Uh-Oh: Landon's Getting Older

Friday, September 16, 2011 | View Comments
-Ben McCormick

One of the most common questions any US Soccer fan asks is who is going to replace Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey when they retire. They have held the attack together for the past few years and fast approaching is a time when the US will have to rely on someone other than “Deuce” or “’Cakes” for a goal when they need it.

The scary thought is this process might be happening a bit faster than we all thought. Dempsey is still performing at the highest levels and he shows no signs of slowing down, but Donovan on the other hand, is a different story.

Sure, his MLS scoring record this season has been stellar, but I would expect that from a player of his caliber playing on a MLS team that may go down as one of the best in MLS history. Where it has been noticeable his speed may be slowing a half step, though, is in his performances for the USMNT this year.

I know this feels like heresy, but hear me out. He was benched at the Gold Cup, and honestly, the team didn’t perform all that poorly without him. He just wasn’t the young, inventive player we have come to know and love over the years, and the two US matches he has featured in under Juergen Klinsmann have been similarly tough. Donovan was inconsistent against Mexico and the first twenty minutes against Costa Rica were more or less solid before he completely disappeared.

This was to be expected, though. A player like Donovan relies on his speed more than any other athletic skill. As we all know, with athletes, speed tends to begin the deterioration process around age 30, which Donovan, 29, is fast approaching. This isn’t to say he’s not still a quality player capable of magic like we’ve seen against Algeria and Slovenia. All I’m saying is the time we’re going to need to move onto someone else is drawing closer and closer.

Klinsmann has said Donovan will be his creative presence in the middle of the park which, if his speed is in fact deteriorating, is a smart move rather than putting him on the wings where Klinsmann will rely on speed. Remember, by the time 2014 hits Donovan will be 32 and certainly need to rely on his vision and touch more than sheer pace.

Say Donovan takes a serious turn for the worse before the next World Cup. Who might be ready to step in and play that attacking central midfield role? In my mind, there are six known players capable of filling that void.

1. Stu Holden - Stu is the obvious choice. He isn’t a young hot shot prospect anymore, but he earned POY at Bolton despite being injured for a significant portion of the season. He will be back on an EPL pitch very soon, and if he regains his form, he’ll give the US another effective midfield weapon. US fans shouldn’t worry too much if Donovan becomes obsolete and in-form Stu is there to fill the void. His hair is also incredibly cool.

2. Mikkel Diskerud - The young “Mix” has been making the grade at the highest level in Norway for three years now with large clubs reportedly hot on his trail. He showed in his January cap his inventiveness and smoothness on the ball. While Stu is already in his prime, Mix could easily start at the 2022 World Cup for the US at age 31. His hair, too, is magnificent.

3. Freddy Adu - This should be expected. Adu played one of the best games I’ve seen in a US uniform in the Gold Cup final and has fixed his well documented club issues by biting the bullet and coming home to MLS. He’s still very young and has time to develop and make the jump back across the pond. His touch and vision are nearly unrivaled amongst his US counterparts. If Adu’s career continues its upswing, he might not just replace but improve upon Donovan.

4. Luis Gil - From Adu on down, the readiness takes a dive. Gil is Real Salt Lake’s 17 year old playmaker. After signing with MLS last year, Jason Kreis and company have brought Gil along slowly and it has been paying off. Gil, who figures to feature prominently for the US U-20 squad this cycle, was coveted by Arsenal before he signed with MLS. If he continues his current run of form, scoring two goals while starting the last six league matches, we may see him in a full national team jersey sooner than later.

5. Sebastian Lletget - Further away still from Gil is Sebastian Lletget, the young American central midfielder at West Ham. He was a class above in his matches with the US U-20s and played in some West Ham first team friendlies this summer. He’s probably still a year away from official first team minutes at West Ham, but we could see him loaned out this winter to get some minutes instead of just playing for the reserves. He has very high potential, but remains a largely unknown quantity.

6. Charles Renken - Renken was poised to be Agudelo 2.0 before knee injuries derailed his meteoric rise through the US youth systems. The creative midfielder, just 17 years old, is now at Hoffenheim in the German Bundesliga. He plays for the U-19 side, but remains very highly rated. Renken may have the most potential out of any of these prospects, but remains the furthest away from first team action. Renken and Gil will make up one of the most exciting midfields the US U-20 team has seen in quite some time.

Donovan is still a top notch player and deserves to be the man the US attack runs through. He may be in the process of losing a bit of his trademark pace, but that process may be slow, taking a few years. It won’t happen all at once. That being said, it never hurts to be prepared.
blog comments powered by Disqus
    KKTC Bahis Siteleri, Online Bahis


    Privacy Policy