The United States plays a massive Gold Cup quarterfinal match against Jamaica today, but they won't be doing it with the most capped active player or with the country's all-time leading goal scorer. Following three very lackluster performances and a missed training session due to his sister's wedding - which he had permission to attend before the tournament started - Landon Donovan has been benched. Win or lose today, it's a good thing for the USMNT.
Bob Bradley has been accused on multiple occasions of favoritism, stubborn team selection, and hypocrisy when it comes to whether or not out of form players can get spots in his starting lineup. Bradley has maintained that the best players will play and that team selection is largely merit-based, and today he has stuck to that principal. Donovan is not playing well, while both Sacha Kljestan and Alejandro Bedoya are. Chris Wondolowski and Juan Agudelo haven't proven that they deserve to start, so it makes sense to move Clint Dempsey inside. This move is a gutsy one by Bob Bradley, and it should be applauded.
Despite his benching, expect to see Donovan at some time today. It's quite possible that Donovan didn't get a good night's sleep after flying in and told the coach that Bedoya at 100 percent is better than him at 80 percent. Donovan doesn't seem like the kind of guy who would request to sit out a game if he can stand on two legs, but I wouldn't put it past him if he actually thought it was for the good of the team. He's not injured and he's still a great player, so a 30 minute run-out seems likely. Bedoya and Kljestan are both good players, but it would be a surprise to see both play at a very high level for 90 minutes.
Whether this is a case of Bradley sending a message that no player's place is safe or a case of Donovan giving up his starting spot because he knows he doesn't give the team the best chance to win when he isn't 100 percent, this team selection is a good thing for the United States, and a great sign that they're not completely reliant on Donovan and Clint Dempsey. Expect a completely fit and determined team to start the game against Jamaica, and expect a serious spark off the bench from Donovan in the second half.