This Friday, we had to wave goodbye to a player that can lay claim to most of the USMNT records and a player that holds a place in every fan’s heart. Landon Donovan took his international bow at the, somewhat young, age of 32 and now heads off to help his Galaxy bring home another trophy to add to his massive history. While the walk off the field was emotional and while the fans made sure that Donovan was treated to an amazing atmosphere, more and more information and research into the game shows that Donovan’s send-off game was a sadly mishandled match. Did we give Landycakes the closing curtain that he deserved or was this last game a mistake?
This article will not even touch Donovan’s absence from the 2014 World Cup, but we will focus everything on this game against Ecuador.
First, the game itself. Donovan has no historical connection to Ecuador. If the USMNT wanted to give Donovan a truly proper exit, they would have scheduled a game against Mexico. Mexico is the squad that Donovan grew his legend at the expense of and he was ever-present whenever any chant of “Dos a cero” crept up at a soccer match. Another problem with the game is that it was a friendly. If it is going to be a friendly, it needed to have 100% of the focus placed on Donovan and it being his last match. Instead, the Donovan story-line was over before halftime and the USMNT felt like it had moved on by the time the second half had kicked off. The only way where the short Donovan cameo would be acceptable would be if this had been some type of qualifier…
Second, the timing of the game. Nearly all of the MLS squads are putting everything on the line in order to sneak into the playoffs. The LA Galaxy is one of those squads that finds itself hurtling towards the playoffs and they need their captain to be on the pitch in order to get some momentum going. To drag Donovan away for a misguided friendly could have been disastrous if Landon had gotten himself injured. If we see a fatigued Donovan in these next few weeks, some powerful fingers will start to get pointed. To be a proper send-off for any player, a game needs to be properly separated from the calendar so the players can be relaxed, the fixture can receive the proper attention, and so players can recover properly.
Landon Donovan will get an amazing retirement set-up from the entirety of the MLS and from the LA Galaxy when he decides to retire from the game altogether. The gifts and fanfare will be perfect for a retiring legend. However, what the US Soccer Federation has done for Donovan is sub-par for a man that may have single-footedly kick-started the USMNT’s growth to the point that it currently stands at. While a goal would have added some extra sheen to the performance, the game may be seen as an underwhelming failure when we look back. For us here at The Instep, a few of us see it as a failure right now! Maybe Landycakes got exactly what he asked for…and in that case, and only in that case, this game was perfect…(only in that case).