Jurgen Klinsmann left Landon Donovan off the United States’ final 23-man roster for the 2014 World Cup. The decision set off a media firestorm the National Team had never seen before as seemingly everyone had an opinion about the omission.
Fast forward a couple weeks. The U.S. escaped from the so-called Group of Death and will play Belgium on Tuesday. Klinsmann pushed almost all the right buttons through 270 minutes of soccer. Donovan, meanwhile, lampooned his snub first in a spot for the Los Angeles Galaxy and later similarly, self-deprecating spoof for EA Sports, chiming in from time-to-time as an analyst for ESPN.
The Klinsmann/Donovan story was firmly on the backburner … until today and some somewhat surprising quotes from the U.S. all-time leading goalscorer in a column by the Los Angeles Times Bill Plaschke. The always honest and candid Donovan said in the days after the roster decision he wasn’t exactly pulling for the National Team, sounding not all that unlike a jilted lover.
“I’ll be completely honest, watching them play Azerbaijan, inside, part of me was thinking, I hope the game doesn’t go very well today,” Donovan said Friday in a phone interview. “In my heart of hearts, I thought, if we get a 1-0 win and the team doesn’t perform well, that would feel good.”
Those feelings didn’t exactly last very long.
“Then the next day I woke up and said to myself, that’s a really crappy way to feel,” Donovan said. “That’s a bad way to live your life, it doesn’t help me, it doesn’t help the team, it doesn’t help the energy that the team needs.”
Plaschke’s column (worth a read in full) goes on to tell how Donovan has gotten over the rejection. Again, most athletes rarely open up for as much introspection as Donovan does.
This story won’t be over until the real reasons why Klinsmann gave Donovan the ax are revealed — if ever. No doubt many American fans wondered how 32-year-old Brad Davis got the call over Donovan on Thursday in the critical Group G decider against Germany in Recife.
Perhaps these quotes from Donovan help shed some light on Klinsmann’s decision-making process.