While this is a friendly for the United States Men’s National Team, this is the de facto send-off for Landon Donovan for his service to the United States. The all-time leader in goals and assists for the US national team will receive his 157th and final cap against Ecuador in Harford, Conneticut. This will be the first home fixture for the US since the World Cup, and will be another opportunity for coach Jurgen Klinsmann to evaluate some of the emerging young talent for the United States. The match will also be a second coming for Ecuadorian manager Sixto Vizuete after taking over for Reinaldo Rueda following the World Cup.
Ecuador has called up 23 players for their squad, while Klinsmann has only called in 22 payers for this match, although he has stated his intention to bring different players in for the friendly versus Honduras four days later. Both squads will boast youthful sides as the Ecuadorian and United States sides have 15 players each that are 25 years old or younger. In a final send-off, US Soccer announced that Donovan will be wearing the captain’s armband, and play around 30 minutes due to his LA Galaxy playing a game two days later.
Despite the experimental squads for both sides, it is notable that both squads qualified for the 2014 World Cup Finals, with the USA progressing to the Round of 16 while Ecuador was knocked out in the group stage despite a four-point showing. According to the most recent FIFA/Coca-Cola Rankings, the US is ranked at 17th, while Ecuador is 21st. In the midst of all this, it will be Donovan’s show.
The 32-year old has already announced that he will retire from the MLS at the conclusion of the season, and that this will be his final call-up to the national team. He began his career as part of the inaugural class of IMG Academy in Florida, before signing a 6-year deal with Bayer Leverkusen, but only had sparse appearances with the German side after having trouble acclimating to a German lifestyle and culture. He was loaned to the MLS playing for the San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy. He signed an extension to play with the Galaxy, although he did have some loan appearances in Europe. His first go-around with Jurgen Klinsmann happened while Donovan was on loan with Bayern Munich in 2009 where he made seven appearances, but without scoring any goals. Many have cited this as the originating point where Donovan and Klinsmann’s relationship went sour. The next loan stint to Everton in the Premier League went much better, with Donovan scoring 2 goals with 9 assists in 22 appearances. Everton’s fans fell in love with the Californian, even creating a Facebook page urging him to stay. It was not to be as Donovan returned to the Galaxy, where he will be ending his career.
Donovan has played on many international squads for the United States over the course of his illustrious career. He was awarded the Golden Ball at the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Championship as the tournament’s best player. From there, he began playing with the U-23 and senior team squads consistently, eventually making his first World Cup roster in 2002. He ended up scoring a goal against Poland in a losing effort, and later scored a header in the US victory over Mexico in the Round of 16. He played in the 2006 World Cup, in which the US was eliminated during the group stage. In what would be his final World Cup in 2010, Donovan scored three goals, as the US won their group while Donovan became the highest scoring American in World Cup history. Donovan took a year-long sabbatical and never really gelled with new coach Jurgen Klinsmann, and was left off the 2014 World Cup roster despite his previous track record.
As for the match upcoming, we are not really sure in what capacity he will be used. At keeper, it looks as though Brad Guzan will be starting, hoping to impress during Tim Howard’s sabbatical. The defense features World Cup call-ups John Brooks, Timmy Chandler, and upstart DeAndre Yedlin. The midfield will have Mix Diskerud, Alejandro Bedoya, and Julian Green from the World Cup as well. The forwards are a little shy on experience outside of Altidore and Donovan, but notables include Miguel Ibarra (from the NASL) and Joe Gyau (Borussia Dortmund).
Ecuador’s young squad doesn’t have many proven goal scorers on their friendly squad, as currently unemployed 32-year old Segundo Castillo leads the way with 9 international goals, although they do have budding star in Enner Valencia. The West Ham forward has 8 goals in 15 international appearances, including 3 at the World Cup.
Overall, this will be an excellent way to honor the arguably best US international player in history. Donovan has helped the USMNT bridge the gap from at afterthought to mainstay at the World Cup.