Just two days after being left off the U.S. World Cup roster, Landon Donovan spoke to media to address the decision, which surprised him as well as most U.S. national team fans.
Donovan wouldn’t go as far as to bash Klinsmann for the decision, but stated categorically that he disagreed with the U.S. coach’s claim that other players were ahead of him.
“I don’t agree with that assessment. I think I was as least as good as everybody else in camp,” Donovan said. “I think you guys that know me well, know that I’m pretty honest when it comes to my assessment.
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“When I don’t play well, I say, ‘I didn’t play well.’ When I say I played well, I think I played well. I think I trained and played very well in camp,” Donovan said. “I think I was one of the better players. So that’s why it stings a little.
“If I had gone in and didn’t feel like I deserved it, then I can live with that, but that’s not the case here.”
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After three World Cups, and five World Cup goals, Donovan seemed like a lock to make the 2014 U.S. World Cup team, but Klinsmann had other plans, choosing to leave the U.S. star off the roster.
“I’m disappointed. I’m sad. I, I’m human, and I wanted to go,” Donovan said. “I really wanted to go. But I’m at peace with it. I respect the decision. I just feel in my heart that I deserve to be there. And that’s the pill that’s hardest to swallow.”
Donovan was left out of the final 23-man roster, a group that included the likes of Brad Davis, Julian Green and Chris Wondolowski. When asked about the decision to leave Donovan out, Klinsmann stated players were simply a little bit ahead of Donovan at the moment.
“The way you break it down as coaches is strengths and weaknesses, the bigger puzzle, the entire team, and many different points, and I told every player that it’s not 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, how you want to build those components into the entire group.
“I felt, we coaches felt, the guys that we chose are a little step ahead of Landon in certain areas.”
That assessment came as a shock to Donovan, who believed he was having a strong camp.
“I think if I’m being judged solely on what happened in camp, then I absolutely deserve to be going to Brazil,” Donovan said. “I firmly believe I deserved it, and not just from what I’ve done in the past, but from what I’ve done in the last week and a half.
“Based on my performances leading up to camp, based on my preparation for the camp, based on my fitness, based on my workload, based on the way I trained and played in camp, I not only thought I was a part of the 23, I thought I was in contention to be starting,” Donovan said. “That’s why this has all been pretty disappointing. And I think every one of my teammates would echo those same words.”
Donovan’s words could be construed as sour grapes, but the Galaxy star made a point to ask U.S. fans to shift their focus away from his exclusion and toward supporting the team.
“I think it’s also very important that after today, we all move forward and support this team, because they have a big task ahead, and I have a lot of friends on that team,” Donovan said. “I want to focus the energy and move it towards supporting them so that we can have a successful World Cup.”
Donovan made it clear that he doesn’t plan on discussing his World Cup omission any more, but he said more than enough Saturday, leaving little doubt that he was devastated by the decision.
“I’m not angry. I’m disappointed,” Donovan said. “I’ve spent most of my adult life, and the majority of my life in general, dedicating myself to this sport and my country, and representing my country. And so I was really looking forward to the opportunity to play in another World Cup and to help this team.
“Having been in camp for 10 days, I really thought I was going to contribute in a real big way — probably bigger than I had expected going in.”