U.S. men's national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann believes he made the right choice by leaving Landon Donovan out of his U.S. national team squad for a trio of upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Jamaica, Panama and Honduras.
Since taking an extended leave of absence from soccer at the beginning of the year, Donovan missed three vital matches in the Hexagonal, the final stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. The 31-year-old was absent for the USA's loss to Honduras, the snowy win over Costa Rica in Denver, and the history-making draw against Mexico in the Azteca.
Klinsmann has yet to make use of the USA's all-time leading scorer since, although he insists he's monitoring Donovan's progress.
"I've seen him kind of catching up," Klinsmann said of the LA Galaxy star, who impressed midweek as the catalyst behind a 4-1 win over Philadelphia. "I've seen him getting a rhythm, getting more games in, and I'll have to monitor that."
But the U.S. coach made it clear that the erstwhile star would have to earn his place in the squad on merit, not reputation.
"I don't see him ready yet to come back into our group, and on the other hand, I see guys in our group that are ahead of him in the different positions he can play at," the former German intenrational said.
"At the moment," he reiterated a few minutes later, "there are other players ahead of Landon in our rankings."
In three Hex games so far this year, the team has found the net just twice, with both goals scored by Clint Dempsey. AZ goal-machine Jozy Altidore has been barren since 2011 for the national team. Although he admitted his team has had issues creating scoring opportunities, Klinsmann cited a number of players he could deploy in wide positions.
"We definitely want to feed much better to our forwards and create more chances than we have done in recent games," Klinsmann said. "This position is absolutely crucial, but I think we're getting there.
"On the right side, we have Graham Zusi going through a very strong period, and he made himself a very strong case in the team. I think Joe Corona can play that role as well, on the right side. We have Beasley back in the picture; he can play either fullback or he can play on the wing as well. We have Brad Davis who's playing a very strong season too. Brek Shea, obviously we're gonna check that out. Eddie Johnson can break from the left as well."