With the coming-of-age of midfielder Graham Zusi, we no longer have to concern ourselves with Landon Donovan’s threats of retirement.
We just have to sit back and look forward to it.
Nobody likes a bully, especially when the bully is chock full of false bravado, and Donavan’s statements often sound like intimidation.
“I may retire from the National Team if I’m not happy playing anymore,” really means, “I can’t control the guy with the German accent — he who won’t guarantee me a spot.” (Innuendo is often employed when entitled players start to lose their grip.)
Not that Jurgen Klinsmann is overly anxious with Donovan’s hollow posturing in the first place, which is yet another point in his favor.
By earning the start — combined with an ultra-strong performance for the United States in the second game against Jamaica of FIFA World Cup qualifying action — Zusi showed that he is a natural choice to take Donovan’s place.
Or remove him from his throne, as it were.
It also means that Zusi will no doubt figure prominently on the National Team roster for the October qualifying window.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to be called in for the next trip,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes told the Kansas City Star. “When you have a performance like that, everybody sees it and everybody knows it. That’s the big step for a player like him.”
With Donovan unavailable due to yet another peccadillo, Zusi was the only MLS player to start the game. He did so with an admirable blend of hunger, poise, and maturity.
The vital question is will Klinsmann play Zusi ahead of Donovan against Antigua & Barbuda on October 12 (or at the very least against Guatemala on October 16 at his home field at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park) if Donovan is available? And the answer better be: yes.
Zusi was massive in the home game against Jamaica, and made his presence known. If he was nervous, he was able to harness that energy into a focused, if slightly unpredictable dynamism, that made it very difficult for the Reggae Boyz to manage.
In the first ten minutes on the pitch, he ripped a shot that hit the crossbar and repeatedly combined with Steve Cherundolo to create confusion.
“Every time you get called in, you’re trying to progress your game,” Zusi said to the KC Star. “This is my first year being in the mix for international duty, so I came in in January and tried to make an impression. From then on, you’re trying to make every appearance better than your previous one.”
You keep doing that, Graham. Your balls-out play is exactly what the USMNT fans expect and, well, deserve.