Now that the dust has settled, we can look back on what happened in the last 24 hours and really put some thought into why Landon Donovan was cut from the US Men’s National Team roster. There were a lot of snap judgments made by fans and pundits all over the country. Some said there was a 12-year-old feud between Jurgen Klinsmann and Donovan, even though both have come out repeatedly to say that it isn’t true. Some have said that Landon’s sabbatical to Cambodia rubbed Klinsmann the wrong way, and some have also voiced concern about his fitness and form.
But the truth is, we don’t really know. We’re not the head coach of the US national team, although some of us like to pretend that we are. We know that he was called into the 30 man roster and ran drills just like all of the other players. There are a few possibilities as to what prompted Klinsmann to make “the hardest decision of his coaching career” but once again, it’s all speculation.
Could it have been his form as of late? For the LA Galaxy this year Donovan hasn’t really been running on all cylinders, only getting one assist in 7 appearances this year and no goals. This isn’t exactly something you want going into a World Cup, and could have weighed into Klinsmann’s decision. His fitness was questioned in the last friendly against Mexico, leading him to only get about 30 minutes off of the bench. In the first episode of the Inside: U.S. Soccer’s March to Brazil he spoke about Klinsmann’s demand for him to push himself 10 to 12 days straight, and that his body couldn’t do that anymore. Could that have played a part?
Or was it that Landon Donovan didn’t bring the pieces needed for Klinsmann’s puzzle? Donovan was a player that could come in and run at the defense, but as of late he hasn’t been as effective. Klinsmann stated at the beginning of camp he was looking at Donovan as a forward, not a winger. So was his real competition Jozy Altidore, Aaron Johannson and Chris Wondolowski? If he comes off of the bench who does he replace? Altidore up top? He’s not really a true winger although he has played there in the past. But to be a true winger you need to be quick and some have said Donovan has lost a step or two as of lately. You need to have a ton of stamina to get up and down the field, but I just highlighted his possible issue with fitness. And when going against Cristiano Ronaldo you need to get back and help on defense, something he hasn’t been known to do.
One thing Landon Donovan could have brought to the team was his experience of playing in three World Cups. No one can argue that he hasn’t been a key part of U.S. soccer in the past, and has scored some memorable goals. People know Donovan’s name even if they never really watch soccer. But with three World Cups comes the expectation of leadership. If Klinsmann asked him to take on that role and he wasn’t willing to do it, what does that say to the rest of the team?
By sending Landon Donovan home, Klinsmann sent a message to everyone that if you can’t cut it, there are tons of players behind you chomping at the bit to take your spot no matter who you are. I thought that he was going to make the roster for sure, but with his exclusion you can see that Klinsmann is moving this program into a new era. In every other major country competing in International Soccer, if a seasoned veteran with a ton of caps can’t keep up anymore, he’s gone. Landon Donovan had ridden into the 30 man roster on nostalgia and my childhood dreams and memories, and Jurgen Klinsmann poked that balloon with the needle of German practicality and realism. In the past there were only had a handful of stars in the entire U.S. Soccer pool, but now there are a lot more to choose from. As fans, we should think about this more critically. Landon Donovan is a star for sure, but just because he is a star doesn’t mean he deserves a spot on this team. Welcome to the new era of U.S. Soccer, now let’s all hold on for the ride.
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