Saturday, May 31, 2014

Implausible Dreams - June 2014

I'm not giving in to security under pressure
I'm not missing out on the promise of adventure
I'm not giving up on implausible dreams

Implausible Dreams is my personal webpage, originally posted in 2002. It has gone through a few changes since then, but the basics remain - sharing my passions. Right now, the main focus is FC Dallas and the 2014 World Cup.

As such, here is my latest on FC Dallas - The Red Book.

Also, the biggest news about the World Cup for US soccer fans is Landon Donovan's exclusion from the roster. I think I may have figured out a few reasons why, followed by Digging Deeper Into Donovan Decision.

It is interesting how things come full circle. When I started this webpage, it was to channel my passion for the US going to the 2002 World Cup. Now, we are seeing the end of that arc, at least for Landon Donovan. What new Implausible Dreams lay in store for us now?

Look for more articles about the US national team as we go forward, along with regular updates to The Red Book.

Previous version of my Implausible Dreams overview.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Digging Deeper into the Donovan Decision

It has been days, and still the decision to not include Landon Donovan in the US National team going to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup is a talking point.

As I have talked with fans and players alike, and read more than a few articles - some rather fire-breathing - I must admit I am more confused than when the discussion began, but I do know a few things more than when I wrote my first article - enough that I felt it worth another piece.

Before I go into that, though, I want to say that I have no direct knowledge of Landon Donovan or Jurgen Klinsmann, or anyone involved with the current US National Team program, so everything you see here is me doing as you probably are - sifting through various facts and details that are not continuous and contiguous. In fact, the quotes below are from the ESPN "Inside: US Soccer's March to Brazil" and therefore are not directly in context of "Why was Donovan left off the team."

I am going to break these into two groups of themes. The first group will continue where I left off in my previous article - possible reasons for Klinsmann's decision. The second group will touch on the concerns I am left with after evaluating the first group.

But I want to highlight something - I learned a long time ago not to make concrete judgments about a coach, certainly not without being in the middle of the practices and training sessions, and with the coaching background that professional coaches have, and with an intimate knowledge of the players themselves.

That comes from seeing things at the local level in Dallas (six different head coaches over nineteen seasons) and from the Korea and Germany World Cups, as well as various other matches in the US. Time and again, things impacted the way the teams played that there simply was no way to see from the outside. This may very well be another one of those times.

The Arguments For The Decision

Not a lot has changed in the public reasons for leaving Donovan off the roster, but certainly the vitriol has risen. Throw in Donovan scoring MLS goals 135 and 136 - breaking the record for most goals by a player in league history - and you have a cauldron of discussion all across the Twitterverse, Facebook and the internet.

But we do seem to have more details fleshed out for what I break into three different reasons why Donovan may have been left off the roster.


It is probably unfair, but Donovan has been dogged by complaints that he hasn't shown consistent, professional grit - specifically, he hasn't taken on the challenge of European football and found a way to stick. I have always felt that this is unfair in large part because what it takes to make it to be a professional athlete is amazing - the physical work, the skill work, the mentality. It takes monumental grit to get to where Donovan has been in MLS and for the US.

But in this moment, the past doesn't matter. What matters is does (the player in question) have the (specific variable) to help the US National Team succeed in the toughest group in the 2014 FIFA World Cup?

And in this situation, does Donovan have the grit to keep pace with Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey?

"We have to know what it means to compete at the highest level," Bradley said in the aforementioned ESPN piece. "We have to be a group that is ready to stick together and fight like a bunch of warriors together for 90 minutes."

"I've always been taken by athletes who aren't necessarily the best, the most skillful, the most talented players, but the ones who know what it means to compete and fight."


I can't even say I know anything about this topic other than I know it is an open question. Considering the waves of support Donovan has been getting, from all over the place including public statements from players like Bradley and goalkeeper Tim Howard, I am tempted to say this is the least likely of the three, but there is enough there that I feel it must be mentioned.

"When we get to Brazil, those three games, the biggest thing is going to be our togetherness," Tim Howard said, again from the ESPN piece. "All the rest of it, we will have done. We will have done all the running, our lungs will be filled, we'll have the strength. Its going to be the togetherness."

Burn Out?

This is another topic that there really is no way to know from the outside, but is Landon Donovan able to play at a high level, consistently? He took a sabbatical for a reason, and clearly credit should be given to him for recognizing that and going and doing it. And you have to admit, he looked rather strong Sunday night. But one quote struck me the most from the ESPN piece, and this is probably the one that is most on point and most germane to the conversation. Of all the quotes, this one is clearly in context.

"Jurgen has made it clear to me that he needs me to be consistent and performing, "Donovan said. "Sometimes its a little difficult for me. I can't train 12 straight days in a row and have 12 straight great days in a row. Physically, its not possible. My body breaks down, I'm getting older."

"I want to make sure that when I get to camp in May that I'm performing at my absolute best."

And that is probably the ultimate question - was he?

