USMNT

Preview: USMNT v Ecuador

On the one hand, this game, much like the previous one against the Czech Republic in Prague, means very little. It is another opportunity for young players without many—or any—caps to display their talents for Jurgen Klinsmann. The next World Cup cycle has just begun and this game has no competitive ramifications.

And yet, it has also, somewhat arbitrarily, been designated the Landon Donovan Farewell Event. Donovan, regardless of anyone’s personal feelings about him and the way he handled his time away from the game a few years ago, is one of—if not the—most important male American soccer player to ever live. He’s undeniably the most statistically accomplished, owning the U.S. men’s international records for goals and assists, and owns both of those records for the domestic top-flight league, MLS, as well. And those goals and assists have come in all manner of situation, including World Cups, plural.

As such, it’s clear that Donovan merits a “testimonial” match like this one. This should be a big deal. And yet, due to the strained nature of the relationship between Donovan and Klinsmann, and the totally perfunctory way this game has been branded as Landon’s Last Cap, there is the sense that the game is not a very big deal at all. Perhaps the crowd that assembles in East Hartford on Friday night will change that and give Donovan the send-off he deserves.

Other roster notes

Donovan is, or course, the big name, but the remainder of the squad is not simply Landycakes and some kids. Looking at the roster below, Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando are hugely experienced. Guzan has said that he hopes to play well enough in the absence of Tim Howard to usurp Howard’s No. 1 goalkeeper position. In defense, there’s quite a few familiar faces in Brooks, Chandler, Gonzalez, Orozco, and Yedlin, with Greg Garza and Tim Ream, too.

In front of them there aren’t many surprises, either. However, there is one big one, which is getting a bit lost in the shuffle: Miguel Ibarra is the first non-top-flight player to get a call-up since the Richmond Kickers’ Clyde Simms trained with the U.S. squad before a World Cup qualifier in 2005. Ibarra plays his soccer for Minnesota United FC, which is a club in the NASL. A forward, he was named the NASL Player of the Month in September. Chris Wondolowski has also joined the team to cover for Julian Green, who has been ruled out of both the Ecuador friendly and next week’s Honduras friendly due to a rib injury.

Ecuador

Ecuador also played in this summer’s World Cup, but failed to move out of their group, finishing third behind France and Switzerland (though ahead of Honduras). Few of their players are names you might recognize (Enner Valencia, West Ham; Joao Plata, Real Salt Lake); the rest play primarily in the Ecuadorian domestic league. Ecuador is famously difficult to beat at home due to the altitude of the stadium in Quito, but away from home is a much easier mark. As such, even with a relatively young team, the U.S. must be the favorite at home.

Final thoughts

The U.S. team that defeated the Czech Republic surprised many with the quality of its performance, and many of those same players return for this game. Klinsmann’s teams always look prepared, so expect another good and organized effort this time around. That said, it’s hard to focus on anything but Donovan in this game. He will start and play for about 30 minutes. Will he smile at Klinsmann and shake the coach’s hand when he is withdrawn? That may be the most dramatic moment of the game.

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Nick Rimando (Salt Lake)

Defenders: John Brooks (Hertha Berlin, Germany), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany), Greg Garza (Tijuana, Mexico), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles), Michael Orozco (Puebla, Mexico), Tim Ream (Bolton, England), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle)

Midfielders: Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Joe Corona (Tijuana, Mexico), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg, Norway), Luis Gil (Salt Lake), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt, Germany)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland, England), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles), Joe Gyau (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Miguel Ibarra (Minnesota United), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich, Germany)

4 Comments

  1. In every quote – including “the cut” – I’ve read, Klinsmann has praised LD. During the WC LD made a point of publicly second guessing JK’S tactics & roster deployment on ESPN. Even the greatest US male player of all time who has never coached professionally might have been a bit less judgmental. I predict it will be a love fest & JK will be invited. Anything less takes away from the historic moment. I also think JK was remiss in not making his son apologize to LD privately.

    • I saw somewhere that Klinsmann’s son did, in fact, send LD an apology email last spring, for what it’s worth. And I agree with you—publicly, Klinsmann has been much more conciliatory than Donovan. I disagree with his decision not to take LD to the WC, but Donovan’s been a bit petty in the media since then.

      • I think LD was quoted the other day that he received no apology from Jonathan, which Jurgen said was made. Neither JK nor LD suffers from a lack of ego. Judging by the results USMNT gained in Brazil – plus the experience for Green, maybe JK’s team select proved to be a good one. Do you think we would have gone further with LD?

      • Jeremy Lane says:

        I think it’s impossible to say whether we would have gone further with LD than without, but I know that he has a history of coming through in big moments and also lots of experience playing with Dempsey and Bradley, which might have helped in the absence of Jozy. I also don’t think if LD came then Green was the one to stay behind. There were several other players that could have been left behind first, regardless of the positions they played.

        Anyway, yes, the whole row is about ego and disrespect. LD lost Klinsmann’s respect during his time at Bayern and then again when he took time away from the game. He never earned it back, even with the Gold Cup win, which is a shame. The team would have been better with him in it in Brazil, even if Belgium might have won all the same.

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