52314_isi_donovan_klinsmann_usmntjt051614107 John Todd/isiphotos.com

Klinsmann Got It Wrong: Donovan Will Be Needed

ASN's Brian Sciaretta is a veteran journalist who witnessed Landon Donovan's rise with the U.S. national team. Here's his take on Klinsmann's decision to drop the U.S. legend.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
May 23, 2014
10:35 AM
TWITTER BLEW UP YESTERDAY when Jurgen Klinsmann named his final Word Cup roster and Landon Donovan was not on it. Everyone, it seems, has a strong opinion on this, and I'm no different. For me, Klinsmann got it wrong.

First off, the U.S. is going to be entering into a World Cup where, unlike 2010, it is the decisive underdog in all three games. In order to survive this group, the team is going to need to pull off some surprise moments and rise to the occasion. Donovan has proven time and time again that he is this type of player.

Over three World Cups—as well as tournaments including the the Olympics, the Gold Cup, and the Confederations Cup—Donovan has proven to be a player that the team can rally around.

The numbers don’t lie. Klinsmann is leaving behind a player who has 57 goals and 58 assists 156 caps. Those are staggering numbers and includes goals against Italy, Brazil, Mexico, and Ghana in major competitions.

Do you want to see all 57 goals? Here.

How about the 58 assists? They're all on display in the video below.

Klinsmann earned the reputations as a coach who likes to shake things up. He certainly did so it in 2006 with Germany. But this situation is far different. While he made some controversial roster decisions in 2006, Germany’s talent is such that there is never a shortage of players who can compete at an elite level. Plus he had the advantage of playing at home and having Joachim Low as his assistant.

The American player pool is far different. It would be one thing to cut Donovan if the team was playing well and there was simply no room for him. But that doesn’t even come close to adding up. No one has really made a case to take Donovan’s spot.

Consider this: In the last three FIFA international date friendlies, the U.S. has not only failed to win, but it has also failed to score a single goal. The offense was woeful in a 0-0 draw against Scotland, a 1-0 loss to Austria, and most recently a 2-0 loss to Ukraine in what was one of the worst games of Klinsmann’s tenure.

It's true that Landon Donovan has not had the strongest start to the 2014 MLS season but he was outstanding in the 2-0 win against South Korea in the January camp friendly. He also gave the option to fill in either at forward or on the wing which has recently been a very thin position for the U.S. team.

Now all eyes will be on the player who took Donovan’s spot on the team. Some are suggesting that it was Brad Davis, but the Houston Dynamo captain made the team because he is a rare left-footed option in the midfield—a valuable asset. The most likely scenario is that Julian Green took his spot as a hybrid winger/midfielder/forward.

By now everyone knows the Green situation and most American fans were thrilled to have him join the U.S. national team over Germany. But if you asked these same fans if they would be willing to add Green if it meant subtracting Donovan, you might get a very different response. Green’s potential could be enormous but the fact is that almost all of his experience is at the 4th tier of German soccer. At just 18 years old, he has a total of five minutes at the professional level so far at this point of his career.

Of course it is good to give young players experience but the U.S. has two Gold Cups, the Olympics (potentially), and the Copa America Centenario in the next three years. That's a lot of minutes to fill, and Green can and should be expected to play in many, if not all, of these competitions.

There was always going to be a time when Donovan wasn’t going be good enough for the U.S. national team. Father Time always wins. No one, however, thought that the team that would force him out would be one that struggled offensively—and with a teenager who has limited professional experience taking his spot.

The naming of the World Cup roster is normally an exciting time but leaving Donovan off the team has put a damper on the celebration. With a younger fan base, many supporters of the national team don’t remember (thankfully for them) the last time the U.S. went into a major tournament without Donovan at the 1998 World Cup.

History will be the judge. If Klinsmann's Landonless squad exceeds expectations in Brazil, Donovan’s history as the best player ever for the U.S. will still be secure but people will accept it was time to move on. If the team continues to play mediocre soccer and is ousted by Ghana, Portugal, and Germany, Klinsmann will be forever second guessed as needlessly casting aside a legend in an unnecessary gamble. It's a gamble, by the way, he might not survive.

It is impossible to know what Donovan’s future is with the U.S. national team, but if he has played his final international for the Stars and Stripes, this last goal of his is not a bad way to end it.

What do you think of Brian's take? Agree? Disagree? Either way, we want to hear in the Comments section below.

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