Arguments Against

But I am left with some lingering questions. Ultimately, while the reasons above may give why he isn't a first choice starter, I - and I think most who question the decision - can't seem to shake the feeling that he still has a lot more to bring to the team than players who are less experienced, less well-rounded, less skilled or less athletic. I am not going to name names, but I think we all know different players that those terms could apply to.

And here is where I get uneasy, because when you look at the successes of the US national team in the World Cup, so much of it leans on depth, where being able to play a fresh player is the difference between getting out of a group or not.

My most vivid moment of me learning "I know not what the coach should do" was the USA-Portugal match in 2002. I happened into some information before the game - that Claudio Reyna, Earnie Stewart and Clint Mathis were not going to be available for the game. I was floored. We were scared enough of the Golden Generation of Portugal as it was - don't take away our No. 10 and two of the best players on the roster too!

But then, the game that awoke a soccer nation happened, with a certain Landon Donovan playing an integral role. This was the youthful, inexperienced, but supremely talented kid that coach Bruce Arena had force fed minutes throughout the post-qualification process. It seemed almost every match in preparation for Korea included significant time for Donovan, and it paid off in spades. Of course, it wasn't just Donovan that day, but he surely was a big part.

So on one hand, I want to give Klinsmann the benefit of the doubt as so often, it has been made clear to me that coaching professional soccer is a high art and no amount of research will make Monday Morning Centerbacking effective. I know I had a lot of doubts about the young Landon Donovan as Arena kept giving him game after game after game in the lead up to 2002.

But I can't help think that after we have played Ghana, and gotten a result, that in the next two games - massive matches against the Nos. 2 and 3 teams in the world - being able to start Donovan would bring more to the table than to start someone who currently has zero World Cup experience, someone who doesn't bring the range of skill or athleticism or experience playing alongside Dempsey, Bradley, etc.

Personally, I don't think it was Donovan over the youthful players. I *think* it was other players that Klinsmann believes will be a better part of the overall unit, come off the bench strong when asked to, not start and still be ready to go 100% when his name is called, whether it is because of a perception of a drop in form of Donovan, or whether it is the up and down nature of his ability over the last years, or ultimately is it this - a perception that Donovan wants to be the lead dog, isn't any more, and like many many many other former greats, isn't able to make that transition that other players in the US kit have to a smaller role.

And only time will tell whether Klinsmann got it right. I do maintain my somewhat blind faith in a coaching staff that is that professional, has that experience, including World Cup experience. I am sure he has sounded out some in his his leadership cadre and gotten their take on whether Donovan should be in the 23, and has more than just personal reasons for keeping one of the greatest players to ever wear the US kit out of this World Cup.

But after more than a few days to marinate on this, I can't shake a feeling of unease that maybe we over-emphasized certain issues at the expense of the overall equation - that the World Cup is a grind of epic proportions, and in this World Cup, the US faces a tougher group than they have ever faced, and a player of Donovan's ability and experience can be managed into a situation where he is a motivated, energized part of a collective heartbeat that can get the all important results against Portugal or Germany, or if the US finds a way to advance, against its opponent in the Round of 16.

And if not, is that a reflection of Donovan, or Klinsmann?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Landon Donovan

After reflection, more on Landon Donovan

So we are less than 24 hours since the surprise absence of Landon Donovan from the roster for the US National Team going to the World Cup in Brazil, but the internet has been all abuzz about it and it seems some thoughts have been fleshed out. How abuzz? My college football Twitter list has been buried in it.

We know he still has talent, skill and athleticism, as well as a wealth of experience. Many are arguing that surely, he is an asset to any World Cup squad. And that is all very true.

Others have pointed out the up-and-down nature of his game over the last few years and asked if he is motivated enough to go through the grind that is a World Cup tournament, especially one as difficult as the group stage the US is facing - Germany, Portugal and the US nemesis the last few World Cups, Ghana.

But a LOT of the emotion that is coming to support Landon seems to be,"But he DESERVES it."

And here is where I think we can draw some distinctions.

US fans, we absolutely, totally, and completely owe him our thanks. A thousand times over. From the greatness of Suwon to the game against Algeria, and so many times in between, he provided something that the US needed to raise itself from the bowels of the international soccer world. Without him, we do not upset Portugal in the 2002 World Cup, or beat Mexico that same tournament. We maybe don't qualify for the 2006 World Cup. Or 2010. And the amazing moments in South Africa in 2010 - against Slovenia, and Algeria - do not happen without his unique skill set.

And frankly, that doesn't touch on hundreds of other games in between that also added to the credibility of the USA as a soccer nation.

But this isn't about thanks. That is what a farewell tour is for. Go see him play for the Los Angeles Galaxy and make him a sign if you want to thank him (and seriously, go do that. I am not being snarky or sarcastic when I say that - he deserves to see that). This is about the World Cup, a grind of a tournament like no other.

The USA has never faced a more athletic, skilled, talented, or experienced group of teams in the World Cup. FIFA rankings - Germany, 2; Portugal 3; Ghana technically 38th, but we know they are better than that, having made the Round of 16 in 2006 and the Quarterfinals in 2010. So the US is going to need its very best players performing at their very best, and the group as a whole performing as a cohesive unit to even have a reasonable showing, let alone get out of the group.

