The games kick off tomorrow with host country Brazil taking on Croatia and the U.S. team going against Ghana Monday in a field being referred to as the “group of Death” (with Portugal and Germany).
So it makes perfect sense for USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann to field the best 11 players available, right?
Not so fast.
In a controversial move Klinsmann cut what some believe to be the best player ever to play for the United States, Landon Donovan. The news late last month came as a shock to many soccer fans, however from October until the late May cut by Klinsmann, Donovan scored zero goals for his LA Galaxy against lesser quality MLS players. Far lesser than the ones he would likely have faced in the World Cup.
So was cutting Donovan a good move, the right move?
“Well no, the thing is he’s one of the best 23 players in the United States undoubtedly,” says KCC soccer scribe Matt Donnelly. “It comes down to a personality conflict between him and the coach. I don’t think that anybody can say he’s not in the top 23 and he’s probably in the top 11.”
Klinsmann selected 23 players to play for the United State squad, 11 of which will start.
Where things seem to go wrong between Donovan and Klinsmann: About a year and a half ago Donovan took a four month sabbatical from his MLS team the LA Galaxy and the Klinsmann’s national team to travel, meditate and get his head together.
“And there will pics of him shirtless and playing with kids in Cambodia,” Donnelly says. “He basically told the teams he’d be back – like he could do whatever he wanted, that players of his stature can do – but that most players can’t. He probably assumed he would get his spot back, but when he did get back he was put in with lower tier players and he honestly did have to step up his game to get back, which he did. He came back, put the work in and worked his way up to being back in the staring 11.”
Until Klinsmann lowered the boom.
“Once he didn’t make the squad it was a shock to everyone who wasn’t following US soccer,” Donnelly says. “But it wasn’t a surprise to me.”
Next thing anybody knew Klinsmann’s college soccer playing son Jonathan hammered Donovan on Twitter:
“So to me it was like, where’s the son getting that from,” Donnelly says. “You can’t tell me there’s not a problem between Klinsmann and Donovan.”
Once again, should Donovan be on the World Cup team?
“Yes, definitely, I think he should,” Donnelly says. “I mean, he’s come through in big games. He’s the best big game player the U.S. has – maybe ever did have.”
So was cutting Donovan a petty move on Klinsmann’s part?
“If that’s all this was about (the furlough), then yeah,” Donnelly says. “But if Klinsmann thinks having Donovan there is going to hurt the team or cause other issues, then no. But he’s the best U.S. soccer player. He’s the godfather of U.S. soccer. He’s the face of U.S. soccer. Take 100 people off the street and ask them to name a player on the U.S. team and Donovan would probably be the only one. It’s obviously personal and he shouldn’t have been cut. He’s not a problem player.”
There you have it, from a dude who played college soccer, still coaches and plays and covers Sporting Kansas City and the MLS.