Landon Donovan will play his final game for the US Men’s National Team on Friday. Where does he rank all time in USMNT history? NoTicketSports debates.
Joe Bianchino: It’s difficult for me to answer this objectively, because it’s hard for me to be objective about Landon Donovan – not that objectivity is something NoTicketSports prides itself on.
For as long as I’ve been watching USMNT, Donovan has been on it, and has been one of its best and retires, on Friday, the all-time leader in caps, goals, and assists. It’s hard for me think about what he has meant to the team, look at those stats, and replay that goal against Algeria sending the US through to the knockout stage of the 2010 World Cup, and not say he’s the greatest.
Though, again, that choice is influenced not just by the stats, but by subjective nostalgia as well. I’m open to argument.
As long as no one says Alexi Lalas. In fact, anyone who tries to stump for Lalas is fired – and I don’t even think I have that power.
Jeffrey Simpson Day: I’m still not sure Donovan takes the top spot. He’s certainly in the discussion, but I think you could make compelling arguments for a few others, such as:
1. John Harkes – The first american to play in the English Premier League. He also did a lot to promote American soccer leading up to and immediately after the 1994 World Cup. Oh, and then there’s this:
That pseudo-mullet alone should get him in the conversation.
2. Brad Friedel: That’s right, I’m giving some love to American goalkeepers, who have been pretty great over the years. And Friedel for more years than most: Three World Cups, almost 20 years playing in upper-level European leagues, holds the record for consecutive starts in the Premier League (310), and was once named to the Professional Footballers Association’s Premier League team of the year. Plus, as a bonus, he was the second keeper to ever score from open play in the Premier League. Not as many headlines as Donovan, Harkes, or Dempsey, but I still think he should be in the discussion.
Mark Graydon: I’m not a Donavon fan purely because he could have spent way longer in the EPL with Everton if he didn’t love being the big fish in a small pond – if he hadn’t taken the cash, signed a new deal with LA, and scored a hat full of goals against inferior competition.
Ask yourself this, if Pau Gasol stayed in Spain and became the highest scorer and rebounder in league league history, and won multiple Spanish championship, would that equal his NBA career? No.
Friedel, to Jeff’s point, and Tim Howard both carved out great careers in one of the best leagues in the world – leaving more of a professional legacy than Donovan.
However, Donavan has been the best player for the USMNT for years – his goals and assists meant so much for the US team.
Even if he could’ve had a way better career if he wasn’t such a wussy.
Joe Bianchino: Is the MLS a fair equivalent to the Spanish basketball league? I feel like that might be an insult to to European basketball, which perhaps strengthens your overall argument – that Donovan should always have stayed in the England and played high level futball rather than jumping at the MLS’s money.
But, as you said, none of that has anything to do with his international career, which can’t be argued against. And while Friedel is certainly a legitimate choice, Jeff, I’d argue that the keeper never came to represent what Donovan did. He wasn’t recognized as the icon in the same, or even in any similar way.
Donovan wasn’t just a great player for USMNT, he was USMNT. He was the player on the team for an entire generation of soccer fans. A generation that includes me. So, for me, the conversation of USMNT’s greatest begins and ends with Donovan.
Until the era of DeAndre Yedlin takes America by storm.
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing – Shakespeare
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