And where does Landon Donovan fit in that?

Considering his last three years, not real cleanly. His talent, his skill, his athleticism and his experience is not to be denied. But is he ready to go through the grind - and not just go through it, but lead and succeed?

This is where I think Jurgen Klinsmann is headed with his exclusion of Donovan. That a player with that level of experience will be expected to lead from the front, and if Donovan isn't ready to pick up the baton and run with it, maybe it isn't best for the group that he be there?

Personally, I don't know. I am like many - an outsider trying to make sense of it all. But from this particular cheap seat, I see a player who is tired, who has done his bit for King and Country, and as such deserves our respect and thanks, but who simply isn't ready to go back into the meat grinder that is a World Cup tournament.

So thank you, Landon Donovan, for a thousand things you have done to improve this soccer nation. Know that every step of success the USA has going forward is heavily influenced by your efforts, your passion, your personality. We are better for it.

But that does not equate to a spot on the World Cup roster, harsh as that might seem. You see, you did it - you helped us grow up. Being one of the 23 best players from your country is no longer good enough to make the World Cup roster. We wouldn't be here if it weren't for you. 

Go HERE for Part II as this story just doesn't seem to want to go away...


Thanks for joining me here at Implausible Dreams. Continue reading about soccer at The Red Book.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Red Book - My articles about Dallas Soccer, including FC Dallas and MLS Rankings

This is a collection of my writing about FC Dallas for and 3rd Degree/Dallas Morning News. If you want to keep up with the articles I am doing, you can bookmark this post as I plan on keeping them current with the most recent at the top. You can also go to these pages for my and 3rd Degree/Dallas Morning News/Kevin Lindstrom pages.

Most Recent

Well, it was a great experience last year, and as I can, I will try to update with links to all of the articles I did for last season and this past off-season, but the editors there have said they want to find someone currently in the field - which makes a lot of sense. As such, I am not  writing for as their regular beat writer covering FC Dallas.

Thanks to all for their feedback and readership. I am proud of the work I did, and thankful to the editors who worked to make some of my rough edges a little less rough. I wish them the best and think they have done well with their current writer, Scott Sidway (@ScottyWK).

I am currently having to figure out next steps for me. It was fun, I think I provided something people enjoyed reading and brought a unique perspective to things, but it also was a larger time commitment than I preferred and, oddly, at the same time, felt I could have done more. I also struggled a little with direction (as all writers and editors do)....

So I will leave it at this - read the other sources listed below, as well as Scott, and know that I am very glad to have been a part of things in 2014.

Also, this is the 2014 season in review I did for FC Dallas - I think it is a good ender for this chapter of The Red Book:

FC Dallas - 2014 Season in Review

Other Sources

I also recommend the following websites for other coverage on the best-covered MLS club(*).

FC Dallas (Official)
3rd Degree/Dallas Morning News (Original greatness)
BigDSoccer (More recent greatness)

I have an overall soccer links page that needs updating, but here is the current version

(*) (by leaps and bounds, and certainly not because of my involvement, although I will always strive to make sure I am pulling my own weight)

Other past MLS Power Rankings:

Other past articles about FC Dallas

FC Dallas 3, Colorado 1 (Match Recap) - Mauro Diaz gets first start since injury, team continues to win

FC Dallas also hosted a Special Olympics match between Special Olympics Texas and Special Olympics Colorado. Well done to all involved. Here is my match recap, as well as the one FC Dallas did for the game.

I recently posted a peice discussing the effect of Sunday night's win over Chivas USA and the way next weekend sets up for the team.

Akindele, team growth key for Dallas in first road win in almost four months

Castillo, Escobar, others back for FC Dallas

I had previously written where FC Dallas is in its season and where it might be going.

ADVISORY - I am working on a piece for that another space-clearing roster move is coming for FC Dallas. I will send it out once it is official. Official story - Thomas Placed on Season Ending Injury List, Other moves in the works

With the recent trade of Andrew Jacobson, here are a few ideas as well as the article for
Starting with Vancouver, FC Dallas treating remaining games "Like Playoff Games"


So back in April of 2014, I was presented with another Implausible Dream - writing for covering FC Dallas. Why yes, I will have that!

On top of that, this season I started back up doing my MLS Power Rankings for 3rd Degree, now the soccer blog for the Dallas Morning News

The writing for is a great experience. My college degree was in Journalism, and one of my most favorite life experiences was travelling to the College World Series to cover the Texas A&M Aggies, so getting back to writing about sports is exciting, especially now that it is covering FC Dallas and MLS.

I am pretty excited about getting back to the Rankings as well, as I originally started doing Power Rankings back in 1996. Even when I was on staff with FC Dallas, I continued to do them, although they weren't published. I just did it as an exercise to keep me in touch with the league.

Things are still going well with the Lindstrom Law Firm. Well enough that I have time to do these other things and still have a great life with Janice and Kyle.

Why "The Red Book"?

By the way, why The Red Book? Just continuing my Rush-theme, from Distant Early Warning, "Take a page from The Red Book and keep them in your sights."