Calling it the toughest decision in his career, U.S. men’s manager Jurgen Klinsmann nearly tipped the earth off it’s axis by leaving beloved star Landon Donovan off the final World Cup squad of 23. Klinsmann’s move took, for lack of a better word, stones to make.
It was highly unpopular among die-hard fans and a head scratcher among the fringe ones. After all, we’re talking about the U.S. men’s national team’s all-time leading scorer, but Klinsmann didn’t just wake-up and make this decision based on one week of World Cup training camp. No, it had been one that was germinating for awhile, ever since Donovan took a sabbatical during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying when a roster spot was anything but solidified. Klinsmann never got over what he perceived as Donovan’s lack of committment and fitness.
In short, the two men simply did not mesh. The painful reality is that at 32, Donovan is not the same player he once was, lacking the burst of speed that was his trademark. Consider this: He hasn’t scored a goal in any professional match since October 6th 2013. With the Donovan omission, there’s now a total of 5 players who have World Cup experience on this roster, while the rest are newbies entering the Group of Death.
However, there is talent with attacking options at Klinsmann’s disposal. Still, a player of Donovan’s ilk would’ve provided a nice spark off the bench. That’s the risky part of this. Klinsmann may have made this move and possibly others with an eye toward 2018, but let’s remember that the German may not even be around then. As the realization of a World Cup without Donovan sets in, take a moment to remember perhaps the greatest memory we have of him. The stoppage time goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup, a sequence that for a glorious time, stopped the planet from spinning on its axis.