Unfriendly

I suppose somebody woke up this morning hoping to read a spittle-flecked, incoherent wall of text-shaped rage about and against tonight's Ecuador friendly.  Well, this is your lucky day, you strange person, you.

This week - this whole silly, embarrassing, pointless week - has proven why the USSF policy of not doing "testimonials" was very wise.  You would think a simple goodbye to the most productive national team player ever wouldn't have been a beached whale in a dumpster fire, and I guess in a bizarre, horrible way it's fitting.  Nothing about Landon Donovan's career has been easy, popular, or uncontroversial.  He was the most hated as well as the most loved US men's player ever, so of course he gets a final game with Eris as his party planner.

(Mia was more loved, and I think by the time she's done Hope Solo might be as hated.  Because you asked.)

The premise behind FIFA dates is that national teams need every precious moment they can get, otherwise clubs will work their players to death.  Stupid clubs, paying their salaries and wanting them to play for them in return - when will they ever learn?  So we don't see the FIFA schedule as a skirmish in the war of FIFA against UEFA and big clubs, but as a holy calendar of inviolate national team Sabbaths. 

Fine.  In exchange for that fiction, said national teams should use those games productively.  You call up guys on the fringe, guys who wouldn't otherwise get their shot, and see what they can give, if anything.  Guys like Miguel Ibarra.  I hope he lights it up for us.  I hope any US player lights it up for us.  Because there's a Gold Cup next year, and a Copa America after that, and then, who knows, maybe they'll have another World Cup someday. 

What you don't do is call in guys who are not part of the picture, either in the near term or the World Cup cycle.  Guys like...oh, crap, what's his name...tip of my tongue, forget my own head next....

Oh, wait, I remember.  Chris Wondolowski.  He'll be 32 for the Gold Cup, and I'm pretty sure he'll be older than that for the World Cup cycle.  How is that planning for the future?

If we're so willing to treat US games as sideshows, then why play them?  Let MLS have the dates.  If we need to say goodbye to Landon Donovan, we can wait a couple of years for his Hall of Fame induction.  (For one thing, enough time will have gone in case Landon has a relapse and inadvertently plays again.)

And maybe I'm the only one worried about this, but should Sunil Gulati be picking any players for the roster, no matter what the reason?  It's very, very, very, very, sorry about the vocabulary malfunction but VERY hard to believe at this point Klinsmann would have called Landon in without, shall we say, outside assistance. 

Maybe this is why Juergen seems like he would have preferred to invite Landon to The Most Dangerous Game than to an off-year friendly.  Klinsmann has been a pill this week, but it's understandable if he was forced to call in a player he despises. 

Which is another reason not to do testimonials, in a lot of cases - very few players quit the game, especially the international game, voluntarily.  Picture a testimonial for John Harkes.  Yeah, I know, it would have been when Arena was the coach.  It still would have been hugely awkward, just like this week has been.  Maybe Sunil had this idea of another Mia Hamm-Julie Foudy-Joy Fawcett farewell game, but that went out the window faster than a Habsburg delegation ordering an end to church-building on royal land.

There's one last reason I find the LegenD WeeK a bit disturbing.  To paraphrase the late Chevy Chase, Landon Donovan is still not dead.  He is not even sick.  The number of important games he has left is in the single digits, and that's jarring.  I get that.  I like a good eulogy as much as the next guy.  But we're neck-deep in the "Bring out your dead" sketch from Holy Grail.  Any minute now Derek Jeter is going to ask us to dial it down a little.   

This friendly has now become an opportunity for US fans to celebrate Landon (or not), but his club carries on for the moment.  Surely someone will have a little difficulty in switching from a tearful goodbye to wishing him professional failure and embarrassment (difficulty level probably less in Seattle, San Jose, Washington DC and Mission Viejo). 

It would be nice if Donovan was going out as meekly as Jeter (er, as far as on-field production was concerned), but Landon turned out to be the sort of person who would look at Steve Ralston's assist record and say "That looks nice, I'll take it."  And there is one MLS record, one he currently shares with Jeff Agoos and Brian Mullan, that he has an opportunity to break.  If you're not a Galaxy fan, you really don't want him to break it.

(Although maybe Mullan sticks around a couple years longer for the beginning of a Colorado Rapids dynasty, who knows.)

So I won't be watching.  I had 156 chances before this to enjoy Landon for the US.  I'll keep my memories of games that mattered.

Such as the one on Sunday in Dallas, assuming Landon plays in that one.  Thanks again, FIFA.  Thanks again, Sunil.  I'll thank Landon later.