In December, United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) head coach Jurgen Klinsmann decided not to take a strong team to the 2014 tournament in Brazil to focus on success in future World Cup games. After drawing Germany, Portugal and Ghana to form the fabled Group of Death, Klinsmann told the New York Times that the USA is not in a position to win at this level yet.
This could answer the question on why Landon Donovan was left off of the 23-man roster for this summer’s trip to Brazil. The roster for the United States is young. With only six players over the age of 30, developing a young squad to start building a program to be designed for future World Cup success seems to be the plan of the head coach. Seven of the players’ on the team are under 25-years old with little to no experience on the grand stage of world play.
Drawing a group with world number two Germany and number three Portugal may have led the head coach to start thinking about a young team to take to Brazil early on. United States soccer fans may feel like Klinsmann gave up too early. The USMNT has seen a surge recently on the backs of superstars Donovan and Eddie Johnson. Coming together with Clint Dempsey, Chris Wondolowski and DaMarcus Beasley, the United States saw one of the country’s best years ever. The team took the 2013 Gold Cup and saw success against strong soccer teams like rival Mexico and dominated the German National B-Team. The players worked hard to take the USA to the World Cup to only have those accomplishments dismissed by the coach.
Klinsmann may want to focus on the future of the USMNT, however, the decisions made when putting the team going to Brazil together has a strong chance to make the coach unpopular with the fans. The coach looked at the group games ahead of the United States in the World Cup and felt that there was no chance for success. According to Klinsmann, the US squad would need seven straight games of the players lives to win the tournament. According to the coach, that is just not possible.
By using the chance for success unlikely in Brazil, this opened the door for the coach to take the best player off the pitch. Klinsmann blames Major League Soccer (MLS) for the level of player Donovan is today. The coach feels that Donovan has not seen any real talent come up against the 32-year old. This may have made the LA Galaxy star a great MLS player, however, Klinsmann feels that it has not kept Donovan a great international player. After blaming the MLS for this, the fact that 10 players from the Brazil bound USMNT roster are from the MLS renews speculation that the coach and the face of USA soccer do not like one another. While both Donovan and Klinsmann have publicly stated multiple times that there is no animosity between the two, omitting Donovan from the roster along with the inappropriate tweet by Klinsmann’s son mocking the MLS star opens up the thought that the rumor may have some substance after all.
Klinsmann is going to coach the United States his way. The coach made that clear by not inviting Johnson to training camp and cutting Donovan from the final roster in order to focus on the future of USA soccer. With the 23-man roster set for Brazil or the team that got the USA to the World Cup, the USMNT was going to be facing a tough tournament. By focusing on the future success of USA soccer instead of the 2014 tournament at hand, Klinsmann’s future may be shorter than the coach anticipated.
Commentary by Carl Auer