Earlier in the year, Jurgen Klinsmann made the controversial choice of cutting Landon Donovan from the USMNT squad. It was expected to be his final World Cup, but Klinsmann decided he was not good enough. It will be debated for years to come on whether or not Donovan could have lead the team out of the Round of 16, and no one will ever be certain if it was a damaging action or not.
At the beginning of August, Donovan announced his retirement from LA Galaxy, MLS and soccer as a whole. Although some where left in tears, it was not really a shock. It had to come sometime.
So now, as the USMNT is preparing to play some friendlies without the help of their star goalkeeper Tim Howard, who decided to take a one-year sabbatical, Klinsmann has decided to call up Donovan for one last match against Ecuador. A friendly is also known as an exhibition match, so why not make it more of an exhibition with having it be Donovan’s last match? Surely, this has been done purely for marketing purposes, or maybe as Klinsmann’s slight apology for cutting the USMNT star striker from the World Cup squad. Maybe he will score the winning goal and the match will go down in history.
No disrespect to the legend that is Donovan, but there no point in playing this match. It is an exhibition match to a lower World Cup qualifying team, and the main focus of the match will now be Donovan. Nothing else matters. Klinsmann will most likely start him, and if it isn’t too strenuous for the Galaxy player, he may play the full 90 minutes. But why? What does this accomplish?
Klinsmann stole Donovan’s final USMNT match. Whether he truly believed Donovan was not one of the top 23 American players in the world, or if it part of some vindictive agenda, it may never be known. However, calling him up one final time for a friendly does not make up for it. Klinsmann knew that Donovan would not be around for the next World Cup. It was no accident, but he felt he was doing what would help the team.
Now giving Donovan his final USMNT goodbye in a worthless exhibition match does not make sense.
It’s a nice gesture, but will Donovan feel good about it in the long run? It would have been a better story to say U.S. soccer’s most important player played his last international match in the World Cup, but that didn’t happen. So, the story should have ended with Donovan helping the team qualify for for the World Cup that he didn’t get to play in.
However, he is now getting a chance at a short epilogue, one which will be soon forgotten unless he comes out a hero.