Landon Donovan knows a few things about succeeding at the international level, and he doesn’t thing the U.S. Men’s National Team quite has what it takes right now to join the world’s elite.
The former U.S. Men’s National Team captain and standout performer thinks the team lacks big time impact players capable of changing a game. He saw a team struggle to create chances in the attack for an hour in last weekend’s 2-0 Gold Cup semi-final victory over Costa Rica. Clint Dempsey came on to spark the team into life, but it wasn’t nearly enough to offer much hope for the future.
Christian Pulisic is the one man giving Donovan hope. Whether it is his performances in World Cup Qualifying with the national team, or in his club matches with Borussia Dortmund, the former USMNT star sees a lot in the teenager.
“It’s U.S. Soccer’s challenge,” Donovan told Goal USA. “Argentina has six guys like that, and two of them don’t make their World Cup roster. We have one or two. That’s what needs to get better and it’s not necessarily a thing that one player just turns on. It’s, ‘Do we have that or not? Do we have those options or not?’ We have a few, but inconsistent. We need four or five consistently if we’re going to make it to the next level.”
Despite Donovan’s praise for Pulisic and his ability to create plays from nothing, he also said the team needs more players of his caliber.He says 34-year-old Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore are the only ones churning out big plays, but only when they are in form, as they were in Saturday night’s Gold Cup semi-final agaisnt Costa Rica.
“(Pulisic) is pulling off plays in every game,” Donovan said. “I was watching him the other day in China against Milan, and he pulls off plays. In a perfect world you have three or four of those guys on the field. Right now, when Clint’s in form, he’s one of those guys. If he’s not, then he’s not. If Jozy’s in form, he can be.
“Christian, you can say, is one of those guys. It’s a lot on his shoulders. We should be good enough where we have three or four of those players. Like I said, if Jozy and Clint are on form, and Fabian [Johnson] is playing well, then those are guys who can pull off those plays, but right now you would say Christian’s the only one you consistently would feel confident in that way.”
However, the 2017 Gold Cup was supposed to be a chance for the younger players to break through. So far, none have truly impressed the American soccer legend. Kelyn Rowe and Dom Dwyer were a couple of the standout performers, but neither of them gave Donovan the impression that they could be big time impact players in the 2018 World Cup.
“They both can pull off a special play, which there’s high value in at this level, super high value in,” Donovan said. “In a game where they don’t pull off a play, are they doing enough? That’s a question I don’t have answered yet. I would like to see more of them, more games with them. That’s the question that needs to be answered because when you get to the next level, when you get to [World Cup] qualifiers, and you get to the World Cup, you’re not going to pull off a play like that every game.”
He wants more players to step up and make their case for being one of the first guys off the bench in the 2018 World Cup, if not earn themselves a starting spot, and he is yet to see anyone make their mark.
“I like the current 11 when I think about it,” Donovan said. “Probably [Jorge] Villafana, [Geoff] Cameron, [John] Brooks, Tim [Howard], [DeAndre] Yedlin. And then you can go through and say is it Michael [Bradley] and Christian, Darlington, Jozy, Clint and Fabian. That 11 is good. I think what we’re trying to figure out is there real depth that can be added and help in a real way. Who are 12, 13, 14, 15, 16? Who are those guys. That, I’m not sure of yet.
“Honestly, watching this Gold Cup hasn’t given me a ton of confidence in that way,” Donovan added. “You want to see a couple, like three or four, step up. Omar [Gonzalez] is for sure that next guy up at center back. Who’s the next guy up top? Is it Jordan [Morris]? Is it Juan [Agudelo]? Is it Dom? Is Kelyn Rowe really the next guy in midfield? Is it Gyasi [Zardes]? I don’t know because nobody has staked that claim.”