Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
After calling it the “toughest coaching decision” in his career, U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann faced the press following his decision to leave Landon Donovan off his final 23-man roster for Brazil.
With bubble players such as DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks, and Brad Davis all making the U.S. squad, there was some thought that the squad selections might have been motivated by Klinsmann considering the future, and understanding that the task at hand this summer against Ghana, Portugal, and Germany might be too big.
Klinsmann however said that his choice to leave Donovan as a “standby” player was based on what he was seeing in the present time, and not about what Donovan had done for the USMNT in the past.
“No, this (decision) is based on today,” Klinsmann said at a press conference on Friday at noon. “This is based on what hopefully goes well in the next seven to eight weeks. It had nothing to do with my contract or the perspective that those young players have for the long run. It is our strong feeling that these guys are ready for a World Cup, for coming in any time and doing well.”
There was plenty of foreshadowing in the past two months, including listing the all-time leading USMNT goalscorer as a forward on the preliminary 30-man roster and also leaving him out of the starting lineup in the 2-2 friendly draw with Mexico in April.
Klinsmann also brushed off suggestions that he selected Julian Green over Donovan, saying that “there was never a comparison” between those two players. In the end, Klinsmann reiterated that he felt there were other players who were in some aspects “a little step ahead” of Donovan right now.
“It’s a very tight decision on all of those seven,” Klinsmann said of the players who didn’t make the 23-man roster. “That’s why we brought 30 (to camp) because it is so tight in all the slots all over the field. The way you break it down as coaches is strengths and weaknesses, the bigger puzzle, the entire team, and many different points, and I told every player that it’s not the comparison between what you bring to the table and the other one brings to the table. You as a coach have to make a decision based on what you want to execute in Brazil, what you want to see, how you want to build those components into the entire group.”
“I felt, we coaches felt, the guys that we chose are a little step ahead of Landon in certain areas.”
Klinsmann declined to go into specifics on which areas he found Donovan lacking. Donovan’s own admission on the first episode of ESPN’s “Inside U.S. Soccer” that he can’t train 12 days in a row and have a great day of training each day provides an insight into why Klinsmann may have left Donovan off the roster.
The U.S. manager said that he “admired” the way Donovan took the news, and was glad to hear that Donovan would be on-call in case there is an injury to someone on the 23-man roster.
“He took it highly professionally, with amazing composure,” Klinsmann said. “Obviously it’s a big disappointment, that’s expected, and he said that, that he doesn’t understand it, he thinks he should have been in the 23, which is well taken. I want a player to speak up and say that as well. I tried to lay out a couple of reasons, and those are technical parts and I’m not going into those details right now.”
“I just told him I hope for his understanding and I hope that he stands by us and if something happens tomorrow, then I can call him and he’s back right away. He said and he assured that 24/7 he’s at our disposal, when the call comes he’s ready to go, but obviously he also expressed his disappointment, but in a very professional way, and I admire that a lot.”
Even though he was left off the World Cup squad, Klinsmann hopes that Donovan will still represent the U.S. in the future on the field.
“I have the strong hope that he absolutely continues after (the World Cup),” Klinsmann said. “That is our vision, absolutely, that Landon continues his national team career.”
What do you think of these comments? Do you agree with Klinsmann’s reasons for making his decision? Would you have kept Donovan even if he wasn’t at 100 percent?
Share your thoughts below.