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Without the prince, the sacred quest continues
by Ridge Mahoney, May 24th, 2014 4:47PM
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TAGS:  landon donovan, men's national team, world cup 2014


By Ridge Mahoney

And on the second day after the untouchable prince had been banished from the kingdom, those that remained returned to their duties, and peace descended upon the realm.

Those retained -- their number counted as two dozen minus one –- worried not, for they had been assured by the lord they would be taken forthwith on the great journey across the land and from thence to a hallowed place, where their ranks would take part in an ultimate challenge to which a great many aspire and very few attain.

They spoke fondly of the prince Landon, yet for little time can they bemoan his departure. The challenge draws ever closer.

“He’s a close friend, a close teammate,” said another of the attacking brigade, Chris Wondolowski, a man of modest origins yet acclaimed accomplishments. “We’ve been through the thick and thin, especially seeing him at practice every day and seeing how much he’s put into it, it’s definitely hard to see him. But we have faith in these 23 guys right now.”

That their quest would continue without the prince saddened them, yet express they did the understanding that the arduous decisions made by their lord Jurgen were for the benefit of all. “He obviously has a vision for this team that he thinks is a winning one, so we believe in that,” said Tim Howard, guardian of the gate they must defend against foes both crafty and powerful upon arrival in the hallowed land.

They pondered carefully their thoughts, respectful of the prince and a half-dozen others who had been left behind yet just as intently scrutinizing the days and weeks ahead and the obstacles set in their path. “We all have an incredible amount of respect and appreciation, admiration for everything that Landon’s done for this team and for soccer in this country,” said another of the midfielders, Michael Bradley, whose own father had once been lord and led some of these same soldiers on a similar quest.

“To see walk him out the door yesterday -- to see six other guys walk out the door yesterday – is not easy. But at this point there’s a group of 23 guys in there who are ready to go to a World Cup and forget everything else and really make this something special.”

They had been told of their fates on the Thursday, and the chosen 23 and the unchosen had parted ways. The prince had been just one of the unlucky seven and they took pains to praise and thank all of their comrades. Said Brad Davis, blessed with a golden foot on the side seldom preferred by the populace, “He’s been a big teammate and obviously what he’s done for U.S. Soccer is pretty amazing, so for the players it was, we were all I think a little bit shocked, surprised, but for us, the coaches make the decisions. It’s not us in the room making the decisions.

“Yesterday we said our good byes and we’re bummed and we’re still bummed. We wish everybody could still be here, but the ultimate story is you can’t. There has to be some cuts made so you have to move on.”

They repeated often the mantra of moving on, of continuance, of pushing ahead on the path set forth by the lord, a lord who had emerged as champion in a similar challenge many years before and not so long ago led another band of warriors to a vastly hailed achievement though they fell narrowly short of the ultimate prize.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Clint Dempsey, who had faced the prince in lesser challenges and also fought alongside him on many fronts for many years. “You’re feeling sad for the other guys because you know what it’s like. It’s their dream to be in the World Cup and they’re right there, and it’s a difficult decision for him to make, but that’s what his job is. We have to support him in what he does, and we’re excited about the 23 we have here.”

Their expressions mirrored the harshness of their existence, for to take part in such a glorious spectacle they had seen many comrades bypassed along the way, and at times they themselves had been left behind. Resolve and determination, not solely guile and strength, had often proved to be the crucial attributes. And so it would be of the highest order at the place this quest would end.

“I think it’s just part of it,” said another of the midfield warriors, Kyle Beckerman, renowned for a crazed hairstyle that befits his thirst for battle. “It really is. All the elite sports, any time there’s going to be an elite team, some guys aren’t going to make it.”

The lord had made his decisions. His men were ready to carry his word forward as the millions of subjects worried and talked and prayed for the best.

“Jurgen’s chosen the 23 guys that he feels that at this moment are the fittest, are the sharpest, are the most ready to go and give this thing a real go,” said Bradley. “It’s a team that has a good mix of youth and experience and I know every guy in that room is ready to go and play and represent themselves in a way that’s going to make everybody at home proud."



