[USA MEN] Jurgen Klinsmann said he and his coaching staff decided to push forward the decision to cut seven players from the U.S. World Cup team, most notably Landon Donovan. He would not, however, discuss the "technical areas" he told Donovan was deficient in or the players who were ahead of Donovan in his pecking order.
"It was a very, very tight decision on all the seven players," Klinsmann said of his final cuts. "That's why we brought 30 because it is so tight."
While Klinsmann said Donovan was always part of the USA's plans, when push came to shove he did not consider him part of the team he feels he needs to put on the field in Brazil against Ghana, Portugal and Germany. "It is a very tight race for those spots," he said, "and we felt at this moment that the other players, without naming any of those guys, were a tiny little bit ahead of him."
Asked at Friday's media conference at the Stanford University camp what areas of weakness Donovan had, Klinsmann responded, "I'll leave it to you guys. You can see his game. That is part of your job."
The closest thing Klinsmann came to talking about Donovan's game was he said he might not go "one-against-one all the time" or go into the box or finish like he used to and he changed his game over the last four years, which Klinsmann added was "normal at that stage of his career."
Klinsmann pickedJohn Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin and Julian Green -- three young field players 21 years old or younger without any experience in competitive matches -- ahead of Donovan. He said they are ready to contribute even if they have a learning curve ahead of them. "They are ready for that learning curve," he said.
Klinsmann was more willing to talk about those players who made the final cut than those they beat in the "50-50 battles" he's loved talking about.
"At the end of the day, it's down to pure performance," he said. "It's down to where they are right now and we watched all of them over the last two or three years, no matter where they play: Germany, Mexico, MLS, or in Holland or England or whatever. We're trying to figure out now who is really peaking in the upcoming weeks. Who is on the way to get to the best of his game."
Klinsmann said the U.S. staff went so far as to hire a fitness coach to work with Timmy Chandleras he battled back from a knee injury suffered in February. While Chandler had not been part of the U.S. squad since the disastrous 2-1 loss at Honduras in February, Klinsmann said he grown up a lot on and off the field. "He's a different Timmy than a year and half ago," he said.
He said the first week of training camp was Chandler's chance to show the U.S. coaches -- and his teammates -- his current form. "Is he behind or is he right away up for 50-50 battles?" said Klinsmann. "And the same for Anthony Brooks in that process. He struggled as well the last couple of months on and off the field, as any young player goes through."
The selection of Chandler and Brooks resulted in the exclusion of Brad Evans, Clarence Goodson and Michael Parkhurst, all players who had started during the Hexagonal.
PLAYER REACTION. Senior players did not react surprised by the moves though they admitted it was hard to see the likes of Donovan -- the team's all-time leader in World Cup goals (5) and appearances (12) -- exit Stanford on Thursday.
''We all have an incredible amount of respect and appreciation and admiration for everything that Landon has done for this team and for soccer in this country,'' Michael Bradley said. ''To see him walk out the door yesterday, to see six other guys walk out the door yesterday, is not easy.''
Bradley said he had learned a lot from Donovan.
“I came in as a really young player," he said, "and I was able to see what he gave to me, the way he trained, the way he played, and I was able to pick up so many things from him. But at this point, there are 23 guys going to the World Cup who are ready to make sure that at the end of the day we’re talking about what’s going on at the World Cup, and not what happened at Stanford in May.”
Only days earlier, Tim Howard, like Bradley a starter with Donovan at the 2010 World Cup, said Donovan was one of the top one or two U.S. players any time he stepped on the field.
“That was my opinion," the Everton keeper said Friday afternoon, "but I’ve never made a personnel decision, so my opinion doesn’t really matter. I just have to play. It’s hard when you see seven guys you’ve been in the trenches with have to go home, and their dreams have been cut short. But that’s the process and I think we understand it, and we move on.”