Two weeks ago, most American sports were bewildered when the U.S. Men's National Team for the 2014 World Cup was announced and there was no Landon Donovan on the 23-man roster. At first, Jurgen Klinsmann kept it simple, responding to Donovan's absence on the team by saying, "I just see some other players slightly ahead of him." However, in a recent New York Times interview with Klinsmann, the piece explores what went into the USMNT manager's decision.
In Klinsmann’s mind — and job description — the long view is always in sight, even in the midst of World Cup myopia. That is one reason a player everyone has heard of, Landon Donovan, the national team’s all-time leader in goals and assists, was not picked to go to Brazil. That is one reason a player no one has heard of, Julian Green, was.
When Klinsmann told Donovan he was being cut (and when he was explaining himself at a news conference the next day), he was affable and upbeat, praising Donovan’s skills to the point of awkwardness but then saying other players were “a tiny little bit ahead of him.”
Obviously, the decision didn't sit well with American sports fans, who felt that Donovan deserved a spot given his success in previous international matches. But that mentality is where Klinsmann believes the problem lies.
To Klinsmann, the idea that Donovan deserved a place on the team represented much that is wrong with American sports. He has never understood the American coaching custom of deferring to a team’s stars.
“This always happens in America,” Klinsmann told me, waving his hands in the air. “Kobe Bryant, for example — why does he get a two-year contract extension for $50 million? Because of what he is going to do in the next two years for the Lakers? Of course not. Of course not. He gets it because of what he has done before. It makes no sense. Why do you pay for what has already happened?”
Does Jurgen have a point? Gilbert Arenas would definitely agree with that point-of-view. But what do you think? Sound off in the comments section.