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Landon Donovan Left Off U.S. World Cup Roster

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

In a bold move, coach Jurgen Klinsmann cut the greatest player in U.S. history.

Landon Donovan Left Off U.S. World Cup Roster

In this article…

Yesterday, Jurgen Klinsmann announced his final World Cup roster for the Team USA. There was one glaring omission from the group: Landon Donovan, the 32-year-old F/M, who is arguably the greatest player in US Soccer. Donovan, 32, has been a member of three different U.S. World Cup teams in his 14-year career with the national time. He has scored five goals in World Cups and a U.S.-record 57 goals in international competition. That production is now left off the team with the World Cup nearly three weeks away.

Here's what Donovan had to say in a statement on his Facebook page:

To my fans,

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.

Klinsmann acknowledged that the decision was the toughest of his coaching career, but that he had to make it with the present and immediate future of the team in mind and thought there were players slightly ahead of him. Writing at NYT Sports, Jeré Longman noted that this move wasn't a surprise.

Still, to anyone following the national team closely, Donovan’s exclusion did not come as a great surprise, whether one agreed or disagreed with the decision.

Klinsmann had openly questioned whether Donovan’s desire, commitment and skill had ebbed to the point that less-experienced forwards like Chris Wondolowski and Aron Johannsson deserved instead to be named to the World Cup team along with Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey.

Still, even if Donovan isn't at top form, it's hard to argue against his experience, intangibles and creativity on the field. Grant Wahl at SI.com is skeptical of the move:

And that’s where Klinsmann’s move has to be evaluated: In the present tense. Even allowing that Donovan isn’t the player he once was, are the players that Klinsmann chose over Donovan actual upgrades for Brazil 2014? Brad Davis has a good left foot and takes effective set pieces, but would you rather bring him on as a sub than Donovan when you need a goal? Julian Green, 18, may be a star in 2018, but he has barely played any first-team soccer at club level. You’re telling me you’d rather use him in a game than Donovan?

At the forward position, Chris Wondolowski is MLS’s greatest rags-to-riches story, but if you had the choice, you’d still pick Donovan.

That's the kicker for me. Donovan might not be starter material, but as a highly skilled and experienced reserve, wouldn't he be an asset on this World Cup team? His leadership would be invaluable for a group as young as this, and as Wahl noted, who would you rather call on late in a game besides Donovan?

I appreciate the fact that the U.S. is trying to counter the highly athletic rosters of Portugal and Germany with more youth and athleticism. Still, I think Donovan is going to be missed on this roster. It's not always about who is the strongest or the fastest, and even at a lesser form, Donovan knows how to compete on this level. He has a knack for performing at the highest level when his team needs him the most. You better believe he won't be intimidated against the likes of Portugal and Germany, either. 

Now Klinsmann is banking on younger players to pick up the slack. If they don't, it's all on Klinsmann, and you know he's going to have to field questions about whether or not he should have brought Donovan.

Either way, we always have your goal against Algeria. Time to go watch this on a loop.

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