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MLS Must-See Match

Can Landon Donovan Prove That He Belonged in Brazil?

After being cut from the U.S. World Cup squad a few days earlier, how will Landon Donovan and Maurice Edu respond in their weekend MLS clash? Mike McCall previews a game that will draw plenty of eyeballs
BY Mike McCall Posted
May 24, 2014
11:35 AM
THE DEBATE OVER Landon Donovan’s exclusion from the U.S. roster will rage on for somewhere between a few days and eternity—and his play against the Philadelphia Union on Sunday will provide plenty of ammunition for either Team Landon or Team…Not Landon.

Among the many, many, many opinions sparked by Jurgen Klinsmann’s big decision is a general agreement that by cutting Donovan sooner rather than later, it gives the squad time to move past it and pull together before departing for Brazil.

But on the flip side, it also gives Donovan three pre-World Cup games to make a fool out of the man who likely ended his decorated international playing career.

And Sunday night at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles, (8 p.m. Univision Deportes Network), Donovan (and to some extent, Edu) will get a chance to do just that.


It’s no secret that Donovan has gotten off to a poor start to the season. He’s been stuck one goal away from the league’s all-time scoring record for what feels like 10 years, and he’s scoreless across seven games and 21 shots this season.

If he wheezes out onto the field with crushed Bud Light cans falling out of his shorts and a Burger King wrapper stuck to his left cleat, fumbling around for an uneventful 57 minutes before being subbed out, Klinsmann’s move won’t look quite so crazy.

And if he slams in a couple of goals to emphatically stamp his name atop the record books, well, the distraction caused by his absence from the World Cup squad might double in intensity.

Of course, the more likely outcome is that his performance is somewhere in between, ensuring that the speculation continues. One thing that seems for certain is that he will suit up.

“I expect Landon to be available on Sunday,” L.A. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said.

“He’s doing well given the circumstances. … I would think that he’ll be available to play on Sunday for sure.”

Count Arena (and Robbie Keane) among those rooting for Donovan to prove himself. Besides the usual reasons—the Galaxy are 13 points off the Western Conference lead, albeit with three games in hand—Arena’s comment that, “If there are 23 better players than Landon, then we have a chance to win the World Cup,” was both politically correct and a strongly worded endorsement.

Donovan will be on the field, and coming out of U.S. training, he should be ready to roll. But how will he respond? After previously taking time away from the game to focus on life, does the loss of a World Cup dream sap his motivation? Or does it fuel the fiercely competitive side that’s responsible for moments like this?


And there was some collateral damage from the Donovan hubbub as well—it made Edu’s heartbreak virtually irrelevant.

If the cuts came closer to the June 2 deadline with Donovan in the U.S. squad, it’s likely that Edu’s name would have been in the headlines. Instead, his hopeful comeback was snuffed out before he even had a chance to suit up in a friendly.

Edu came back to MLS in hopes of reviving his U.S. career, and that went from longshot to possibility with his inclusion in the 30-man squad. He’s been pretty open about his struggles in Europe and his desire to get back on the national team, with plenty of facetime during ESPN’s Inside: US Soccer's March to Brazil, as well in a documentary made in association with ASN.

With Kyle Beckerman’s rise, it’s not a huge shock that Edu didn’t make it. But being booted so quickly after working so hard to get back isn’t easy to take, and now he’ll have to put on a brave face and carry on in Philadelphia. Watching how he responds, especially with the challenge of facing Donovan and Keane, should be fascinating.


For the items outside the swirling vortex that was the U.S. roster announcement: L.A. just snapped a four-game winless streak against Dallas, while Philadelphia has just two wins in 13 games and is coming off a wild 5-3 loss to New England.

Add in the fact that Union midfielder Cristian Maidana is suspended, along with the fact that they won’t be able to rely on Omar Gonzalez falling asleep on a corner kick, and it’s not looking good for the visitors.

On the flip side, Sunday brings an important opportunity for the Galaxy to keep building momentum and set the stage for a climb up the table. Getting Donovan back for these matches was unexpected, so capitalizing is key.

Mike McCall wrote this from a plane on his way to Cambodia, where he plans to punish those who did this to us. Tell him what you think in the comments, and block him on Twitter.

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