Landon Donovan will rejoin the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team for upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup, and he’ll likely be one of the team’s key players throughout the tournament on a somewhat watered-down U.S. roster. But if Donovan intends to participate in the rest of World Cup Qualifying for the U.S. and play in the 2014 World Cup next summer in Brazil, he should do so coming off the bench as a substitute.
As insulting as it is to force others to go through the long and grueling process that is World Cup Qualifying and then swoop in at the last minute to reap the rewards of other people’s hard work, it would foolish for the U.S. to not welcome back Donovan onto the full squad if he wants to play.
Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has made the wise choice leave the door open for Donovan to come back. But that does not mean if Donovan chooses to play for the U.S. in the World Cup that he should be a starter and retain the role he had before his hiatus from the national team.
During Donovan’s absence, the U.S. team has been just fine. In fact, they’ve recently caught their stride with three straight wins in qualifying games. Klinsmann’s lineup is finally rounding into shape, as player’s start to solidify roles on the team. Jozy Altidore is starting to score goals as the lone striker, with Clint Dempsey settling in right behind him.
In the midfield, Eddie Johnson, Graham Zusi, and Fabian Johnson have become Klinsmann’s favorites to attack on the wings, while Brek Shea and Stuart Holden could also join the mix at the attacking midfield positions.
Not only is the team functioning without him, but there also doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for him in the starting 11, which means on this squad Donovan fits best as a sub. Donovan’s best attributes are still his speed and creativity, and coming on as a second half sub to challenge defenders that are starting to tire with his speed would be a great asset to the national team.
He showed in games against Slovenia and Algeria during the last World Cup that he’s capable of asserting himself in games, rallying his team in the second half and scoring goals necessary to get his team a positive result, and that’s the exactly what he can do for the current team. When needed, he can be inserted into games to give the U.S. a more potent attacking lineup and force the issue offensively.
Donovan would be a great weapon for Klinsmann to use off the bench. They don’t need him to be a starter, and he hasn’t earned the right to be one. But if Donovan really wants to rejoin the team and play in the World Cup next summer, then he should play as a sub when the U.S. is in need of a goal.