Landon Donovan Would Have Scored That Late Chance
While most USA fans would like to move on from the Landon Donovan omission at this point of the proceedings (especially now with America having been eliminated from the World Cup), I can’t help but think that had Landon Donovan been on this squad that the USA might just have booked a place in the quarterfinals by beating Belgium.
The realization dawned on me in the 72nd minute of yesterday’s match, when Jurgen Klinsmann brought on MLS striker Chris Wondolowski, a star for the San Jose Earthquakes but also a player certainly overmatched in the World Cup. In essence, Wondolowski was the player picked over Donovan. They are both quick and small forwards capable of scoring goals. But where Donovan has been the face of US Soccer for a full decade and has scored 57 international goals, “Wondo” has netted just 9 times and has usually been overlooked for the national team. He is certainly not the same player in talent and ability to make an impact, and it’s just been made painfully evident.
In stoppage time the error became blatantly clear. Belgium had dominated the entire game, forcing American goalkeeper Tim Howard into a record-breaking number of saves, but they had yet to make a breakthrough. Right at the death and against the run of play, a golden chance fell to Wondolowski, and he cleared it over the crossbar.
Now, call me crazy, but I am about 95% certain that had Landon Donovan found himself in the same position he would have scored. You know why? Because that’s exactly what he did 4 years ago in stoppage time of a deadlocked game against Algeria. America won that day and progressed to the next round. Wondolowski kicked the ball over the bar…
Unfortunately there’s no going back at this point, but I do feel we need to analyze this grave error by Jurgen Klinsmann and find out why Donovan’s omission occurred. Clearly there was a personal issue at play here. There’s no way in any frame of mind that you can argue that Wondolowski is a better player than Donovan. Perhaps the American superstar got himself booted from the team by openly disagreeing with Klinsmann, or perhaps the German wanted to send a statement to his players by making a martyr of Donovan. And maybe that worked in the group stage at the World Cup. No one can argue that this team didn’t have the necessary fight to compete against the best international soccer teams on the planet! Perhaps in the weeks ahead, some light will be shed on this mysterious topic.
But I now feel like America is leaving this World Cup with a sinking feeling in our stomach. Why does our golden chance to beat a top team like Belgium fall to the feat of Chris Wondolowski? Our fate was probably already doomed when Jozy Altidore pulled up with a hamstring injury in the tournament’s first game, but our offensive options were marginal at best from the start. Klinsmann’s decision to withhold Donovan from this team is inexcusable. Instead of proudly heading into the World Cup quarterfinals to face Argentina we are headed home. Tim Howard’s incredible display was all for naught, and once again the USA has failed to make a serious statement at a World Cup.