USMNT Head Coach Jürgen Klinsmann made a courageous decision today that will move the sport of soccer forward in the United States. The US Men’s National head coach and technical director dropped Landon Donovan from his 23-man World Cup squad, which means that the all-time leading US goalscorer will not participate in a fourth World Cup unless he’s called into the squad due to an injury to one of the 23. Meanwhile, former Rangers and Manchester City man DaMarcus Beasley was named to the squad, becoming the first US field player to make four World Cup squads.
Klinsmann’s consideration as USMNT head coach has been to create a playing style and a team purpose and unity. Donovan, whose play has become more erratic in recent years and choose to take a sabbatical from soccer right in the middle of World Cup qualifying, ultimately did not do enough to impress the manager.
After having been given a four-year contract extension earlier this year, Klinsmann stamped his authority and personality once and for all on the team with today’s decision. Reputations and previous honors mean little as the United States evolves in growing its culture around the sport.
In taking this decision, the head coach has demonstrated his courage, leadership and vision. He has proven once again he is without question the right man for the job. In any major soccer nation, Donovan’s sabbatical would have meant dismissal from the national team. Instead in the very insulated and conformist culture of US Soccer, the return of an icon from a self-imposed leave was treated as the return of a conquering hero.
But Klinsmann, who has won a World Cup as a player and reached the semifinals as a coach, knew better. He knew to change the culture of US Soccer required bold moves and demonstrating that we have the maturity and confidence to move forward and not cling to reputations and sentiment.
Today he made the decision that needed to be made. US Soccer and the growth of the sport in this country will be better for it.