Landon Donovan's last call-up to the U.S. men's national team is now official. So is Miguel Ibarra's first. But the vagaries of the MLS calendar have again served to limit coach Jurgen Klinsmann's options.
Klinsmann named a 21-man roster for the friendly against Ecuador in Hartford, Connecticut, on Friday, with alterations to the squad expected for a match against Honduras in Boca Raton, Florida, four days later.
"We look at these two games as an opportunity to take a picture of the player pool as it stands now," Klinsmann said in a prepared statement. "Already the hierarchy starts to shift in some ways, which is normal at the beginning of a cycle. We are excited to look at this group against a very competitive team like Ecuador, and then we will have a chance to bring some different faces for the game against Honduras. Obviously, it's going to be a special night on Friday as everyone in the U.S. Soccer family will have the chance to honor the amazing career of Landon Donovan."
All told, six MLS players were included on the roster, including Donovan and his L.A. Galaxy teammate Omar Gonzalez, Real Salt Lake duo Luis Gil and Nick Rimando, D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid and Seattle Sounders defender DeAndre Yedlin.
However, with the MLS regular season at a critical juncture, big names such as Seattle's Clint Dempsey, Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley and Sporting Kansas City duo Graham Zusi and Matt Besler were left off the roster. Toronto plays Houston at home on Wednesday and the New York Red Bulls away on Saturday, while both Seattle and Kansas City have matches on the same night as the U.S. game. The possibility remains that these players will join the team for the Honduras match.
The rest of the roster bears more than a passing resemblance to the one that defeated the Czech Republic 1-0 last month in Prague. The central midfield trio that showed so well that night -- Alejandro Bedoya, Joe Corona and Mix Diskerud -- returns for this match. The center of defense also performed well in that encounter, so there are calls for Tim Ream, Michael Orozco and John Brooks.
Brooks is something of a curious case, however. He was recently demoted to Hertha Berlin's reserve team after some inconsistent performances, and Klinsmann will no doubt attempt to get a better gauge of his situation over the coming days.
Fabian Johnson also performed well against the Czechs, but according to the Twitter feed of his club, Borussia Monchengladbach, an Achilles tendon injury prevented him from being named to the roster. He will remain in Germany for treatment.
Of course, the names that jump out the most are Donovan and Ibarra. With Donovan set to retire at the end of the current MLS season, Friday's match will mark his 157th and last appearance in a U.S. uniform, concluding an international career in which he set records for goals (57) and assists (58) as well as World Cup caps (12) and World Cup goals (five).
Although the fact that Klinsmann cut Donovan from last summer's World Cup squad likely will make for an awkward moment or two, honoring arguably the best player in the program's history is clearly the right thing to do, and will make for a special occasion indeed.
Donovan's exit coincides with Ibarra's entry. The 24-year-old plays in the NASL for Minnesota United, making him the first player in the reconstituted league's history to earn such an honor and reinforcing Klinsmann's penchant for looking everywhere for talent.
"Miguel is a bit of a late bloomer coming through the NASL system, but he did tremendously well the whole season there," Klinsmann said. "We watched him and a couple other players in the league, and they might go a different path than coming through MLS, Europe or Mexico. But he's a good example that there are different ways to get all the way to the top of the senior national team level."
Ibarra was named the NASL's player of the month for September, and the playmaker has recorded eight goals and five assists on the season for United, who currently top the NASL fall standings after finishing first in the league's spring season.