United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann (file photo, above) spoke to the press on May 23, 2014, regarding his decision not to take Landon Donovan to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. (Photo:Mexsport)
PALO ALTO, California -- Jurgen Klinsmann defended his decision Friday to leave all-time United States international goal-scorer Landon Donovan off his World Cup roster.
The initial announcement stirred widespread debate in the U.S. media – from sports and news outlets alike -- when Klinsmann unveiled his 23-man roster for Brazil on Thursday.
"It’s not now the comparison between what you bring to the table and the other one brings to the table," Klinsmann said. "You, as a coach, have to make a decision based on what you want to execute in Brazil, what you want to see and how you want to build those components into the entire group. We coaches felt that the guys we chose are a little step ahead of Landon in certain areas. It is a very tight race for those spots and, at this moment, we feel like the other players…are a tiny bit ahead of him."
Klinsmann indicated there were other factors, including how Donovan's age -- 32 -- and how his game has changed in recent years.
The USA coach noted that Donovan "is not the one to go one against one all the time and go into the box, he brings other values to the table – his outstanding passing game, his experience, which is a big factor always, and other elements. He’s changed his game over the past four years, which is normal at this stage of his career.”
The four forwards Klinsmann will bring to Brazil are Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson and Chris Wondolowski.
Klinsmann had a one-on-one talk with the LA Galaxy standout, explaining his decision Thursday.
"He took it highly professionally. Amazing composure," he said. "Obviously big disappointment. That's expected. He said he doesn't kind of understand it. He thinks he should be in the 23. I tried to lay out a couple reasons. They are technical. I'm not going into them. I told him I hope he stands by us and if we call him that he will be ready to come back to us.
"He expressed his disappointment in a professional way and I admire that a lot."
In message to his fans on his Facebook page, Donovan – who won the Golden Ball and shared the Golden Boot awards at the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup -- said: "It has been an honor and privilege to have represented the US National Team in three World Cups. I was looking forward to playing in Brazil and, as you can imagine, I am very disappointed with today’s decision. Regardless, I will be cheering on my friends and teammates this summer, and I remain committed to helping grow soccer in the US in the years to come. Thanks for all your support."