As we all know, the 23 man USA squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil was announced a few days ago by manager, Jurgen Klinsmann.
It was pretty much as expected except for one omission – Landon Donovan. Yes, arguably the greatest footballer in American history was excluded from the tournament in Brazil in what is one of the biggest, shocking and controversial decisions made. The 32-year-old was instrumental in getting the USA to play in the last three World Cups, even scoring 5 goals in 12 games, but was deemed not good enough to make the final cut whereas Bayern youngster, 18-year-old, Julian Green – who hadn’t played a single minute of club football – was selected.
Donovan was naturally disappointed – “Based on my performances leading up to camp, based on my preparation for the camp, based on my fitness, based on my workload, based on the way I trained and played in camp, I not only thought I was part of the 23, I thought I was in contention to start. So that’s why this has all been pretty disappointing.” His fellow teammates were also saddened by the news as Donovan is a national icon and it’s not like he’s that old either.
Jürgen Klinsmann Justifies Snubbing Donovan from World Cup 2014
Klinsmann though, defended his selection, “The other strikers we see that inch ahead of him. We feel those guys are a little step ahead of Landon in certain areas. That’s why we made that decision. These are very close decisions. It’s not a decision against a player, in this case Landon. It’s a decision for another player. We coaches had the feeling over the last few days. We had an inkling a little bit. We sensed it was the right time now.”
It’s hard to see any striker ‘an inch’ ahead of Donovan though, so why must have Klinsmann really snubbed the LA Galaxy player? After all, it’s not like the USA have a squad filled with immense talent or experience – Donovan was required in a group such as this. All signs point to an already strained relationship between the player and the coach. This leads to the the sabbatical taken by Donovan in 2013 after being ‘exhausted from the weight of the last 15 years.’
Klinsmann has questioned Donovan’s commitment ever since the latter took a break from football. The German who was a World Cup winner and one of the best strikers to play the game simply saw no need for a player to take a break especially when it was at the time qualifying for the World Cup was beginning.
Klinsmann maybe also didn’t see enough performance from Donovan in the early part of the MLS season, perhaps questioning his fitness level. The German manager said he would overhaul the style of play and the culture of soccer in America when he took over in 2011 – Donovan’s exclusion could be the first step as he wants to show his dedication to the future of the United States rather than the present.
Ultimately, the message from Klinsmann is clear – he’s in charge and there are no places granted due to past performances or reputations. Everyone starts with a clean slate from here on out. If the USA do badly in the World Cup, Klinsmann will be vilified, but if they perform above expectations, Klinsmann will be the one justified with this decision.