Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America Classifieds
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
U.S. Positional Rankings: Donovan's departure leaves huge hole, for a while at least
by Ridge Mahoney, January 11th, 2013 11:36PM

MOST READ
TAGS:  men's national team, world cup 2014

MOST COMMENTED

By Ridge Mahoney

Since his latest proclamation that he needs an extended break from soccer, the collective mood of fans and observers regarding Landon Donovan has shifted from, “Will he come back?” to “When will he come back?”

Let the guessing continue. Nothing is guaranteed, and while it’s hard to fathom he’d extend his walkabout into the regular season, he could be unavailable for the first three Hexagonal qualifiers, including a late March double-dip with Costa Rica and Mexico. Regardless of when his body and competitive juices compel him to return, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann must move on.

Klinsmann sent out eight lineups without him last year and in addition to the six listed below, at some point in 2013 could recall Benny Feilhaber to play on this side of midfield and perhaps even a healthy Stuart Holden. The continued absence of Donovan could prompt further tinkering by Klinsmann, which could shift these players to other slots.

These rankings, which will be updated later this year, are based on national team performances, future prospects and other factors.

SA's Top 6 U.S. Right Midfielders
1. Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), 144 caps.
2. Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), 6.
3. Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), 38.
4. Josh Gatt (Molde), 1.
5. Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), 8 caps.
6. Nick DeLeon (D.C. United), 0.

Donovan played only six games for the USA last year and after sitting out the 1-0 defeat of Italy in February, came back three months later to hit all three of his 2012 goals in a 5-1 pasting of Scotland. That his influence waned from past seasons can’t be argued but it’s not unusual for a player who’s logged as many minutes as Donovan to go off form during the “tweener” years midway between World Cups.

Debate will rage over whether Clint Dempsey or Donovan is the USA’s go-to guy; the stark fact of the matter is the national team isn’t strong enough to do without either of them for any length of time. Yet even if Donovan girds up his psyche enough to gut out the next 18 months and play in Brazil, he’s been put on notice by Klinsmann that his standards cannot slacken.

The conundrum of where to play Zusi is magnified somewhat by Donovan’s indefinite leave of absence. A spot in the middle doesn’t seem likely unless Klinsmann decides to pack the midfield in some version of a 4-5-1, and one of Zusi’s many attributes is he, like Donovan, can play wide on either side to good effect.

Also, like Donovan, he’s got a great engine, which lessens the likelihood he’ll need to be substituted fairly early if he starts a game. But despite his emergence as SKC’s attacking catalyst the past two seasons, expecting him to dictate and dominate throughout the Hexagonal is wishful thinking. He should emerge as a much better attacker.

A glut of central players has led to Kljestan’s deployment out wide, which ironically he didn’t appreciate early in his career at Chivas USA. He eventually did move into the middle, which is where he plays for Anderlecht in a linking/holding role. He’s grown smarter and stronger since his move to Europe and can certainly add a few wrinkles to the midfield mix, and at age 27 has room for further growth.

Gatt’s national team debut against Russia in November drew mixed reviews, and without a quantum leap in development he’s not likely to be a factor next year at the World Cup.  The potential, though immense, is predicted on honing the skills and vision and guile to complement that amazing speed. Yet young players often improve dramatically in a short period of time, and though it’s a steep step up from the Norwegian league, Gatt is going to be closely watched.

Gaven has been off the USA radar screen since 2010 and the Crew’s failure to make the playoffs last season dimmed his luster somewhat, but he posed the team’s only attacking threat until the arrivals of Federico Higuain and Jairo Arrieta. He’s only 26 yet has already played more than 250 league matches and as a young, experienced attacker who can make things happen in the final third certainly could be a contender for the Gold Cup squad.

DeLeon started his rookie season brilliantly, scoring two great goals in the opening weeks, then faded before rebounding to finish well. His 88th-minute goal eliminated New York in the playoffs, during which he switched sides to compensate for the injury loss of Chris Pontius. His blend of energy, confidence and versatility jibes with Klinsmann’s preferences.

Soccer America's U.S. Positional Rankings
Goalkeepers: 1. Tim Howard, 2. Brad Guzan, 3. Nick Rimando ...
Right Backs: 1. Steve Cherundolo, 2 Timmy Chandler, 3. Sean Franklin ...
Central Backs: 1. Geoff Cameron, 2. Carlos Bocanegra, 3. Omar Gonzalez ...
Left Backs: 1. Fabian Johnson, 2 Edgar Castillo, 3. Michael Parkhurst ...



2 comments
  1. Leonardo Perez
    commented on: January 13, 2013 at 1:44 a.m.
    Landon Donovan is USA's best ever Soccer player. But, his petulant and pouting routine is getting old. My belief is that he is pouting because he hasn't been offered the captaincy of the US National Team by Klinsman. I'm sure Landon was hoping that Klinsman would give him the arm band for the team since Bocanegra is getting up there in age, and since a new coach came in Landon probably expected that he would be the next captain. Had anybody asked him if this is his goal? Come on SA --ask him!!!

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: January 14, 2013 at 1:19 p.m.
    LP, FYI, LD is burnded out and needs refueling...his biggest problem has been to show the consistency that big time players are able maintain.


Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Confidential
Yallop encouraged despite frustrating season    
The Fire has set a league record for tied games while slipping from its 2013 record, ...
MLS Awards: Rimando is deserving of top keeper award    
Veteran Real Salt Lake goalie Nick Rimando had another strong season despite being called away by ...
Klinsmann kicks Bradley when he's down    
There's an old saying that I think makes some sense: "Praise in public, criticize in private."
USA concedes late again to wind up tied    
The USA controlled play in the first half but couldn't sustain the momentum against Honduras, and ...
USA-Honduras Player Ratings     
In a performance that ranks among the USA's most miserable in recent history, Jozy Altidore provided ...
Donovan signs off with near-miss and fond goodbyes    
The Landon Donovan Era ended with a 1-1 tie against Ecuador as the next phase of ...
USA-Ecuador Player Ratings     
Landon Donovan used the final 41 minutes of his national team career to remind us how ...
Donovan and the USA, then and now    
Nearly 14 years after it started, the national team stint of Landon Donovan will end Friday ...
The courage of Landon Donovan    
I have been thinking a lot about Landon Donovan this week.
'Backs to the wall' mentality suits Timbers    
With its colorful fan base and incredible string of sellouts at Providence Park, Portland is a ...
>> Soccer America Confidential Archives