When you look back on the history of American soccer, no two players have stood out more in the same time period than the LA Galaxy’s Landon Donovan and the Seattle Sounders’ Clint Dempsey. Donovan is considered by most to be the greatest American soccer player of all time, and Dempsey is the most successful American soccer player of all time.
Donovan has come through time and time again for the U.S. Men’s National Team, and he’s a household name for most sports’ fans despite a few disappointing stints at the international club level. Dempsey was the first American to score a hat trick in the English Premier League, the first American player to score more than 10 goals in an EPL season, the first American to ever appear in a major European final and the first American to score over 50 goals in the EPL.
Both USA legends will be present in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup and try to lead the USMNT out of the Group of Death against Germany, Ghana and Portugal. However, USMNT head coach Jürgen Klinsmann may have a huge decision to make going into the 2014 World Cup; what if only one of the greatest U.S. Soccer players in history can start?
Klinsmann has been favoring a formation that would call for just one of the hybrid midfield-forwards that both Donovan and Dempsey have come to play. With Graham Zusi likely starting out wide in the midfield, it means that both Donovan and Dempsey could be competing for the lone spot. Dempsey is the better shooter from range, but Donovan is the speedy spark that can open up defenses.
I’m of the opinion that Klinsmann should wait to decide based on whichever player is in better form at the time of the World Cup, but eventually he’s going to have to make a decision on whether to keep one on the bench as a super-sub or leave out Zusi, which would be a terrible idea with the way he’s played recently. This is likely both Donovan and Dempsey’s last World Cup, so expect big things from both no matter the amount of playing time they actually get.
As with all great athletes, it’s inevitable that Dempsey and Donovan’s careers with the national team will eventually end. We’re all lucky that we have been able to see two players that have taken American soccer to new heights take the field for the USMNT. Klinsmann may have to only start one due to the number of talented Americans rising through the ranks, but if you ask Dempsey and Donovan, I think that’s a problem that they’ve been working towards and wanted an American coach to have since they first put on a national team jersey. The 2014 World Cup may be both of their last go-rounds in the greatest sporting tournament in the world, but their feats and accomplishments for American soccer will live on forever.