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Whose game is it any way?
by Paul Kennedy, August 14th, 2013 10:18AM

TAGS:  men's national team


By Paul Kennedy

Every sport should be so lucky to have young men like Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Robbie Rogers.

Donovan was painted in some quarters as being AWOL when he skipped the start of the 2013 season and put himself out of the national team picture, as if he somehow owed it to us to be in San Pedro Sula for the start of the Hex.

Bruce Arena
, his coach at the Galaxy and on two World Cup teams, knows Donovan better than any other coach, and he says he told Donovan it was a "bad plan." Whether it was a good plan or bad plan -- and we all know how it's turned out -- it was Donovan's plan and no one else's, and all the credit to Arena for supporting him.

Dempsey's decision to return home to play for the Seattle Sounders is being compared to Donovan's decision to go to Cambodia. How dare he return to play in MLS with a year to go until the World Cup? As if Dempsey's talents are going to suddenly erode if he's away from the EPL for a year.

Soccer is an unusual sport because we don't just root for our home team, we root for our national team. The U.S. national team happens to our national team, but that doesn't mean Donovan or Dempsey owes us anything, no more than they owe Jurgen Klinsmann anything.

Did Dempsey consult Klinsmann, who made him national team captain just two months ago, before making his decision to return to MLS? Except for his family, Dempsey says he did not consult anyone. A few sleepless nights were all that were needed. "I mean, it's one of those things that as a professional you have to make tough decisions. You have to do what you think is best for you and your family," he told's Grant Wahl.

At the end of the day, Klinsmann will decide whether Dempsey remains on the national team, but what he thinks about Dempsey playing for the Sounders is irrelevant. Dempsey did what was best for himself and his family and that's all that should matter.

Who could ever argue about the opportunity to make more money than you could ever possibly make? And do so while raising your children like you were raised and allowing your grandparents a chance to see you play like they didn't before?

Which brings us to Rogers and the question of a boycott of the Sochi Olympics because of Russia's new anti-gay law. Would he boycott the Olympics if he was eligible to play? No, it's not time to impulsively jump on the boycott bandwagon, Rogers wrote in USA Today.

Rogers says he couldn't imagine supporting a boycott of the Sochi Olympics that would deny other athletes the opportunity to do what he did: fulfill the dream of a lifetime and compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

It wasn't your dream or my dream, it was Rogers' dream.

  1. Jon Deeny
    commented on: August 14, 2013 at 11:09 a.m.
    "At the end of the day, Klinsmann will decide whether Dempsey remains on the national team" Seriously? How long would JK have his job if Deuce wasn't on the WC team?

  1. Kevin Sims
    commented on: August 14, 2013 at 11:20 a.m.
    "The U.S. national team happens to our national team" ... huh?

  1. David Whitehouse
    commented on: August 14, 2013 at 11:48 a.m.
    Your last sentence says it all. For over 20 years I've been involved in Youth Soccer in Western Michigan, primarily with the Grand Valley Soccer Association. We've seen it go from almost nothing to 500+ teams. Seven local teams played in Regional cups this year. The whole time I've always preached "The Game Belongs to the Players". Thanks for reiterating that notion.

  1. Ginger Peeler
    commented on: August 14, 2013 at 12:47 p.m.
    Jon, I laughed out loud when I read your post. You are soooo right!!!

  1. Steven McDonald
    commented on: August 14, 2013 at 1:05 p.m.
    Am I missing something on the whole Dempsey move ? This seems like a win-win for US soccer and Dempsey too. MLS bringing back one of its top players from Europe right before the World Cup. Attendances will rise. More press than ever. He will be playing everyday(AVB is a moron). But most importantly for his career aspirations, he will have an opportunity to go on loan to a team in the Champions League. Something he would not do staying at Tottenham. As for Donovan, anyone following the story could see he was getting burnt out from all the non-stop seasons he played. MLS, USMNT, on loan every year. Enough to wear anyone out.

  1. Allan Lindh
    commented on: August 14, 2013 at 1:44 p.m.
    Lets just come out and say it. These guys are bright, articulate, balanced human beings -- any sport would be proud to have them. Unlike most American sports, played by morons whose interviews are almost without exception boring cliche dumps, whose decisions are made by agents and accountants. Soccer takes brains, and a measure of independent thought, which is one reason we love it so much -- these guys exemplify those qualities.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: August 15, 2013 at 9:06 a.m.
    Jon and Ginger, when I first read that sentence I saw it the way you did (with the implication that because Dempsey moved to the Sounders, JK would be thinking about dropping him), which would be mind boggling. Reading it again, I think Kennedy was meaning to say that JK really doesn't (and shouldn't) have a say in where Dempsey plays outside the national team, but it's a poorly worded sentence. I thought it was interesting in an earlier interview Dempsey said that in addition to his family, one of the reasons he wanted to go to the MLS was to get back to his game; instead of playing quick 1 and 2-touch soccer (as is almost required in the EPL), he wanted to get more time on the ball (and presumably, more freedom to dribble players). As Allan says, these guys should be respected for knowing better than anyone what they need to excel; we need to trust them. And Steven, I think you're also right; this is great for the MLS (or at least will be if both Donovan and Dempsey can continue to perform at the National Team level as they have been!).

  1. Pat Sharp
    commented on: August 15, 2013 at 12:40 p.m.
    Allan, you said it very well! Thank you!

  1. Pat Sharp
    commented on: August 15, 2013 at 12:42 p.m.
    very anxious to see how it goes for Clint in Seattle! I am a new Sounders fan! Now to get the games on TV here in the southeast!

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