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It Seems To Me. . .

After dispensing Donovan, Klinsmann's authority is enhanced with young World Cup squad.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Friday, May 23, 2014) -- There are really only two plausible reasons that United States men's coach Jürgen Klinsmann cut Landon Donovan from the 23-man roster he is taking to the fast-approching World Cup in Brazil. The first is that he is a man who holds a grudge; the second is he has written off this World Cup and is already looking forward to 2018 in Russia.

After the 2012 season, Donovan was worn out and tired of playing soccer. So he took some time off, a sabbatical, and spent four months away from the sport, including time in Cambodia. He said he was unsure whether he wanted to continue his soccer career and he had to be coaxed back to the Los Angeles Galaxy, his Major League Soccer team, by coach Bruce Arena.

Reportedly, Klinsmann was furious. Donovan had gone on his extended holiday without conferring with his national-team coach. Moreover, it is likely the former hero as player and coach for Germany simply did not understand how a player still in his prime could turn his back on his national team when the initial round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying was starting.

Klinsmann announced that Donovan would have to earn his spot back. He then made Donovan do penance. He did not play him much, if at all, in qualifying, and then made him play every minute of the second-level Gold Cup with what was essentially the U.S. "B" team.

Donovan responded by being voted the outstanding player in that competition.

Now, with Donovan jettisoned, the message here seems is stark: You don't want to get into Klinsmann's doghouse, because you'll never get out.

Almost immediately after the announcement, Klinsmann's 17-year old son Jonathan, who is a goalkeeper on the U.S. under-18 team, posted an all-caps tweet mocking Donovan. The tweet set off a firestorm on the Internet and was quickly taken down. The Twitter account was closed.

Was this just a piece of youthful indiscretion or did it represent the level of animosity toward Donovan the younger Klinsmann heard around the house?

It's interesting to see who Klinsmann's is taking to Brazil while leaving Donovan at home. Named to the 23-man squad are seven players who are 24 or younger, 13 with 20 or fewer international caps and just six players with previous World Cup experience. Three youngsters have a total of six caps between them: defenders DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks, and midfielder Julian Green.

About the only way one can read this is that Klinsmann has looked at the opponents the U.S. will face in Group B in Brazil. The popular thinking from most observers is the Americans will not advance and it is time for the U.S. to start looking forward to 2018.

Little noticed is the fact that Klinsmann has scheduled a friendly against the Czech Republic in Prague on September 3. Why would he return to action so quickly when the U.S. faces no important matches until qualifying for 2018 starts more than two years from now? The inescapable answer is Klinsmann is already starting to point to 2018.

Klinsmann brought 30 players into his training camp and did not have to determine his final 23 until the June 2 roster deadline. He suddenly made his final decision so quickly it caught even the U.S. Soccer Federation by surprise. Obviously, he wanted to get the uproar over his decision to leave off Donovan over with before getting to Brazil. Probably a wise decision.

There is also something of a too-big to-fail attitude on Klinsmann's part. He has already signed a four-year extension to his contract, so unless U.S. Soccer wants to pony up eight-plus million to buy out those four new years, he is safe no matter how poorly the Americans do in Brazil.

There also the attitude that seems to say Klinsmann considers himself more important that any player. That seems to be the polar opposite of how both Arena and then Bob Bradley saw their relationship as coach with their players.

Since the announcement, both Klinsmann and Donovan have said all the right things: Klinsmann on how hard the decision was and Donovan on how he understands and how he will be pulling for his former teammates.

Probably, the best reaction I have heard was from Arena, Donovan coach with the Galaxy (and formerly with the national team). "If there are 23 better players than Landon, then we have a chance to win the World Cup," he said.


Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

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