Once every four years soccer takes center stage in the United States, sort of, because of the World Cup. Jurgen Klinsmann, the head coach of the national team, creates headlines with his words during this time, and used an NBA analogy, criticizing the Los Angeles Lakers for giving Kobe Bryant a huge two-year deal despite his age and current ability to justify not including Landon Donovan in the World Cup squad.
Despite his age and injuries, Kobe Bryant received a two-year extension worth slightly more than $48 million from the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant should remain the highest paid player in the NBA, something he has been for the last four seasons as well, when he could arguably justify such a pay. But now? He played only six regular season games in 2013-2014, and it’s hard to believe he’ll warrant that pay with his ability on the floor.
Landon Donovan has done some nice thing for USA soccer, including appearing in three World Cup tournaments. He has been capped 156 times for the national team, scoring 57 goals. He is by far the most recognizable American soccer player of the last 20 years, and scoring the most memorable goal for the national team since, possibly, the 1950 win over England in the World Cup that was also held in Brazil.
This always happens in America. Kobe Bryant, for example — why does he get a two-year contract extension for $50 million? Because of what he is going to do in the next two years for the Lakers? Of course not. Of course not. He gets it because of what he has done before. It makes no sense. Why do you pay for what has already happened?
Klinsmann took a lot of criticism for leaving Donovan out, although there were those that felt the Los Angeles Galaxy player has actually been disappointing in his performances over the last year or maybe even more. However, for fans, especially those who are only interested in soccer once every four years or so, seeing the only name they recognize of the squad going to the World Cup seems like something personal instead of a professional decision by Kilnsmann.
Donovan took a sabbatical away from the sport in 2013, and after returning to the MLS has been dominant at times but far from consistent. Klinsmann felt that he might not have the necessary motivation to bring what’s needed for this team. On contract until after the 2018 World Cup, Klinsmann wants to build around a younger core and different players, knowing that Donovan won’t be able to be there for the team in four years.
He came back, and he was playing in MLS, and people say, ‘Oh, he’s playing well,’ but what does that really mean? This is where MLS hurts him. He was playing at 70 percent, 80 percent, and he was still dominant. That doesn’t help anyone. I watched the games. What was I supposed to say? That he was good? He was not good. Not then. No way. So he had to wait. We cannot win this World Cup, because we are not at that level yet. For us, we have to play the game of our lives seven times to win the tournament. Realistically, it is not possible.