Jurgen Klinsmann shocked America when he announced a 23-man World Cup roster that did not include Landon Donovan. Even though the news must have been heartbreaking, the 32-year-old took it like a professional. However, I’m almost certain that Bruce Arena had the biggest smile on his face when he heard the news.
For Arena and his team, the return of a disappointed Donovan gives them an upper hand before the World Cup break. The return of Major League Soccer’s all-time leading goalscorer makes LA Galaxy clear favorites to win upcoming games against Philadelphia Union, Chicago Fire and Chivas USA.
Just like fellow World Cup snubs, Jermain Defoe, Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson, Donovan will be motivated to prove to Klinsmann that cutting him was a terrible decision. Against three weaker opponents, the stage is set for Donovan to express his anger. The versatile attacker will produce the offensive spark that is needed to propel the Galaxy into a playoff position.
There might be some who believe that Donovan no longer has what it takes to be a game-changer, I want them to remember that the California native is the greatest player to ever put on a US kit. And he just lost his spot in the national team to a kid who doesn’t play first team minutes with his club and has just one appearance for the US. I’d say that’s plenty of motivation for Donovan to regain his game-changing abilities.
With Donovan at his disposal, Arena can use up to three formations (4-2-3-1, 4-4-2, 4-3-3) in the next three matches.
In the 4-2-3-1 formation, Donovan will fit perfectly behind the center forward, Robbie Keane. With Gyasi Zardes on his left and Stefan Ishizaki on his right, the experienced attacker will be a perfect playmaker.
Keane’s world-class movement combined with Donovan’s top-notch passing will rip apart every defense in MLS. The two players have chemistry, and with two defensive midfielders sitting behind Donovan, he’ll have the freedom to put pressure on the defense. Also, with three players behind Keane, the Irishman wouldn’t have to worry about creating chances for others; all he has to worry about is finishing the ones he gets.
Before he left for the national team camp, Donovan was a winger in Arena’s preferred 4-4-2 structure. However, due to Samuel and Rob Friend’s inability to score goals, the greatest American goalscorer will be Keane’s partner up top.
Last season after Donovan’s sabbatical, the American and Ireland’s all-time leading goalscorer were unstoppable. Their combination was natural, their movement off the ball perturbed defenders and their unselfish play made them the best duo in MLS. Donovan played 22 games and finished the regular season with 10 goals and 9 assists.
If Marcelo Sarvas returns this weekend, Arena could slide him and Donovan into a 4-3-3 formation. The Brazilian would join fellow countryman, Juninho, and Kenney walker in the midfield, while Donovan joins Keane and Friend up top.
With Friend alongside the two marksmen, Galaxy’s offense should blossom. All the gigantic Canadian has to do is keep the defenders occupied. With the defenders occupied, Keane and Donovan will have acres of space to create chances.