World Cup: LA Galaxy's Omar Gonzalez, Landon Donovan hope Ukraine match goes forward
CARSON, Calif. – Last week's deadly turmoil on the streets of Kiev, Ukraine, had ancillary impact elsewhere, including the United States' World Cup preparations.
Jurgen Klinsmann is set to take the Yanks to Kharkiv, about 250 miles to the east, for a March 5 friendly against Ukraine. It's the final FIFA fixture date – and last real chance to see his Europe-based talent – before a preliminary roster must be submitted in May.
U.S. Soccer has closely followed the developments in Ukraine, where at least 77 people were killed in clashes between protestors and government forces in two days of rioting before Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich was forced to resign and flee the capital while parliament took command of the former Soviet republic.
The political changes in the wake of the violence and subsequent release from prison of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Yankukovich's rival, in advance of new presidential elections slated for late May could save the March 5 clash at Stadium Metallist.
The LA Galaxy's US-based players sure hope so. Center back Omar Gonzalez has been following the situation and says he's been receiving texts from friends urging the team to pack their Kevlar vests.
In all seriousness, he said, “It sucks to see what's happening there, but hopefully it doesn't bother the game. And hopefully they can find some peace.”
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The match could be quashed by the State Department – the US had moved toward sanctions before Yanukovich's departure – or by Ukraine's federation, or it could be moved outside of Ukraine. Or it could go on as scheduled.
Landon Donovan says the game, no matter its meaning ahead of Brazil, doesn't really matter.
“Forget about a soccer match,” he said. “I come from more of a human-rights perspective, so I'm not worried about a soccer game when that stuff's going on. ... Hopefully, it all gets sorted out and people don't continue to lose lives. That's sad.”