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The Gold Cup is a ready-made remedy to the chasm everyone imagined between Jurgen Klinsmann and Landon Donovan. So convenient, in fact, it makes you wonder if the two parties had this planned all along.
Perhaps the tension everyone imagined was simply these two agreeing ahead of time to get Donovan back on the team at this tournament while maintaining Klinsmann’s rightful control of his team.
It would have truly undermined Klinsmann’s authority if he had to admit last fall that Landon Donovan could walk back on to his team any time. But a player of Donovan’s caliber and experience—all-time USMNT leader in goals and assists, three World Cup finals—must be on the U.S. team if he wants to play.
Donovan knew this, and both men took the high road: Klinsmann by saying that the door is always open, Donovan by saying he knew he’d have to earn his way back on the team.
Both men were aware of this Gold Cup date on the calendar, and it allowed the coach and his player the opportunity to both get what they needed:
- Donovan got his sabbatical, six weeks to get his legs back and a chance to lead a talented reserve side against competition similar to what the team is seeing in the Hex.
- Klinsmann confirmed his control over the team and looked magnanimous doing it. Plus, he gets one of his best players back for the final four Hex qualifiers.
To pull this off, Klinsmann simply required Donovan to show the critics that they were wrong about his motivation and drive. Landon seems only too happy to oblige.
Make no mistake, Donovan isn’t trying out for Klinsmann at the Gold Cup; the coach already knows what his player can do. Donovan is trying out for the rest of us, and that’s a rather nifty challenge issued by the coach to a player who only six months ago seemed to have nothing left to play for.