  1. Edgar Soudek
    commented on: May 24, 2014 at 5:17 p.m.
    Obviously none of the 23 chosen for Brazil can say what many of them really feel: that Klim-bim-man is truly an a..h..e(rhymes with "glasspole")...
  1. John Hofmann
    commented on: May 24, 2014 at 5:27 p.m.
    Obviously, no one knows what the remaining 23 players feel on the MNT. It's refreshing to see that, to now at least, the survivors all appear to be handling the situation, and their comments, with class.
  1. Bruce Gowan
    commented on: May 24, 2014 at 9:15 p.m.
    I have seen Landon play ever since he was a U17. He always had speed and technical ability. He is physically soft in attack and defense. He has never generated any offense on his own. He is not a striker. He is an effective outside role player. JK probably does not see Landon as a 24/7/365 dedicated player and that is a personality flaw to him. Finding an effective back four is a problem not finding a place for Landon is not a team problem. Landon does not solve any of this team's problems.
  1. Thomas Brannan
    commented on: May 25, 2014 at 12:31 a.m.
    1)"He has never generated any offense on his own". First,it's a team game 57 goals, Second: USA National Team, 156 caps, 2nd behind Jones Maybe we need some more "softies". 2)When JK took the job he said he understood the American Culture. Evidently, not. 3) Today Brad Friedel says, "it was personal". Warren Barton, says, "Thank You" to Brad Friedel. 4) Does anyone think the remaining 23 will say what they really think until the books come out a few years from now. 5) JK just simply handled it wrong even if LD wasn't good enough and I think he is. This isn't Germany. The coach is supposed to make it work. That means handling all the different personalities as well. That is why he gets paid millions of dollars. I was going to say maybe we need some more Buddhas around the field but I don't want to be sarcastic.
  1. Bruce Moorhead
    commented on: May 25, 2014 at 3 a.m.
    Bruce and Ric: could not disagree more. I too have watched Landon since U17. Saw him track back on defense frequently and effectively. Saw him shrug off tackles and be strong in attack. Clearly we were looking at him with different eyes. I do agree the back four is shaky - Clarence Goodson and Brad Evans should have been retained as well as Donovan. Time will tell, but I think JK has done psychological damage to the team ala Sampson in 1998. Too many German Amis!
  1. Bruce Moorhead
    commented on: May 25, 2014 at 3:03 a.m.
    Ridge - clever Lord of the Rings theme!
  1. John Klawitter
    commented on: May 25, 2014 at 10:51 a.m.
    Those who are feeling so much outrage over this, need to cool their jets and take this well-written tale in (I can't wait for the 2nd book of the trilogy to be released late July). Thanks Ridge for presenting things in a way that should (but won't necessarily) allow all to see things in perspective. As for all of the detractors and conspiracy theorists abound, Ridge has produced far less fantasy here than we have made note of in your incredulous posts and, contrary to your dire prophecies, Lord Klinsman shall deliver, in spite of his son's (rightful Prince's) dreadful act of BRATitude and misTWEETs.
  1. Lauren Montgomery
    commented on: May 25, 2014 at 11:20 a.m.
    For better or worse, a lot of us fans closely identify Landon Donovan with USMNT. There are other MLS players I'm excited to see play in Brazil, but Donovan probably created the most excitement amongst US fans. As for European-based American players, especially those who recently changed allegiances to further their careers, it's just not that exciting to see them play. No emotional connection = no excitement to watch. Sure I'll cheer for the US in a generic way (and for other exciting MLS players), but where once there was eager anticipation (for the World Cup), there is now tepid interest.
  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: May 25, 2014 at 1:27 p.m.
    Bruce G talks the talk about LD. If LD had the passion and consistency that Giuseppe Rossi has shown in La Liga Serie A, and especially in his NT games, he would be on this WC squad hands down; problem is, those special qualifications never were there.
  1. John Soares
    commented on: May 25, 2014 at 7:24 p.m.
    This is not so much about the current 23. That part is what it is and we wish them well as we cheer them on. It really is; Would the 23 be better with LD!? The general opinion seems to be YES!!! Perhaps more important is the questionable motivations behind leaving him, (LD) out. Was it "truly" a soccer decision or (as it seems to be popular opinion) a personal one. I vote for #2. IF I (we) are right, then it's a sad day in American soccer.
  1. Andy Wagner
    commented on: May 25, 2014 at 9:08 p.m.
    With or without LD is not going to change the outcome of this WC. Maybe we should take a lesson from the Brazilians and their success on this stage. They do not hesitate to leave the big names behind and WC to WC they infuse a great deal of fresh blood into the team. They do a great job preparing their young talent in all international competitions. They could care less about winning streaks unlike we heard the US media promoting throughout that meaningless run of wins against less than respectable first team competition. They did play a first rate Belgium team that should have put all of this in perspective. That will be the true result we will see in this years WC. Maybe JK realizes this and is starting the process for 2018. Let's hope so...
  1. Barry Thomas
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 2:03 p.m.
    Hey IWN, Rossi is 27 and Donovan is 32. I'm pretty confident that Rossi will admit in five years that he's not the same player that he once was, just like LD has had to. If he's as honest as LD, that is.

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