Landon Donovan says he disagrees with Jurgen Klinsmann’s assertion that the US cannot win the World Cup.
“It’s no surprise that I disagree with Jurgen,” said Donovan in an interview on ESPN this afternoon.
Donovan believes he had a case to be in the starting XI when the US opens its World Cup campaign against Ghana next Monday evening. The LA Galaxy soccer player made the comments after ESPN today announced the addition of Landon Donovan to its 2014 FIFA World Cup coverage. The all-time leading scorer’s debut for the network came this afternoon during their two-hour World Cup preview show.
Appearing via satellite in suit and tie for a little less than ten minutes with host Mike Tirico, Donovan addressed his omission from the final 23-man roster for Brazil and reaffirmed his support for the team going forward. Citing the motto of the American Outlaws – I Believe That We Will Win, he strongly disagreed with Jurgen Klinsmann’s repeated assertions that the US has no chance to win the World Cup. He praised the leadership of Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, and Clint Dempsey for taking on increased responsibility in his new role as the US captain.
There is no question that bringing Landon Donovan onboard for the World Cup is a significant coup for ESPN. Donovan is the rare athlete praised by the media for his thoughtfulness and candid responses to any question posed to him. In fact, it has been widely reported that his comment in the May training camp about the limitations of his body as it ages (“Sometimes it’s a bit difficult for me. I can’t train 12 straight days in a row and have 12 straight great days”) was the last straw for Jurgen Klinsmann in not naming Donovan to that final roster. Too many professionals give cliché answers and have made the habit of not actually answering the question asked of them an art. Donovan certainly does not fit into this mold.
As a current player, Donovan will provide insight and analysis that even many of ESPN’s star-studded roster covering this World Cup, including those who will focus specifically on the US National Team like Taylor Twellman and Alexi Lalas, will not be able to do, several years removed from the locker room and certainly having never played for Klinsmann or seeing how he operates on a daily basis. This kind of inside information will be invaluable for ESPN, which will try to make the US National Team as accessible to the American public as possible for the next several weeks. The network has made a fine start in that endeavor with the terrific six-episode documentary Inside: US Soccer’s March to Brazil, giving viewers across the country a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how the team and its coaching staff has built towards this World Cup.
What there will be questions about, however, is the presence of bias on the part of Donovan. He has made it clear that he believes he deserves to be on the team, based not on his contributions to US Soccer in the past, but on his performances leading up to and during the May camp.
Having put on record his difference of opinion with Klinsmann’s evaluation of his abilities and with Klinsmann’s belief in his team’s ability to win the whole tournament, will Donovan be able to remain neutral in his commentary about the US and potential tactical decisions made by Klinsmann during this World Cup? An even better question: do we, the public, want Donovan to be relatively detached and unemotional, or do we want the Landon Donovan who has never held back with the media and who will call things exactly as he sees them?