The United States was dreadful against Honduras. That is probably putting it lightly. That is how awful it looked in its first match of The Hex.
The U.S. is missing a crucial piece of the puzzle, and his name is Landon Donovan.
I will be the first to admit when I am wrong. And I was dead wrong.
I believed the U.S. could get by without him. Jozy Altidore had been playing better, Clint Dempsey was on the pitch and other options such as Herculez Gomez were on the bench.
None of that mattered.
Even the midfield had been playing better to give the offense more chances; against Honduras they were absent.
Donovan has to come back and spark this team or it will be lucky to qualify for the World Cup. It is that simple, and that dire.
According to the Los Angeles Times, L.A. Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena does not expect to have Donovan back until late March. If that holds true for the national team as well, Donovan will be absent for matches against Costa Rica and Mexico. Klinsmann has to urge the star to return.
Everyone needs time off. Donovan earned his time. However, sometimes leaders have to come back sooner than expected and get their teams back on the right track. Donovan’s time is now.
The U.S. cannot afford a poor showing on home soil against Costa Rica and then travel to Azteca for the big match against Mexico. They need to be in full force and ready to at least get a draw against Mexico.
Some of you may say there is no reason to panic, but there is legitimate reason to after the Honduras match.
Donovan is one of the best players on the national team, and his return would give the squad a morale boost as well. Go back to the 2010 World Cup, and which player refused to lose and willed his team to victory when they needed it the most? It was Landon Donovan. They need that sense of belief back in the locker room.
After the two matches in March the U.S. does not need his services again until June. Perhaps he can take some more time off in April and May to make up for coming back sooner than expected.
The U.S. has men to take his place if need be, but it has yet to translate the talent into results on the pitch. Until it does, the weight of the USMNT is carried on Dempsey’s shoulders alone, and that has not proven to be a recipe for success.
The USMNT needs to improve as a whole. The defense was abysmal and the midfield lacked control, but inserting Donovan back in to the offense will be a big step in the right direction for qualifying. It will have a ripple effect all the way to the back line.
I was wrong. His importance cannot be understated any longer.
Taking time away from soccer to reset his physical and mental health will pay dividends in his career, but he is a leader of the team and now is when they need him the most. If the match at Azteca was not looming in the background then perhaps the situation would be changed, but it is.
Mr. Donovan, we need you.