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May 23, 2014
Klinsmann on Donovan: other players were ahead of him

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Jurgen Klinsmann defended his decision Friday to leave all-time U.S. international goal-scorer Landon Donovan off his World Cup roster.

The decision to drop the face of American soccer for the past decade started a firestorm on social media when Klinsmann unveiled his 23-man roster for Brazil Thursday.

Donovan has scored more internationals goals (57) than any other American.

"It’s not now the comparison between what you bring to the table and the other one brings to the table," Klinsmann said. "You, as a coach, have to make a decision based on what you want to execute in Brazil, what you want to see and how you want to build those components into the entire group. We coaches felt that the guys we chose are a little step ahead of Landon in certain areas It is a very tight race for those spots, and at this moment, we feel like the other players … are a tiny bit ahead of him."

Klinsmann indicated there were other factors, including how Donovan's age -- 32 -- and how his game has changed in recent years.

The USA coach noted that Donovan "is not the one to go one against one all the time and go into the box, he brings other values to the table – his outstanding passing game, his experience,, which is a big factor always, and other elements. He’s changed his game over the past four years, which is normal at this stage of his career.”

The four forwards Klinsmann will bring to Brazil are Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson and Chris Wondolowski.

Klinsmann had a one-on-one talk with the LA Galaxy standout, explaining his decision Thursday.

"He took it highly professionally. Amazing composure," he said. "Obviously big disappointment. That's expected. He said he doesn't kind of understand it. He thinks he should be in the 23. I tried to lay out a couple reasons. They are technical. I'm not going into them. I told him I hope he stands by us and if we call him that he will be ready to come back to us.

"He expressed his disappointment in a professional way and I admire that a lot."

In message to his fans on his Facebook page, Donovan said:

"It has been an honor and privilege to have represented the US National Team in three World Cups. I was looking forward to playing in Brazil and, as you can imagine, I am very disappointed with today’s decision. Regardless, I will be cheering on my friends and teammates this summer, and I remain committed to helping grow soccer in the US in the years to come. Thanks for all your support."

Many observers felt that Donovan was left off the team at the expense of Julian Green, an 18-year-old attacking midfielder who plays on the Bayern Munich reserve team -- not the first team.

“I’m not comparing Julian with Landon,” Klinsmann said. "That’s absolutely not the discussion. We have in Julian a player who brings certain values to the team that we observed over almost two years in many, many of his games and his training sessions at Bayern Munich. And we see it by talking to [Bayern coach] Pep Guardiola many times.”

As for naming the final 23, Klinsmann said that he and his staff felt it was the right time to make the cuts. He seemed relieved that his decisions were made and now the team could move forward toward preparing for the World Cup with three warm-up matches -- against Azerbaijan in San Francisco Tuesday, Turkey in Harrison, N.J. on June 1 and Nigeria in Jacksonville, Fla. June 7.

"It's a difficult situation for all of the players coming into a camp," he said. "It hangs like a cloud over the group for eight, nine, 10 days. If you wait it gets even heavier. It's a huge boost for everybody in the 23. We can start preparing for the details going into the match with Ghana."

The U.S. meets Ghana in its opening Group G match on June 16, followed by Portugal on June 22 and Germany on June 26.

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