By Michael Lewis
THE UNKINDEST CUT
Donovan cut from U.S. World Cup team
Landon Donovan, arguably the best player ever produced by the United States, isn't going to the World Cup.
|Landon Donovan won't be participating in his fourth World Cup.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
The LA Galaxy midfielder was cut from the U.S. World Cup team by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann on Thursday.
Klinsmann surprisingly unveiled his 23-man roster for Brazil, even though he had until June 2 to do so. A week into training camp, he obviously had made up his mind on what fit best with his team and Donovan wasn't the right fit.
Donovan, the USA's all-time leading goal-scorer (57 goals) and a hero of the 2010 World Cup, has lived on the edge with the national side after he took a self-imposed sabbatical from the game after the 2012 Major League Soccer season. He rejoined the Galaxy several weeks into the 2013 season but by then the U.S. had started its run in the CONCACAF hexagonal. Donovan eventually returned to the team after a successful CONCACAF Gold Cup, helping the Americans secure their seventh consecutive World Cup berth.
This season, however, Donovan has struggled for the last-place Galaxy, recording but two assists and no goals in seven games over 630 minutes. Klinsmann wanted to see more from Donovan in training camp in Palo Alto, Calif. and obviously did not see it.
Before camp began, Klinsmann acknowledged that the 32-year-old Donovan's history did not mean he would be an automatic selection on this team.
"What he did for the National Team is amazing," Klinsmann said last week. "You give him every compliment. He deserves every compliment for that. Since he took his break, I told him, 'If you take a break like that, then you have to fight your way back into the picture, and you have to put in week-in and week-out with your club team.'
"Soccer is about what happens today ... and hopefully what you do tomorrow. We're not building the group together based on the past. We build that group based on what we kind of experience and go through together and what we believe as of today is the right decision."
In an interview with reporters Monday, Donovan agreed with Klinsmann.
"I have to prove that," he said. "And I have to earn that.
ďFor me personally, I liken it to 2002. In 2006 and 2010 I knew for the most part, unless I was awful, that I was going to make the team. This time itís more similar to í02, when I wasnít sure. In that way, itís as competitive for me as itís been in a long time.Ē
Klinsmann did not supply a statement about why Donovan was left off the team.
In a statement released by U.S. Soccer, Klinsmann said about the team: "It's an exciting moment when you have narrowed the roster down as a coaching staff, and these 23 players that you've chosen can focus now purely on Brazil. We can go into more specific things about technical approaches, and about the opponents. For the players, it's very important to know that they are now part of it and they can relax and know they are on the list going to Brazil and taking it from there. After almost 10 days of work right now, we thought the point has come to make the decision."
U.S. Soccer has scheduled a press conference at the team's training camp in Palo Alto, Calif. on Friday, when Klinsmann will explain his decision-making process on Donovan and cutting down the team from 30 to 23 players.
Donovan has enjoyed a star-spangled U.S. career, leading the Under-17 team to a fourth-place finish at the U-17 World Cup in 1999.
Eventually promoted to the full national side, Donovan played a prominent role in the USA's surge to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan. There was no award for the best young player of the tournament, but FIFA officials later stated that if they had one at the time, Donovan would have received it.
After underachieving at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Donovan came back strong four years later in South Africa. He became a household name in the U.S. by scoring in stoppage time to give the Americans a dramatic 1-0 win over Algeria and the group title. The USA reached the second round before it was eliminated by Ghana for the second successive Cup.