The Seven Stages of Landon Donovan Grief

Hard to believe we may never see you not wear the national team shirt again. (Photo: cnn.com)

Hard to believe we may never see you not wear the national team shirt again. (Photo: cnn.com)

OTF loves America: we put that on a t-shirt. And now America is hurting, we’re here to help us all get through this with the definitive guide to Landon Donovan grief…

These are tough times for USMNT fans. Landon Donovan, the best American soccer player of his generation (not now, have some respect – we’re hurting here), will spend the summer bamboozling the likes of the Philadelphia Union instead of Ghana or Portugal.

It’s the end of an era for US soccer, and fans across the country are grieving.

OTF Soccer is here to help. After a rigorous review of the literature quick trip to the first link that came up on Google, we learned there are seven stages of grief. 

And you may have to go through them all before you can make peace with USMNT sans LD. 

Since the World Cup is a little more than two weeks away, there isn’t a lot of time to get through this, so OTF Soccer has put together an accelerated Landon grieving guide for you. Read this, and you’ll be traveled across the full spectrum of grief and ready to throw your emotions behind USMNT on June 16.

You’re welcome, America.

Don't worry, LD. This is gonna work. (Photo: grantland.com)

Don’t worry, LD. This is gonna work. (Photo: grantland.com)

Shock and Disbelief

The first stage: utter failure to understand what has happened. James Vlahakis is so consumed, he is LD…

Oh Scheisse! How is this possible? While ESPNFC says that I’m “[n]ot consistent enough” and that I’ve “failed to prove [my]self completely outside of the MLS,” I have scored more World Cup goals than the last two winners of the Ballon d’Or!  Heck, I scored two last weekend for the Galaxy!

I don’t understand Jürgen’s decision, my goal against the powerhouse of Algeria was amazing! What’s my German coach have against me? Did I offend Jürgen’s Nana at the 1:11 minute mark of my famous video?

Speaking of Germans, I’ve scored more goals across three World Cups than the four goals Thomas Muller scored in the 2010 WC!

Sure, I took a sabbatical, but that’s because I was transporting a load of Todd’s shoes to Cambodia!

I don’t care that people don’t like me. A recent photo shows that I’m not an underwear-modeling, six-pack sporting guy like Ronaldo. He’s just desperate for attention! Just give me a chance, and I’ll show the world my Ballons d’Or!

I’m not an egotistical guy like Balotelli. As I said before the 2010 World Cup: “The reality is, when you’re somewhat successful at what you do, there’s always a group of people who aren’t going to like you. I like to think I live my life the right way, and that’s what’s important. But I understand that people are passionate about soccer, and that’s OK.” 

Sigh, maybe gymnastics isn’t all what it’s cracked up to be? Maybe Cambodia is nice this time of the year?

Phase 1: Shock & Disbelief (Photo: AP Photo/Alfredo Lopez-JAM Media)

Phase 1: Shock & Disbelief (Photo: AP Photo/Alfredo Lopez-JAM Media)

Denial

Alex White is not ready to let go…

This can’t be right. Did I hear that right? There must have been some kind of mistake! I know Landon’s had a dip in form, but…

Wait! The camp just started, how could they possibly cut people already? That’s not even shooting from the hip; it’s shooting from the holster.

Oh! I know. It’s all a motivational tactic! Think about it: how do you motivate the player who’s done it all? Snub him, and give his shoulder the biggest chip possible! The Klinsmeister is simply brilliant—and it’s already working. Landon really had a fire in him when back playing with his club: two goals, an assist, and an MLS scoring title; and it’s only been a week!

Klinsi knows. He’s been around the block and is well aware that guys get injured all the time. Just one forward or mid goes down in training, and Donny is back, baby! Who better to bring in as an emergency sub than arguably your strongest veteran? He’ll be playing with lava in his belly for sure (it’s definitely, definitely not a paunch)!

Or–guys, I’ve got it: J.K. is j/k!  Oh, wow, he really got me with that one! It’s just too ridiculous to leave off one of the few Americans to have played in Europe. And no one knows that about Donovan better than Klinsi: he took a leap of faith on Landon and brought him in, on loan at Bayern.  (You remember, it was Coach K’s only year there and they fired him halfway through—although that, just like Landon’s sabbatical during World Cup qualifying, obviously would have nothing to do with this decision! Duh!)

