German legend, Jurgen Klinsmann, named his final 23 man squad to travel to Brazil this summer for a very tough World Cup and left out US hero Landon Donovan. The Finals see them pitted in the Group Stages against European power-houses; Germany and Portugal, as well as the team that sent them home in the last World Cup; Ghana.
It is going to be tough enough already and will require the USMNT to be the strongest cohesive unit they possibly can be, but with a decision as divisive as leaving Donovan at home, this is now looking very difficult for Klinsmann to pull off.
It is widely known that soccer is still a growing sport of interest to Americans and the World Cup is the biggest stage of them all. This is the biggest opportunity to ‘sell’ The Beautiful Game to a wider audience here and with this year’s competition not only on a much closer timezone to the US than many recent ones have been, but also coming with the guaranteed spectacle of their boys facing Germany and Portugal, the decision to take by far the general public’s most popular player, seems insane.
The situation reminds me of when Steve McClaren dropped David Beckham from the English national side, a tenure that didn’t really work out so great, so hopefully Klinsmann isn’t sealing himself a similar fate.
Donovan has appeared at 3 World Cups preceding this one and even made his debut at the Finals against one of this year’s opponents, Portugal, even forcing an own goal for the 2nd of USA’s 3 goals that day. He also appeared in their disappointing 2006 campaign but did gain what could’ve been some valuable experience by playing Ghana. Then in 2010 he appeared in all 4 games and scored in the draw with Slovenia, as well as netting the winner against Algeria and then scoring the USA’s only goal in the defeat against Ghana.
I understand that Donovan is past his best and doesn’t have the pace of a younger player but on such huge stages, experience can be invaluable. Donovan is also much more accustomed to the pressure of these games and could’ve been a great cool-as-a-cucumber asset in these tough games they face.