SI.com’s Grant Wahl points out that Landon Donovan, who was sensationally left off the USA’s 23-man squad for the World Cup on Thursday, is the U.S. soccer player that head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has known the longest. Back in January 2009, when Klinsmann was coach of Bayern Munich, he brought Donovan over on loan, telling the club’s management that this was the player he wanted most in the winter transfer window.
Ultimately, Wahl says that Donovan didn’t meet expectations and he returned to the Los Angeles Galaxy at the end of his loan, adding that the short-term loan left Bayern management wondering why Klinsmann had put so much trust in the American when his own job was on the line. In the end, the former Germany coach would be fired shortly thereafter.
Could it be that Klinsmann never quite forgave Donovan for failing to perform during his 2009 loan stint? Wahl wonders, asking: “Even allowing that Donovan isn’t the player he once was, are the players that Klinsmann chose over Donovan actual upgrades for Brazil 2014?” Would anybody really pick Brad Davis of the Houston Dynamo, 18-year-old Julian Green of Bayern Munich or San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski ahead of U.S. Soccer’s all-time leading goalscorer and creator?
As USA No. 1 Tim Howard said last Sunday: “For me, it’s a very easy equation: If he’s on the field, he’s our top one or two players. That’s just my opinion. Whether that means anything or not, I don’t know. Landon’s humble and I’m sure he feels that way, but for me he’s easily one of our best players and he strikes fear in opponents.” Added LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena in a San Jose Mercury News article earlier this week: “If there are 23 better players than Landon, then we have a chance to win the World Cup.”
Dropping the country’s best-ever player is one thing, but after listening to the likes of Howard and Michael Bradley react to the news, one wonders (and certainly hopes it is not the case) whether the decision to drop Donovan could adversely affect team morale.