5 Candidates to Be US Soccer's Next Landon Donovan
Attempting to quantify what Landon Donovan has meant to U.S. soccer since he became one of the best players in the history of the country is no easy task.
He is the federation’s leading goal scorer with 49 to his name and is second in total caps behind Cobi Jones (164) with 144.
Donovan can play just about every offensive position on the field, including both flanks, the No. 10 role and as both a No. 9 striker and a forward who runs the channels.
He has also provided dramatic, unforgettable moments like his game-winner against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup and his headed finish against Mexico in the 2002 World Cup.
Needless to say, it is nearly impossible to narrow down who might one day fill his shoes when considering all of his many accolades. That does not mean there are not candidates, though. On the contrary, there are a few young players with the potential to carry that mantle.
This list looks at five players who might one day be looked at in the same way as the legendary Landon Donovan.
Graham Zusi most recently made a name for himself on the international stage in the United States' last two World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Honduras.
He played as a right midfielder and competently patrolled the flank for both matches. He was strong defensively and admirably added to possession for the Yanks.
His game is similar to that of Donovan's in that both players can play both as a striker and a midfielder, both can beat defenders off the dribble and both have extremely high work rates, seemingly capable of running for days.
Zusi will likely be a mainstay for the U.S. for years to come.
Brek Shea has struggled a bit as of late, battling injuries and fighting for minutes on both the U.S. national team and at new club Stoke City in the English Premier League.
He has shown serious flashes of potential, though, throughout both his MLS career and for head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Shea’s game compares to that of Donovan’s in a few ways. Both have excellent breakaway speed, are capable dribblers and are able to have an effect in both the attacking and defensive half of the field.
The coming matches will be critical for Shea's development.
Like Landon Donovan, Juan Agudelo rose to U.S. soccer’s highest level at a very young age. He scored his first goal for the senior national team as a 17-year-old against South Africa in a friendly. That goal marked the youngest goal by any player in the history of the federation.
Unlike Donovan, Agudelo is a true No. 9, through and through. He is crafty in the dribble and can create for teammates. He is also very adept at holding off defenders by using his body to shield the ball.
How he does for his new club, the New England Revolution, might well determine if he is called in for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Jack McInerney has taken MLS by storm this season, leading the league in goals scored with seven.
He is akin to Donovan because his movement off the ball is what makes him so special. The young American is excellent at finding gaps between opposing backs and exploiting them to score goals. Finishing for McInerney most often takes place from very close range and with one or two touches.
Like Donovan, he has very little fear on the pitch and shows it.
Rubio Rubin is a forward for the Under-17 U.S. men’s national team. Of the current squad, Rubio is by far the leading scorer having netted 12 in his 32 caps.
Rubin is quick and technical and, like Donovan, making waves at a very young age. If he continues to score goals at this sort of rate as he continues to grow older, Rubin has a definite shot to fill the very massive shoes of Landon Donovan.