Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By IVES GALARCEP
CARSON, Calif.– As the media hordes crammed into a non-descript TV studio to hear David Beckham give his final solo press conference as an LA Galaxy player, one of the few comments that stuck out as sounding different from the rest were Beckham’s comments about Landon Donovan.
When asked about the possibility of Donovan retiring, and about Donovan no longer having the fire to play anymore, Beckham insisted that the Donovan he plays with, and sees in training, isn’t a player who looks like they have lost the love for the game.
Beckham isn’t alone in that observation, and while Donovan continues to insist that he needs a lengthy break to figure out his future once the 2012 MLS Cup Final is over, there continues to be doubt about the idea that he could really walk away from the game.
What we do know is that Donovan is going to be taking a break. A long break. Longer than any he has been able to take recently. He will rest, and he will ponder the next step, and whether that involves a return to the Galaxy, a move to Europe, or walking away from the game altogether.
With that in mind, it really isn’t much of a stretch to say that, at this point, there really is no reason to consider Donovan when thinking about the U.S. team that will begin CONCACAF World Cup qualifying in February.
No, that doesn’t mean I buy into the idea that he really could walk away from the game for good, but I do believe he needs some time to reflect and recapture the love for the game. His body also needs time to recover from a string of busy years that have taken their toll.
The chances of him doing all those things AND getting back into shape enough to be a part of the Feb. 6th qualifier in Honduras?
Not good at all.
That isn’t exactly a shocking development, or even one that should cause major problems for the national team. Klinsmann has spent a large part of his tenure as U.S. coach fielding teams without Donovan. New players have emerged, new options exist. None of them carry Donovan’s resume, but they also don’t carry his uncertain state of mind.
If Donovan is to return to the national team, and continue playing soccer competitively rather than trading in his boots for a permanent seat in the Manhattan Beach sand, he seems more likely to return come March, when the U.S. faces Costa Rica and Mexico (in Mexico City) in a pair of crucial matches.
By then, Donovan will have had time to rest, reflect and re-energize the batteries. He would also be into the new MLS season, which begins in early March of 2012.
In the meantime, the U.S. team will carry on without Donovan, and there are enough midfield options at Klinsmann’s disposal to still field a strong squad for the Feb. 6th qualifiers. You can argue that the team would be better off with a fit and motivated Donovan, but you can also point to 2012 as a year when the U.S. team began getting used to life without Donovan.
Maybe the U.S., and Galaxy, get lucky and Donovan doesn’t need much time to soul search and realize he wants to keep playing soccer. But given how adamant Donovan has been about taking serious time off and traveling the world and getting away from the game, it just might be best to accept that when the final whistle blows on Saturday, Donovan is going to take a good, long break and it will be better for the Galaxy, and the U.S. national team, to not try and put a timetable on Donovan’s return.