Tuesday Lunch: Landon Donovan and the Quest for 200 Caps

Posted: May 31, 2011 in professional sports, soccer, sports, usmnt
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

By Evan Ream

 

Mohamed Al-Deayea of Saudi Arabia holds the record for the most international caps with 178. Next comes Claudio Suarez of Mexico who has 177. Cobi Jones is the highest American cap-earner with 164, good for seventh place. Landon Donovan currently sits in a tie for thirtieth place with 130 caps. Landon is 29.

 

Right now, Landon Donovan is in the prime of his career. He is MLS’s leading goal scorer with eight goals in eleven games. Landon’s career has been like clockwork; he has made 130 appearances for the national team in 12 years while never suffering a major injury or a complete loss of form (oh wait 2006 actually DID happen). Donovan has been chugging along: as consistent as ever for three World Cup Cycles now. The question is: what will his numbers look like when he is done playing? Can Landon be the first ever men’s player to earn 200 caps? Using the blueprint from the last World Cup Cycle (in each different year in a World Cup cycle, you can expect a similar number of games to be played), let’s take a look:

2007 (2011): The USMNT played in the Copa America after the Gold Cup (three games) and then four more friendlies to end the year; Landon Donovan played in two of these friendlies. Because they are not taking part in the Copa America this year, I would expect USA to play an additional friendly this year giving them five total after the Gold Cup. If you take those five and add it to the friendly against Spain this Saturday, and the six games the USMNT are almost assuredly going to play, that gives Landon 12 more cap opportunities this year. Landon will play in the Spain game and likely the first two Gold Cup group games before resting against Guadeloupe when USA have 6 points. From there Donovan should play in the final three games. I would expect Donovan to take part in at least three of the five friendlies to end the year (a few of them may be during the MLS playoffs), giving him 139 caps to end the year.

 

2008 (2012): The second year in a CONCACAF World Cup cycle is always the least eventful. The teams only play friendlies for most of the year until their preliminary qualifying games in the summer. USA will not have any home and home qualifiers this year as they are getting a bye for that round. Instead, they will enter directly in the third round in a four team group that will give them six games. In addition to these six games, USA will likely play about six friendlies against strong opponents as they did in 2008. Look for USA to play a few different teams that are headed to Euro 2012 in early summer. In all, Landon should have about 12 different cap opportunities. I wouldn’t expect him to get called into the January camp (I think Bob Bradley wants him to rest) or into any February friendlies, but he should still play in about four while the USMNT are warming up for qualifying. USA’s qualifying group will likely be weak so they should clinch their qualification in four games like they did in 2008. Landon will play as long as they have not clinched; he should end 2012 with 147 caps.

 

2009 (2013): The third year in a CONCACAF World Cup cycle is always the MOST eventful. In 2009, USA played 24 games. Ten games were the final round of World Cup Qualifying, while a combined 11 games were Confederations Cup and Gold Cup games. The remaining three games were friendlies. Once again, I wouldn’t expect Donovan to be called in for the January camp. From here though, he should play in all ten qualifying games (to ensure that USA finishes first in their group) as he did in 2009 as well as all the Confederations Cup games if they qualify. If they do qualify for the Confederations Cup though, they will likely only play three games. USA could advance, but let’s look at the qualified teams for the Confederations Cup so far: Brazil, Spain and Japan. Because Brazil qualify as the host, the Copa America winner (or runner up if Brazil win) will also join the tournament. Because Spain won the World Cup, the Euro 2012 winner (or the runner up if Spain win) will join the tournament as well. Rounding out the eight teams will be the CONCACAF winner, New Zealand (the likely Oceania winner) and the African winner. If you went by the FIFA rankings right now, the eight teams invited would be Brazil, Spain, Japan, Argentina, Netherlands, USA, New Zealand and Ghana and since teams from the same confederation have to be split up, the easiest group USA could get would be:

 

Argentina

Netherlands

USA

New Zealand

 

Yikes. Though that isn’t as hard as our 2009 Confederations Cup group. Either way, chances are good that USA will only play three games here. Since I expect USA to be at this tournament (though if Landon were trying to get 200 caps, it would be better for him to just play in the Gold Cup), I will say that Landon will get two caps from friendlies, three Confederations Cup caps and ten qualifying caps to end 2013 with 162 caps.

 

2010 (2014): In 2010 USA played in ten friendlies of differing meaning. Some (about half) were games designed to integrate younger players while others were warm-ups for the World Cup or just “A” international games after the World Cup. In all Landon, featured in four friendlies and four World Cup games. Being optimistic and saying that USA will reach the quarterfinals in 2014 (not THAT much of a reach), Landon should hit eight caps in the World Cup year or nine if he doesn’t retire afterwards, giving him 171 caps.

 

Landon Donovan will be 32 after the 2014 World Cup is over and he will have to weigh his options. Does a player with so many miles on him want to continue playing and set all kinds of new records? Will Landon still be playing at a high enough level to be selected? I say yes to both questions. I think that Landon will at least try to play in another World Cup. If he does, he will definitely own both the USMNT and FIFA records for caps. Is 200 caps likely? Probably not, but it is definitely plausible. Now if USA were to make a dream run to the semifinals or final in 2014 (I give it about a 5% chance), I can see Landon retiring on a happy note. Only time will tell if Landon’s body and mind will hold up for one more go.

 

Moving on to MLS:1

Random Week 9 (8? 10? I have no idea) thoughts:

  • DC United’s youth movement looks to be paying off with Bill Hamid, Andy Najar, and Ethan White all emerging as regular starters and contributors to the team currently in the last playoff spot.
  • Toronto might (is) be the worst team in the league.
  • I was a few hours off on my prediction that Carlos De Los Cobos would be the first coach fired this season with Vancouver’s Teitur Thordarson beating De Los Cobos to the punch.
  • The officiating in the DC game was terrible.
  • I finally admitted on Twitter that Chris Wondolowski does not suck

 

Golden Boot Standings:

Player                                                   GP     G     A

  1. Landon Donovan                 11     8     1
  2. Thierry Henry                        9      6     3
  3. Chris Wondolowski              11    6      2
  4. Charlie Davies                        9      6      1
  5. Luke Rodgers                          11    5      2

 

Goal Tracker 2011 Wondo vs Barrett

Wondo                  Barrett

6                           3

 

Supporter’s Shield Watch:

  1. LA Galaxy 1.93 PPG
  2. Real Salt Lake 1.89 PPG
  3. Philadelphia Union 1.82 PPG
  4. FC Dallas 1.69 PPG
  5. Portland Timbers 1.54 PPG
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