It’s all an elaborate prank. Oh, that German sense of humor! I bet they even have a word for something-incredibly-insulting-your-boss-does-but-thinks-is-hilarious.

Whew!  Next thing you know, Jurgen will be announcing a friendly in Cambodia…

Maybe he's just exhaling? (Photo: imgur.com)

Lava in the belly (Photo: imgur.com)

Anger

The third stage is anger. Ricardo Ortiz is angry and he’s channeling that rage in the only way long-time LA resident Landon will understand: by writing a screenplay.

Sinking. Your face flushes red and the perspiration on the back of your neck becomes all too real, it makes your shirt feel tight. Is it hot in here? Everything feels pressed in close. Your ears feel like they’ve plugged. You decide to go outside. It’s what you think you would do in the movie they make about you. How would they portray this moment? Is this the second act, or the third act? The beginning or the beginning of the end?

Breathe. You think the movie should look something like this.

Act 1: Scene 1

Ext. Beach in California

Static profile shot of a young L. Donovan staring out the sea. Palm trees wave gently in the breeze behind him as dark ominous clouds gather over the Pacific ocean. Behind him the soft sounds of a TV play out snippets of dialogue across the open screen door.

TV Announcer:

“Jurgen Klinnsman has cut Landon Donovan….Pathetic….over the hill….is too old.”

The camera slowly circles around to the front of his face. His eyes focus on the camera.

Cut to black

Act 2: Scene 1

Fade in title, white letters on black text.

4 years later. FIFA World Cup Russia.

Ext. Moscow Stadium

L. Donovan triumphantly walks out onto the field, the roar and boos of the crowd overwhelm any other sounds…

****

Snap out of it. After a time you realize you’re alone. You feel as though the world has telescoped down to a reverberating core around you. Everyone has moved on without you. Thank yous, tributes, nods are dead. You have not triumphed.

As you come to this realization you lean your forehead against one warm soft spot on the wall, and laugh until tears flow down your face. You’ve lost. You’ve lost. You’ve lost.

We asked OTF Soccer’s artist-in-residence, GgooglyBoogly, for his take. He gave us a characteristically nuanced, subtle, and evocative interpretation of rage:

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Bargaining

Austin Fido has an idea to make this whole thing go away…

Hey there, Landon. You OK? This is hard on you, I know. It’s hard on me too. But listen, buddy, I have a plan – I think I see how to make this better.

It’ll take a little compromise, but that’s fine, isn’t it? All we want to see is you and Klinsi get back together. Like the good old days.

What’s that? OK – the good old day: the Gold Cup final was pretty sweet. 

Anyway, here’s the plan. We’re dealing with a problem as old as our species: Klinsi’s got his eye on a newer model. It’s fine, he is who he is – and we can win him back. 

We know JK can’t turn down the advances of a sprightly young German, and if that’s what it’s going to take, then that’s what you need to be. You spent some time in Germany, you must have picked up some of the language. 

Oh. You only know how to say, “A one-way ticket to California, please.” Well, it’s a start. Say that, very slowly. Throw in “strudel” and “pretzel”: Klinsi is a baker’s boy; he can’t resist when you start talking pastry.

That’s all it will take. Landon Donovan transforms to Lebkuchen Von Dovan. Dribble down the touchline while munching on a gugelhupf, and you’re back in!

Like we practised, LD. Don't forget the gugelhupf. (Photo: soccerbyives.net)

Like we practised, LD. Don’t forget the gugelhupf. (Photo: soccerbyives.net)

Guilt

It’s time to acknowledge what has happened and own it. Nick Fox is owning it pretty hard.

This is all my fault.

I suppose we all gave you a hard time, Landon. Questioning your drive, your leadership, your edge, your fitness.

But I know, deep down, that I was the one you really listened to. It was just a year and a half ago that I walked up to you in that bar after my fourth Zima and said, “Damn it, Landon. You’re not getting any younger. Why don’t you take a break and go to Cambodia or something?”

And six months later you were back in the States with a glazed look, talking about temples and “beautiful people.”

But the real crime was loudly questioning your commitment during an exhibition match. You would think I would have noticed Jurgen Klinsman sitting on the next stool. You would think I would have known him by the terse way he ordered his peppermint schnapps.

“Do you not think he deserves to be on the national team?” my neighbor inquired.

“Nah,” I said. “He’s had his time. Let some of these younger kids have a chance. What have we got to lose?”

