Landon Donovan will not be going to Brazil. ESPN’s Taylor Twellman dropped a MAJOR World Cup bombshell this afternoon that the all-time U.S. leading scorer wouldn’t be on Jurgen Klinsmann’s final 23-man roster.
U.S. Soccer quickly confirmed the news via its own Tweet.
Donovan left the team last year for a self-imposed soccer sabbatical, but appeared work his way back into the fold during last summer’s Gold Cup. Even with his questionable form, this is a huge shock — a true jaw dropper. Yes, Donovan is 32, but by no means is that old in soccer terms.
Klinsmann did, however, include 18-year-old Julian Green, Timmy Chandler, Brad Davis and DeAndre Yedlin. Those are the other big surprises in the final selection. (Here’s how Ty Duffy and I projected the final roster earlier this month.)
It seems that Klinsmann took the “Group of Death” draw against Ghana, Portugal and Germany literally, opting for a team that is more suited for the future — i.e. the 2018 World Cup — than, perhaps, winning in Brazil next month.
By the same token, the U.S. is going to have its hands full in Group G, would Donovan — a shadow of his former self — make that big of a difference? Tactically, if Klinsmann is serious about playing a 4-4-2, Donovan might not have been a great fit — especially if his diminished pace wasn’t able to trouble opponents on the counter attack. He also did leave the team on his own volition ahead of qualifying, so there’s that to remember. Either way, Klinsmann is going to come under immediate question by the American soccer — if not sports community — for this decision that seems almost impossible to believe at first glance. .
Klinsmann, knowing he’s locked into a long contract extension through 2018, rolled the dice, making the only truly bold decision with the final roster he could have made, a decision where Donovan’s performances in 2002, 2006 and especially 2010 had little bearing. For what it’s worth, Klinsmann said his spot wasn’t guaranteed back in April 2013 and Donovan himself said he was a “50/50″ shot for going to Brazil in the fall of 2012. This could be an apples-to-oranges comparison, but back in 2002 Bruce Arena opted for a very young, inexperienced team, using players like Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and John O’Brien and made it all the way to the quarterfinals.
The initial shock of the announcement is likely tied to the fact Donovan has been, for better or worse, the face of U.S. soccer in the 21st Century. A World Cup without the California native, for many American soccer fans, will be jarring.
Hey … we’ll always have Algeria.
Full United States 2014 World Cup Roster
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (8): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
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