Armchair Analyst: The unbearable lightness of being Landon Donovan & other Week 12 thoughts

I can't remember the last time we had a week this momentous, both for club and country. And it all revolved around one guy: future No. 1 SuperDraft pick Cyle Larin of UConn! Yes, Larin made his Canadian debut, and did so as the Canucks broke a 960-minute goalless drought thanks to an Atiba Hutchinson PK in a 1-1 draw with Bulgaria on Friday.

Big, big day.

There was also some other stuff:

1. It was never in doubt

When Landon Donovan's autobiography hits the shelves in, let's say, eight years (right before the 2022 World Cup, right?), the events of this week will be the chapter everybody turns to. You all know what happened: the surprise omission from the USMNT, the return to the LA Galaxy, and the subsequent 4-1 beatdown of the Philadelphia Union in which he finally claimed the all-time regular-season goalscoring record.

That record came in the most Landon fashion possible, as he basically picked up a secondary assist on his own goal:

A solid chunk of what's made Donovan the greatest American soccer player of all-time is visible in that clip. You can see the vision to spot Robbie Keane and the world-class ability to thread attacking passes on the run. Then there's the burst of athleticism to get away from his defenders, and the discipline to stay onside.

And finally, the tap-in.

If you go through the video at the top, you'll see a lot of tap-ins. Donovan has always been less a pure goalscorer and more a savant at passing the ball into the net, largely because he understands the game faster than almost anybody else, and partially because he still moves faster than almost anybody else.

For me, that's what makes his omission from the USMNT so frustrating. There have been hints that Jurgen Klinsmann doesn't believe Donovan has enough in the tank to compete at a high level, and that he doesn't do enough defensive work to do the job in midfield. That the athleticism and commitment just aren't there.

This, below, is a clip from the last time Donovan played in midfield – two weeks ago in Portland:

Eighty-two minutes in, on turf, that's Donovan tracking back to cut off Darlington Nagbe – one of the most explosive attackers in the league – and force a turnover. He then immediately starts an attack going in the other direction.

That is not the form of a guy who's short on fitness. It's more the form of a guy who finished in the top third in the beep test, which is (of course) exactly what Donovan did last week, according to several sources.

Yes, Ozzie Alonso got torched. It happens. But what on earth is Djimi Traoré doing there?

5. Last week I said I'd write about how Teal Bunbury and Patrick Mullins have been swapping spots in attack – not all the time, but just often enough to keep teams off balance. I can't do that subject justice in one of these smaller bullet points, so it'll have to wait.

Instead, I'm just going to point out that Diego Fagundez is back to his fearsome, livewire, 2013 best over the past month. He was the man of the match in New England's 2-1 win over D.C. United on Saturday, and nobody has benefitted more from the stability Mullins provides from that center-forward spot.

4. RSL continue to be impossible to beat, but another fairly listless attacking performance in a scoreless draw with FC Dallas coupled with another injury to Joao Plata really makes it feel like the clock is ticking on this 12-game streak.

3. A big "get well soon" to Mark Sherrod, Houston's rookie striker who tore his ACL midweek in a loss to United. He's the second rookie to go down with that injury, following Chivas TBD's Tommy McNamara two months ago.

2. The Pass of the Week belongs to LA's Gyasi Zardes, from the Galaxy's 2-1 win over FC Dallas on Wednesday:

1. Another "get well soon" to Sporting KC's Chance Myers, who was filling in admirably at central defense before popping his Achilles' tendon in a 2-2 Friday night draw vs. Toronto. Couple all the backline injuries with forward Dom Dwyer's goalscoring form, and you have to wonder if Sporting's about to completely flip their identity.

For the first time in forever, it feels like they can just outscore teams. And for the first time in forever, it feels like they're going to have to.


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