The United States Men’s National Soccer Team will be in Brazil this June for the World Cup, but “Captain America” himself, L.A. Galaxy forward Landon Donovan, will not be with them.
Donovan, as you might’ve heard via the World Wide Net’s id, Twitter, was not among the 23 players selected by head coach Juergen Klinsmann to represent the Stars And Stripes after the German announced his final roster selection this afternoon. That’s a damn shame, too: Donovan is the most-capped player of the guys who made the U.S. World Cup camp with 156 appearances and the national team’s all-time leading scorer with 57 tallies, which would’ve given the team a (understatement/cliche alert) proven leader.
In his place (and we’ll go based off wingers and forwards here) Klinsmann selected young guns like Jozy Altidore [Ed. note: really?], Aron Johannsson, and Julian Green, as well as older dudes Chris Wondolowski and Clint Dempsey.
This would’ve been Donovan’s fourth World Cup appearance in a row if he had made it, so excuse USMNT fans for thinking that the 32-year-old was going to be anywhere but Brazil next month. However, with the beauty of hindsight over the past year, fans and pundits alike could’ve seen it coming. Here are five reasons why.
1. Age, Dawg.
Donovan’s 32 years old, which isn’t dinosaur-status, as the inclusion of also-32-years-old Besiktas central midfielder Jermaine Jones proves. But Klinsmann’s apparently thinking ahead for the 2018 World Cup, which he and the U.S. Soccer Federation believe he’ll be around for. Take a look at some of the guys included on the rosters and it’s clear Klinsmann’s thinking young: 18-year-old Green, 20-year-old DeAndre Yedlin, 23-year-olds Johannsson and Mix Diskerud. And at a position that requires flash and pace against teams like Portugal, Germany and Ghana, Donovan just wasn’t going to cut it, perhaps because…
2. Recent Form
Over the past two seasons, Donovan’s own performance has started to decline from its peak. While he did win the MVP award for the USMNT at last summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, leading a young B-team-esque squad, his total goals for a Galaxy season have declined since 2011, and he has none so far this season (although, he does have two assists). Granted, Jozy Altidore’s been nothing more than ho-hum his entire time in Europe, but, again, Klinsmann’s going to settle with youth over Landy’s aging legs.
3. His And Klinsmann’s Relationship
Donovan expressed after the 2012 season that he needed to take a break from his career to rest and get his mind right. Klinsmann apparently, maybe didn’t approve of Donovan’s sabbatical through the spring of 2013–since he believes his American players need to be bettering their careers 24/7–and their relationship has been chilly since.
4. The U.S. Doesn’t Need His Leadership Anymore
The U.S. managers that Donovan first played under were Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley, two Americans who more or less utilized a “good ol’ boys” system of selecting players–that is, they stuck with whom they knew and could rely on. Under both managers (Arena is also now Donovan’s coach at the Galaxy), Donovan was the team’s nucleus, lynchpin and backbone. He really could do no wrong. But Klinsmann’s youth-based revolution, his relationship with Donovan and Donovan’s absence for several months last year meant the team had to move on from surrounding itself around Donovan.
And if you take a look at the players whom Klinsmann selected, you’ll notice that five (Fabian Johnson, Green, Chandler, Jones and Brooks) are German-born American converts and two (Johannsson and Diskerud) are foreign-born American converts from recent years. Klinsy has internationalized the roster with players who have American lineage but European soccer backgrounds, which has typically reaped rewards, but has lead a crop of now-established players to ask, “Donovan who?”
5. The Julian Green Conspiracy
This will be one of those things that won’t be revealed until peoples’ careers have ended, if it ever will be at all. But following Green’s decision to switch his allegiance from the Germans to the Americans earlier this year, people began asking what Klinsmann promised the talented player to cause him to start representing the U.S. Theories abounded that Klinsmann promised Green a World Cup roster spot in exchange for his commitment. After one very average performance during a friendly with Mexico, people decided Green’s big year would be 2018, when he’d have more national and first-team club appearances under his belt.
Well, Green made this year’s roster, despite his performance against Mexico and only playing single-digit minutes for the Bayern Munich first team thus far. Then again, another young player who had played scant minutes for a German giant also did just fine in his World Cup debut. That player? Twenty-year-old Landon Donovan at the 2002 World Cup.