than 30 bodies rotating through the two tournaments. 2016 may be his swansong, but I won’t be surprised to see him in 2017. Of course, he may decide not only to retire for international play, but to retire as a player completely. I suspect he hasn’t made a decision about that yet. He no longer has a US Open Cup to worry about, but he does still have a MLS campaign, which starts back on June 28.