May 28, 2014

Direct Kick: Klinsmann leaves Donovan off WC roster

By Denis House
Sports Editor

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — American soccer and controversy are two things that usually don’t go hand-and-hand in this country. With the exception of various comments by Hope Solo and Brandi Chastain’s sports bra, soccer has pretty much taken a backseat as far as controversy is concerned compared to other, more popular sports in the U.S.

That is until last week, when U.S. men’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann released his roster for next month’s World Cup, and one name was surprisingly left off: Landon Donovan.

Yes, the all-time leading scorer in U.S. men’s national team history will not be representing the red, white and blue in Brazil. And you know what? I don’t have a problem with the decision.

Let’s face it. The odds of the U.S. getting out of group play aren’t that good. They won’t beat Germany. I don’t see them beating Portugal. And Ghana has given us fits in the past.

I believe Jurgen made the decision to leave Donovan off the roster because he is building a team for the next World Cup in 2018. If you look at this year’s team, there are a lot of young, unfamiliar faces throughout the line-up. Julian Green. Jermaine Jones. Geoff Cameron. Aron Johannsson. Not exactly household names, especially if you don’t follow U.S. soccer. But these guys, along with several others, are the future of American soccer on the International level.

Klinsmann did the same thing when he took over Germany, bringing in a lot of younger players while leaving seasoned veterans off the roster, and he received a lot of criticism for doing just that. And believe me, criticism in the United States is nothing compared to what he got in Germany.

And guess what? He took Germany to a third place finish in the 2006 World Cup.

Now that won’t happen with this year’s squad. But give Klinsmann time to build his team. I know that Donovan is upset at the omission, saying he believes he belongs on the roster. I wouldn’t expect a player of his caliber to feel any different. But he didn’t do himself any favors when he took a sabbatical from the national team when Klinsmann took over.

Unfortunately if the U.S. doesn’t advance out of group play, those less informed fans and journalists will blame Klinsmann for leaving Donovan off the roster, but they will be so wrong. One player doesn’t make or break a national team.

Yes, this is a controversial decision and I love every minute of it.