Tonight, the USA and Mexico will write the latest chapter in their long soccer rivalry, as they play a World Cup qualifier in Mexico City. This promo video, featuring Alexi Lalas and Jared Borgetti, is a bit playful, but it gives you the idea:
Probably the best-known men’s soccer player in the U.S. for the casual fan is Landon Donovan, primarily because of this:
Donovan is, as Cantor says in the above video, the greatest soccer player in U.S. history. He is now 31 years old, and he is no longer the best player available for the national team (most think it’s Clint Dempsey, or Tim Howard if you like goalkeepers). But he remains a vital part of the national team. And he has an interesting relationship with Mexico and their fans. For one thing, he has scored five goals against them in his career. For another, he speaks Spanish well enough to be interviewed by the Mexican media, and to do commercials like this:
All of this is just great, except … Landon isn’t in Mexico for tonight’s match. After his club won their second consecutive MLS Cup, Donovan went on a hiatus from which he has yet to return. He needed a break from the sport. I don’t know Landon Donovan, although I’ve cheered for him (he played for two San Jose Earthquakes championship squads, and of course, there’s the national team) and booed him (he plays for Los Angeles now). But I know what it means to need a break. Yes, Donovan is letting his teams (club and nation) “down”, although it’s hard to say how much good he’d be if he spent his time on the field wishing he was somewhere else. But no one should be miserable, even when doing something you’ve loved in the past. Some think Landon should just suck it up, but they’re wrong. Landon Donovan has been sucking it up for most of his life, and he deserves a break, even if it comes at an inopportune time for his teammates.
Do I think the U.S. can win, or at least pick up a draw, in Mexico tonight? Well, it’s possible, but I don’t expect it.