As we get set for the United States’ friendly on Friday versus Ecuador, the US soccer world has concentrated its attention on the match being Landon Donovan’s final appearance. Much has been made this past year over Donovan’s place in US soccer history with his impending retirement both from the national and club game and being omitted from this summer’s World Cup squad. The latter event turned the US soccer fanbase upside down with some deeming it an offense to Donovan and his career and to others a sign of the changing of the guard.
Turn to this weekend and Jürgen Klinsmann has selected Landon Donovan for national team duty for the last time in what is being called a sendoff match. Now, I’m all for recognizing Landon Donovan’s career and service to the USMNT but to do it in an international friendly is a bit amateurish, beneath a national team and belongs as an MLS sideshow.
I’m personally of the opinion that an international friendly, especially one at the start of a new cycle where the side will be hopefully transitioning further into Klinsmann’s playing philosophy, should not be used as a testimonial. Regardless of Donovan’s accomplishment’s and importance to soccer’s growth in the United States, a national team should not be used as a vehicle to celebrate a player’s career. If US Soccer wants to honor Landon Donovan’s career with a testimonial, let it be done by MLS.
But in this age of hype, glitz, and the superstar-based nature of modern sports, “LegenD,” will get a glorified two-hour celebration of his career masquerading as an international friendly. I hope Ecuador has been told they’re supposed to roll over and let “LegenD” give the fans a show. Right? Does this set a precedent of honoring esteemed national team players in the future? Or is it a one off event? What happens if the United States wins a World Cup some time in the future and the American star or captain of that team- does he get a friendly dressed as a testimonial?
The only way an international match should’ve been used for this type of showcase game, if you will, would’ve been if it were to have been played as a B international where the US could’ve played any sort of representational XI it wished to give Landon his two-hour Nike commercial. I call it that because that’s what this game amounts to- a commercial of Donovan’s career.
Yes it’s only one game but the fact it still takes a spot away from another player who will be here in the current qualifying cycle, doesn’t sit right with me. And before someone jumps on my back and labels me a Landon-basher, that’s not what this is about. I appreciate Landon’s career and have been a fan of him throughout his career. However, his time has come and gone and it’s time for us to move on and move on without this international friendly used as a testimonial match. If Landon doesn’t play on Friday then I will take my complaints back but I doubt that won’t happen and I would obviously expect him to start otherwise why go through the whole process of selecting him in the first place.
Just know that this testimonial is basically a bush league move for a nation that wants to move into soccer’s elite. But if Donovan goes off for a hat trick and a brace of assists, I’ll gladly eat crow. But if he were to do that then why would he be retiring?