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Landon Donovan

Klinsmann’s Decision to Cut Donovan From World Cup Is Wise

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.

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  1. KFritz

    May 23, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    How about a dispassionate analysis?

    Of the four remaining attackers, which would Donovan have replaced? Aron Johannsson just finished a banner year @ AZ Alkmaar. Clint Dempsey has played exceptionally well w/ Seattle. Chris Wondolowski has scored three of USMNT’s last four goals–against S. Korea & Mexico, not the Republic of Chopped Liver. That leaves Jozy Altidore, who did NOT have a banner year @ Sunderland. It came down to Altidore vs. Donovan. To hazard a guess, Jozy Altidore was more impressive to Klinsmann in training camp than Donovan. The difference was probably a combination of technique, conditioning, and attitude. Altidore beat out Donovan.

    And bet that Donovan is the #1 standby, especially after his classy behavior today. I hope that Bradley & Howard put on their thinking caps, and figure all this out–or someone explains it to them.


    • Dan

      June 14, 2014 at 10:23 am

      Rather than compare to these 4, I think I would rather see Donovan in there instead of Beckerman or Beasley.

  2. Cody (#2)

    May 23, 2014 at 9:29 am

    One problem I see with this decision, is that it is about 100 times more controversial than leaving Eddie Johnson off the 30 man selection.

    So what Klinsmann has set himself up for is this decision being scrutinized every time something goes wrong in Brazil.

    My fear is that we don’t get out of the group stage in Brazil. At that point a lot of the media is going to look back at this decision. Pressure will mount, and US Soccer will part ways with JK. I don’t want that to happen, but lets be honest, this decision is more likely to break than make.

  3. old33

    May 23, 2014 at 9:07 am

    In 1998, Steve Sampson cut John Harkes. We didn’t find out why until years later, but I certainly understand Sampson’s reasoning. Hopefully we will also be able to understand Klinsmann’s, and that will be easier to do by advancing from the group stage. It might be a pipedream but I still have hope…

  4. Brn442

    May 23, 2014 at 12:42 am

    Klinsman has had years to push US soccer “foward”, his job the next two months is to win the World Cup. Not sure how leaving Donovan off the squad entirely, accomplishes that.

    If the German felt slighted by the striker’s sabbatical, he should have never picked him again period, not string him along.

    From Gazza, to Redondo, Baggio to Nasri…there are no guarantees of indispensability but this one is a true head scratcher. History will see if he was correct or not.

  5. gillyrosh

    May 22, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    “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.”

    -I’m not at all perturbed at JK’s exclusion of LD from this squad, but you need to back up a statement like this.

    How does this decision move US soccer forward? I’m not saying it does or doesn’t, I just didn’t read anything in your piece that supported this rather bold statement. Does leaving out Donovan noticeably improve the player pool? Change the style of play in some way?

    If it’s just about “sending a message,” that’s a fuzzy goal at best and, at worst, makes the manager look like petty.

  6. Bo

    May 22, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    A funny part of this is seeing people that barely have any clue of the USMNT aside for 3 games every 4 years are angry. come on. While I would have liked Landon to have gone he obviously didn’t impress the last 2 weeks. Jurgen’s not stupid, He knew what cutting him would do in the media but sometimes you just have to do it. We all know from Landon even speaking himself he wasn’t going to play every game or even a full 90. Yes he’d had been good for experience but we have many other experienced players going too. Actually more then Brazil and a few other countries, plus a world cup winning and very experienced coach/player. It’s just the end of an era and it had to come one day.


    May 22, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    It was a decision not for 2104 but for 2018. Well noted by Kartik that Klinsmann has a new contract and the youth on this squad shows he is thinking more of 2018. Frankly the air seemed sucked out of Klinsmann ever since the draw came out and the USA was handed mission impossible.

    It appears that the US can not begin qualification for 2018 soon enough.

  8. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    May 22, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    True guys on Reyna. I guess I forgot 94 because he didn’t play. If Beasley takes the pitch he’ll be the first to play in 4.

  9. CH

    May 22, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    Actually if im correct Zlatan took a sabbatical from international football after sweden failed to qualify for the 2010 world cup. So this happens in big football countries too. European players just call it a “temporary retirement”.

  10. KapUSMC

    May 22, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    I tend to disagree with this article. To me, this whole roster is impacted by the contract extension. It looks like they are capitulating given the group draw, and just trying to get experience for the next WC. If Jurgen were coaching for his job (as every manager should be for each cycle) .

    • Yespage

      May 22, 2014 at 11:14 pm

      Did he drop Donavon, Dempsey, Howard, Cameron? How is this capitulation?!

      • KapUSMC

        May 23, 2014 at 1:01 am

        Brooks, Yedlin, Goodsen.. There were players who have played far better than all of them. To me, this looks more like looking to 2018 than this tournament. Of course, now with twitter response from his kid, makes it appear more like this was a personal thing.

        • jimm

          May 23, 2014 at 2:57 am

          Donovan can play midfield or forward. Does anyone really believe that Landon is the either the ninth best midfielder or the fifth best forward in the US (which he would have to be to be left off the team)? I simply do not believe that even Klinsmann thinks that.

          • KFritz

            May 27, 2014 at 9:08 am

            That’s exactly what I believe.

  11. Dan

    May 22, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Beasley was not the first field player to make a fourth world cup team. That honor belongs to Claudio Reyna (’94, ’94, ’02, ’06)

    • Dan

      May 22, 2014 at 7:25 pm


    • ResearchAnalyst

      May 22, 2014 at 7:26 pm

      You’re correct Dan, as we assume you meant ’94, ’98, ’02, ’06.

    • R.O

      May 22, 2014 at 10:58 pm

      Reyna was “named” to the 1994 team but did not play or on the squad as he was injured before the world cup started.

  12. Jordan Kisel

    May 22, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    I completely agree with your article it seemed as if Donovan became too complacent after the Gold Cup and that he probably felt he had earned his spot,I’m glad klinsmann has taken the next step in order for the culture to change here in the states. Landon clearly didn’t show enough and I’m happy klinsmann had the courage to leave him off the roster

  13. ResearchAnalyst

    May 22, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Claudio Reyna was named to 4 World Cup squads. Quality research, Kartik.

    • CassanovaFrankenstein

      May 22, 2014 at 9:28 pm

      Just like the “Sh!tty Beatles”, you are not just a clever name…

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