05 June, 2014

Landycakes or Bust?

A few days ago, I was talking with some people at a local Buffalo Wild Wings.  Naturally, with the World Cup coming up, talk turned to the chances for the USMNT and the surprising exclusion of Landon Donovan.

One of the people said they wouldn't watch because Landon was the all time leading scorer for the US and his exclusion meant we were doomed to fail.  Another pointed out that we had the Group of Death (Portugal, Germany and Ghana) and we wouldn't get out of the group anyways, but he was still going to watch.  Surprisingly, the bartender piped in that Landon was a glorified penalty kick taker and his stats were overblown anyways so maybe Klinsi saw something that we don't and decided that was the reason to drop him.

Seems fair enough.  Heck, even Italy dropped Rossi (I know he's still recovering from injury) for the 2nd time in as many WCs so while he could have played on both US campaigns, he gets to play a part of neither Italian one (somewhere, I can hear snickering).

So I put up the poll to the right.  "At what point should we obsolve Klinsi of the Landycakes exclusion?"  Heck, we do have a tough group, and after reading a great NY Times article interview with Klinsmann, I'm apt to agree that Landycakes is a big fish in a small pond, and that at the time of the cuts, he hadn't scored against lesser competition in several games so how should we expect him to score against US Kryptonite in Ghana?

Since scoring his 30th goal (it took him 8 in the run of play till his first pk), he's gone on to score 27 more goals for the USMNT, of which 2 were free kicks, and 8 were penalties) making it about 37% of his goals coming from set pieces since 2007. You can see them all below:

He also missed his first 2 pk chances in MLS this season and took till his exclusion (8 games) until he found the back of the net, so was Klinsmann seeing something we didn't?  Possibly.

With several younger and faster players now available at the spot that Donovan fills for the USMNT, and with a single forward setup to favor Altidore (more of a holding bruiser forward, and something Wondo fills nicely) and Dempsey, was there really an option for Landon?

Sure, he's on the alternate list, but where does he fit in with this team?  His age, stats and numbers all point to skill decline.  He didn't finish top 3 in the call up camp in the Yo-yo test that he would frequently kill either.  He also took that sabbatical that Klinsmann was upset about as well as coming back to MLS rather than pushing for a chance in England where he had shown well on loan with Everton.  And yes, there are 7 players older than him going to Brazil for the US, but two are keepers, and Beasley fits a role where we had very little depth.

Whether the decision to not call him up was right or wrong (personally, if we were in charge, we would have taken him just for experience alone), will be ultimately decided in a few weeks.  Do we even score or let alone get a pk?  Do we get out of the group?  Do we win the group?  Once out, we have a favorable 2nd rd and possible quarterfinal matchup, so perhaps it came down to Klinsmann wanting players that he thought could best help us just beat our opponents in the group stages, and with Landon performing underwhelmingly in Germany, the decision to cut was a good one.  If not, that extension Klinsmann got several months ago may be as worthless as Brazilian toilet paper.

Photo: USSoccer

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