Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com
BY ADAM SERRANO
Landon Donovan knows all too well how important playing in the World Cup is. Though he is slated to play in his third World Cup, the U.S. national team star still doesn't take the selection for granted, and realizes just what it means for those chosen, and those not chosen.
For that reason, Donovan can understand the reaction from both fans and Charlie Davies over Davies' exclusion from the provisional U.S. World Cup roster. Donovan makes it clear that as saddening as the decision was, it was the decision the team had to make.
"It's an easy thing to say, 'oh gosh, he should have been there', but our medical staff and our coaches spend more hours then anyone will ever know evaluating players so if they made the decision that he's not ready then he's not ready," said Donovan. "It's a bitter pill to swallow, and we love Charlie, no one wants him on the team more than I do, but the reality is that if you're not ready, this a World Cup and you need to have guys who are ready."
While Davies' World Cup dream is over, the forward line will be bolstered by a pair of forwards that Donovan has played with before, Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez. The strikers have forced their way into the National Team picture by leading their respective leagues in scoring, form Donovan believes makes them great candidates to help the team.
"I've always said that I've been for bringing guys who are in form," said Donovan. "If it's talent versus who is in form, then I want the guy who is performing, and they are both guys that have done well and they deserve it."
The inclusion of Buddle and Gomez for the Princeton camp has raised some red flags as the forwards have spent little to no time with the core pool during the World Cup cycle. While a majority of those included in the 30-man roster have spent a considerable amount of time with the team, the inclusion of new players could damage the chemistry of a close knit squad. Donovan doesn't see that being an issue.
"Other teams it might, but with our team it doesn't. Our team runs and monitors itself so we won't let that happen," said Donovan. "There's going to be some competition for spots, but once the 23 are named, that is our team and we're going to make sure that we come together and bond like a team."
With the attention about to turn to the World Cup, Donovan prepares to leave a Galaxy team that is firing on all cylinders. The Galaxy is in the midst of an undefeated run that has taken LA to the top of league table with a record of 7-0-1. Central to the club's rise has been the play of Buddle and Donovan, the respective MLS goal and assist leaders.
Although the offensive stars have gained accolades, the defense has been sound, surrendering only two goals all season. Donovan understands that the defense has been just as integral in leading the Galaxy to an unbeaten record.
"I've always believed in any team that when the team does well defensively, it's not just the defenders and the goalkeeper, but the effort of the entire team as a whole," said Donovan. "In the moments when the midfielders have slipped up, our the defenders have stepped up and done a good job, and then when you get by our defenders and create a chance for yourself, Donovan (Ricketts) has stopped everything that comes his way so you put all together and it makes for a great team."
Despite the early success, the Galaxy is considered by many to be the team that will suffer the most due to the World Cup with Donovan and potentially Buddle away on National Team duty. That, coupled with the absence of the injured David Beckham, could leave the Galaxy a bit thin, but Donovan doesn't sound too worried.
"The beauty of our team and what Bruce has done, is that he's built the team very deep," said Donovan. "Any other team in MLS, if you took their top three offensive players away then I don't think they would win a game. Our team is going to be okay, we're not going to be what they were with all of us around, but our team is going to be okay."
Following Saturday's match against Toronto FC, Donovan will turn his attention to the camp and then South Africa. As the nation begins to focus on the United States' date with England, Donovan believes that the national team will be ready.
"We've got the guys that compete as well as anyone in the world," said Donovan. "And on June 12th, we're just going to give it a go."