PRAGUE -- United States manager Jürgen Klinsmann said it is “absolutely not awkward at all” to include Landon Donovan in his squad against Ecuador in October.
Klinsmann omitted Donovan from his 23-man squad for the World Cup in May, but he agreed to name Donovan in his squad for the friendly in East Hartford, Conn. on Oct. 10 to provide the all-time leading scorer (57 goals) with one last international appearance before he retires at the end of the MLS season.
It is not a choice without complications given the events of the past few months. Donovan openly criticized Klinsmann for his decision to leave him at home and for some of his tactical choices in Brazil, but Klinsmann said he harbors no ill will about Donovan’s comments during the World Cup.
“That he was or is upset about that decision about not going to the World Cup is, for me, a good reaction,” Klinsmann said during a roundtable with reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “That means he cares. He built his case leading up to the World Cup. I decided that the players in his position – forward, midfield or whatever it is – are just ahead of him. For me in my case and my evaluation as a coach, they were ahead of him. It was a simple decision that led to obviously a big deal. I knew that, too. We all knew that.”
“At the end of the day, I needed to take those players who I believe in to make a difference in Brazil,” Klinsmann continued. “That was my decision. Now if he’s not happy about that, and he makes those statements that he’s not content and sees it differently, that’s legitimate. That’s totally fine with me.”
The decision to include Donovan now represents a nod to his contributions during his 15 years in the national team program. Klinsmann said Donovan’s body of work – including 156 caps, three World Cup appearances, his iconic goal against Algeria to send the U.S. through to the round of 16 in 2010 and a host of records after serving as a fixture in the side for more than a decade – warranted his inclusion.
“As a player, he deserves every piece of recognition for an amazing career with that farewell game. He has done so much for the national team program,” Klinsmann said during a roundtable with reporters on. “It’s a real pleasure to give him that farewell match, give him that occasion and give him that recognition.”
Klinsmann said he hopes the occasion will leave Donovan with another enduring memory from his days with the national team.
“We’ll give him a blast in that moment,” Klinsmann said. “Hopefully, the stadium will give him standing ovations and will give him the best farewell that we can do and we can make it a large event that he undoubtedly deserves. Hopefully, he has a smile on his face.”
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