And now, everything is ruined. I should have been more supportive. I should have busted the chops of every commentator who questioned your drive. I should have been there for you, and now I’ll never see you in a U.S. jersey again.

I’m so sorry, Landon. I’m sorry for the lack of faith. I’m sorry for the comments. And I’m so very, very sorry that I’m eating this entire cheesecake.

Just don't call it a Landycake  (Photo: slate.com)

Just don’t call it a Landycake
(Photo: slate.com)

Depression

We’re getting close to the end. Juan Santoliva has chosen to withdraw from the world and embrace the pain.

May 22, 2014 will go down as one of the darkest days of my life: Jurgen Klinsmann surprised us all by announcing the final 23 players representing the U.S. in Brazil this summer.

As I read down the list, I was impressed and shocked by some of the additions and exclusions of some players. I then scrolled again. And again. And again.

Where’s that famous, #10-wearing, all-time USMNT and MLS-leading scorer Landon Donovan?!

Almost a week later, I’m still lying in my bed; lights off, with a big tub of cookies n’ cream ice cream on my lap, tears rolling down my face.

All I hear is Ian Darke’s voice yelling “GO! GO! USA!”

I’m rewatching the glory days on YouTube, when Donovan tucked away the winning goal to send the U.S. to the next round of the 2010 World Cup.

Why is Jurgen doing this to me? Does he not realize that Donovan IS U.S. soccer? Why do I feel so cold? It could be all the ice cream I’ve been eating.

Or maybe it’s the six-pack I just downed. Either way, I’ll never hear “Donovan scores for the U.S.A.” again. It’s all just memories now. It’s all I have.

What kind of great memories will I get from this young U.S. squad ready to take on the Group of Death? None!

What realistic hope is there for my team without its leader? The U.S. is already out. So we should all just raise our beers and drink to our fallen comrade. 

So cold  (Photo: article.wn.com)

So cold
(Photo: article.wn.com)

Acceptance

It might take a while, but this too shall pass. At the end of the process is acceptance, the strength and will to move on. TJ Zaremba is already there…

There is no question: Landon Donovan belongs on the Mount Rushmore of USMNT players.

This is not an opinion, this is a statement of fact. However, just because you are a legend, does not mean you are guaranteed a spot on the World Cup team. I hate to break the news to everyone, but Landon Donovan’s omission from the final 23 going to Brazil should not be shocking. It is the right call by Jurgen Klinsmann.

The bottom line is that in 2014, Landon Donovan has not been in good form. He was left out of the Mexico game for bad training sessions due to a knee injury. He had exactly 0 goals in MLS 2014 until he got tossed aside and took out his frustrations on a particularly weak Philadelphia Union. 

His game is predicated on speed and scoring goals, and he had neither working for him going into training camp. Cutting him was a no-brainer. 

There are people who say Landon’s leadership is the reason he should be in the final 23. This is simply wrong. He never actually captained a World Cup team: Carlos Bocanegra had the armband in 2010; Claudio Reyna led USMNT in 2002 and 2006.

A true “leader” does not take a break to find himself during the most difficult qualifying campaign ever. 

You are the first one into training and the last one out. You are setting the example for the younger players instead of being made an example of by your coach.

Maybe Donovan is one of the best 23 the Yanks have (I don’t think so at this point), but this isn’t an all-star team. It took USA Basketball years to figure this out. The idea is to put together the team that gives the US the best chance to succeed. That means a role player, such as Brad Davis or Chris Wondolowski, has more value than Landon Donovan.

At the end of the day, Klinsi did not feel Donovan belonged in his final 23, and based on form, health, commitment and role on the team, it is very difficult to argue his decision.

Time to move on, LD. The next generation is already in its regrettable blond highlights phase. (Photo: soccer.si.com)

Time to move on, LD. The next generation is already in its regrettable blond highlights phase. (Photo: soccer.si.com)

****

Follow @OTFSoccer

****

For further assistance with the process of recovery, seek out OTF Soccer’s contributing psychoanalysts on Twitter: @jvlaha, @A1exWhite, @OlympicMule, @RickHardTimes, @jsants90, @TJZaremba, and @canetop.

OTF’s artist-in-residence @GgooglyBoogly should be actively avoided if you are emotionally fragile. 

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “The Seven Stages of Landon Donovan Grief

  1. Pingback: Brazil 2014: CONCACAF Corner | OTF Soccer

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