Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will not be at all uncomfortable during Landon Donovan’s farewell match next month.
Klinsmann on Tuesday touched on the topic of Donovan’s planned final U.S. appearance in the October 10 friendly vs. Ecuador, and said he has no qualms about the decision to honor Donovan’s historic international career before the 32-year-old legend retires from soccer at the end of the MLS season.
Donovan was controversially left off the U.S.’s 23-man World Cup roster by Klinsmann back in May, with the U.S. head coach picking the likes of Chris Wondolowski, Brad Davis, Mix Diskerud and Julian Green over the LA Galaxy playmaker. Donovan was critical of Klinsmann during the tournament in Brazil, even saying that the U.S. was not set up to succeed before bowing out via a Round of 16 defeat in extra time to Belgium.
“As a player (Donovan) obviously deserves every piece of recognition for an amazing career with that farewell game, and has tremendously done so much for the national team program,” Klinsmann told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s friendly vs. the Czech Republic, the Americans’ first match since the World Cup. “So it’s a real pleasure to give him that farewell match, and give him that occasion and give him that recognition.”
Klinsmann might think Donovan is worthy of a proper sending off after a career that has seen Donovan make 156 appearances, score a record 57 goals and assist on a record 58 others. But the U.S. head coach also stands by his decision to leave Donovan off the World Cup squad, a shocking move that came with plenty of initial backlash and some fans are still upset about.
“He built his case leading up to the World Cup, and I decided that the players that were in his position, whether it’s forward or midfield, are just ahead of him,” said Klinsmann. “For me in my evaluation as a coach, it was a simple decision. Obviously it was a big deal, I knew that too, but at the end of the day, I needed to take those players that I believe would make a difference. That was my decision.”
Klinsmann added that Donovan’s reactions were understandable. Donovan admitted to initially hoping the U.S. would do poorly in a send-off series match before changing to a more positive outlook, but was critical of Klinsmann’s tactics at the World Cup.
“That (Donovan) was or is upset about that decision, about not going to the World Cup, is for me a good reaction,” he said. “That means he cares. … That he’s not happy about that, that he makes statements that he’s not content, he sees it different, that’s legitimate, that’s totally fine with me.”
With Klinsmann and Donovan set to reunite for the first following their World Cup controversy next month, many observers expected the two to have some awkwardness and resentment towards one another. Klinsmann insisted, however, that he will be at ease and wants to give Donovan a proper goodbye.
“We give him a blast in that moment,” said Klinsmann. “Hopefully the whole stadium will give him a standing ovations, we give him the best farewell that we can do and make it a huge event that he undoubtedly deserves. Hopefully, he has a smile on his face.”
What do you make of Klinsmann’s comments? Believe him when he says it will not be awkward at all? Still not over him leaving Donovan behind this summer?
Share your thoughts below.