A compelling 2-2 game between the U.S. and Mexico Wednesday in Arizona provided plenty of talking points as the World Cup looms.
Here are just three from a Southern California/Galaxy perspective:
- What message was U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann trying to send Landon Donovan by not starting him in the U.S. XI?
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 3, 2014
That he is not indispensible? That in a midlfield featuring the likes of the creative Michael Bradley, the crunching Kyle Beckerman and the foraging Graham Zusi there is not necessarily a place for the most influential American player of the last generation. That Klinsmann wants a sometimes self-contained — or is that a smug Donovan — to show a little bit more fire in the belly outwardly? Or that in the wake of what was essentially a demotion to the scouting ranks for assistant coach Martin Vasquez on the eve of the game in favor of the fast-rising Tab Ramos that no supposed fixture can afford to become complacent? All of the above probably. Donovan shrugged off the slight with an offhand “I’m entering a different phase of my career” comment to the Los Angeles Times, which is likely not the reaction Klinsmann wanted to provoke Even though the Mexican team essentially ceded the territorial advantage to the U.S. in the first half before changing tactics and erasing that dominance in the second, it won’t have escaped Klinsmann’s notice how the U.S. played with Donovan until his belated entrance with around 30 minutes to play. It’s clear Donovan needs to show leadership and raise his game as the World Cup approaches. Is he capable of doing so?
- What does the emergence of Michael Bradley mean for the U.S. and Donovan?
— Soccerly (@soccerly_com) April 3, 2014
The newly-signed Toronto star arguably had his finest 45 minutes in a U.S. uniform during the opening half of the game. He was everywhere with perceptive passing, all around leadership and hustle and penetrating offense. Looked a lot like Donovan in his prime, frankly. Did Klinsmann tell him to up his game, that the playmaker mantle is his for the taking if he only shows he’s willing to grasp the opportunity? Frankly, I can’t believe that Klinsmann wouldn’t take Donovan to Brazil. But he’s clearly sending messages here, continuing to challenge his players as the tournament approaches.
- Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez needs to show he is the undisputed leader on the back line. The Maryland product is a designated player with the Galaxy and the clear first choice in central defense for the U.S. But if there’s a knock on him, it’s that Gonzalez is somewhat reserved and needs to demonstrate his leadership, too, and ability to play whoever is put alongside him. The sight of Gonzalez turning on Beckerman after the Rafa Marquez goal even though the Galaxy defender was not marking anyone in particular, does not bode well when the U.S. faces sterner foes than Mexico this summer. If Gonzalez wants a big money move to Europe in the wake of the tournament, he needs to demonstrate he’s an elite player worthy of playing for a top club.