Jurgen Klinsmann shocked the American soccer community when he left Landon Donovan off the final 23-man roster heading to Brazil this summer. Some fans were furious with the decision, while others understood why Klinsmann made the decision. Join ISH soccer contributor Adam Leightman, as he gives his two reactions to the Donovan story.
As an American soccer fan:
Soccer has been a huge part of my life since I was a young child. I played soccer since I was three and now play for my high school team. However, I did not start watching soccer until the 2010 FIFA World Cup. ESPN did a great job of hyping up the event, so I was excited when South Africa played Mexico in the first game of the tournament. When South Africa scored their first goal and I saw the crowd reaction, I was hooked on soccer for life.
When the USA fell behind 2-0 to Slovenia in the second game, I thought our chances of moving on from the group stages were doomed. Then in the 49th minute Landon Donovan scored a goal that I had never seen before. He hit the ball as hard as he could and put the ball in the roof of the net. I was amazed. The US went on to tie the game at 2 all and everyone in the world thought that they had won the game on a late free-kick, but the referee, Koman Coulibaly, blew his whistle and ruled no goal. To this day nobody knows why he disallowed the goal.
The USMNT need a win in their final game to advance out of the group stages. In the 91st minute the score was tied 0-0. The rest is history. Donovan was a hero in America, and he was a hero to me. He had saved the US and helped them advance.
Landon Donovan is the greatest player America has ever produced. He is the all-time leading scorer with 136 career goals. He has had multiple successful loan periods with Everton FC in England. He has also scored 57 goals for the USMNT, including five in the past three World Cups, he is first all time in both of these categories. Landon Donovan is simply an American soccer legend. He has led this team through thick and thin and he could do great things for the team this summer. His experience could help guide the younger players on the team and he could be an emotional spark to the team if he played.
Landon Donovan kickstarted my love for the beautiful game. I ran around my house screaming with joy when he scored his stoppage time winner against Algeria. I got a Landon Donovan #10 shirt before the knockout round game vs Ghana. I was heartbroken when they lost that game to Ghana 2-1 in extra time. After the World Cup I started following my local MLS team, the Houston Dynamo, with more passion. Also I started to watch European soccer and fell in love with the London based team Chelsea Football Club. Without Donovan, none of this would have ever happened. I will truly miss him this summer at the World Cup.
As a realist:
Landon Donovan has been great for the US in the past, but it is time to move on and start a new era for US soccer. Klinsmann is doing what he thinks is best for the team. Klinsmann went with the 23 best players, and clearly he did not think Donovan was one of them. Here are three reasons why I believe Klinsmann left Donovan off of the team heading to Brazil.
1: Donovan was not in form/shape
Landon Donovan has scored just 2 goals in 8 games this year for the LA Galaxy. He scored both goals after he was left off of the final 23 man roster. Klinsmann obviously only picked the players that were playing at their best. Aron Johannsson, who was selected over Donovan, scored 17 league goals in 31 appearances. Chris Wondolowski has scored 5 goals in 9 games. Clint Dempsey has 8 goals in 9 games. The only player that is out of form is Jozy Altidore. Altidore scored 1 goal all season at Sunderland in England. Altidore, 24, Has always found a haven with the national team and Klinsmann needs Altidore’s strength in order to run the 4-4-2 formation.
Altidore is also in better shape than Donovan. Donovan, 8 years older, just started a season, where as Altidore just finished one. Altidore is hungry to score again, while Donovan is still trying to find his legs this year. Donovan even admitted that he was not sure if he could put up solid consistent training sessions with the team.
Klinsmann needs high intensity sessions in order to get the team ready and he does not think Donovan can handle the tempo.
2: Klinsmann did not believe Donovan was ‘all in’
Jurgen Klinsmann and Landon Donovan have never seen eye to eye.
In 2012 it seemed that Donovan’s career was over. He had been playing professionally since the age of 17 and Donovan was mentally drained. Donovan took a self-imposed sabbatical to Cambodia. With little warning Donovan was off of the grid for 3 months. This move clearly irked Klinsmann as it took Donovan over a year to get back on to the field for Klinsmann.Klinsmann has also stated that in the April camp before Mexico, Donovan was not going near 100% in training sessions.
Donovan did not get the start against Mexico, and only played for about 30 minutes in the friendly. Clearly Klinsmann does not think Donovan is fully committed to this team. We will never know what truly happened at the practices, but we do know that Klinsmann was not satisfied.
3: Klinsmann wants younger energetic players
In 2006, when Klinsmann was the coach of Germany, Klinsmann brought a young, energetic team into the tournament. He started 21 year olds Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski, and Bastian Schweinsteiger. He used quite a few young players and as a result the team finished third. Though the Germans would have hoped for more seeing as they were hosts, third was still a good result for the Germans.
Klinsmann is following a similar approach. Klinsmann used young players off his bench and it made a difference. Last night against Azerbaijan, we saw him replicate his actions from 2006. Analysts think Donovan would be great off the bench for 20 minutes at the end of the game. I disagree, because it could take Donovan time to find his feet in the game. You need someone to come off the bench and make an immediate impact.
Last night, Klinsmann brought on Brad Davis, Aron Johannsson, and Mix Diskerud on for attacking players. All made an immediate impact on the game. Aron and Mix scored, and Davis provided 2 beautiful free kicks that led to the goals. Klinsmann made great changes during the game, and he did it all without Landon Donovan.
The fans need to get behind the team, with or without Landon Donovan. Find a new a favorite player. Someone will become a new American hero this year. Maybe it will even be Mix Diskerud.
stats provided by: espnfc.com