Landon Donovan dominated Jurgen Klinsmann’s Friday morning press conference to an even greater degree than he has dominated the U.S. MNT for the past 12 years.
Friday morning at Stanford University, less than a full day after leaving Landon Donovan off of the 23 man World Cup squad, Jurgen Klinsmann addressed a press corp that wanted to know just why the all time U.S. leader in goals and assists had been left out.
The first question was just that, why? Kinsmann stuck to his previous remarks, saying, “we coaches felt that the guys we chose are a little step ahead of Landon in certain areas. It wouldn’t do justice if I mentioned these fields. Where maybe he has a little bit of a weakness, another guy has more strengths, and where the other guy has more weaknesses, Landon has his strengths. It is a very tight race for those spots, and at this moment, we feel like the other players, without naming any of those guys, are a tiny bit ahead of him. That’s why we made that decision, which is obviously and understandably the biggest topic out here.”
Klinsmann was right about that, Donovan was the story, and the reporters present pressed on for reasons.
“We read everything. Where he maybe is not the one to go one against one all the time and go into the box, he brings other values to the table – his outstanding passing game, his experience, which is a big factor always, and other elements. He’s changed his game over the past four years, which is normal at this stage of his career. Those things, we coaches discuss. We discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the other guys that we have and then we have to make a decision. He has done an amazing job in the last 10 days he was here, and has done everything right, like all of the guys did. They all had strong cases. With every player yesterday to kind of go through those couple minutes, it’s been not easy. It’s just part of the process.”
Donovan’s omission was a story that went far beyond the usual parameters of a coach selecting one player and not another, and Klinsmann was put in the awkward position of having to answer for his son Jonathon, and his anti-Donovan tweet, tweeted soon after the roster was announced.
Klinsmann sounded more like a father than a coach when he answered, “I was hugely disappointed. I called him right away. He realized just a few minutes after what he had done. He came out of school fooling around with his classmates and just went off on Twitter, not being aware that he’s actually followed on Twitter. He has a huge admiration for Landon. He’s actually a big fan of his for many years. He has his jersey in his room. He realized what he had done, so he was devastated yesterday. Obviously, as a father, you put him in line and he owes him a huge apology. It was highly disrespectful and I think he got his biggest social media lesson that he could imagine. It was very disappointing.”
Two of Klinsmann’s team leaders, Tim Howard and Michael Bradley recently spoke up on Donovan’s behalf and the coach was asked whether he spoke to his veterans before cutting Donovan loose.
“No. I didn’t discuss that selection process with the older players and the leaders of the team because you don’t want them to be involved in personnel discussions that they might influence in any way.”
Klinsmann did not seem bothered by the comments, “Landon has a lot of admiration in the entire group, with us coaches, as well,” the coach emphasized. But Klinsmann made it clear that he and his staff, and not the players pick the team.“Our picture, at the end of the day, is a different one than a player has with his own teammate, so when it comes down to those decisions, I’m not involving the players.”
Klinsmann was also asked if his contract extension running through 2018 influenced his selections, in particular youngsters, Julian Green, DeAndre Yedlin and Anthony Brooks. Not surprisingly the coach who has always stressed that his players must constantly prove themselves said, “no.” He continued, “this is based on today. This is based on what hopefully goes well the next seven or eight weeks. It has nothing to do with my contract or with the perspective that those players have for the longer run.”
Klinsmann added that, “it is our strong feeling that these guys are ready for the World Cup, coming in anytime and doing well.”
“Some,” Klinsmann conceded, “have a learning curve ahead of them, there’s no doubt about it. If you talk about a Julian Green or DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks, they are ready for that learning curve and they might surprise some people out there.”
Klinsmann expressed confidence that he had made the right selections, and sounds ready to head to Brazil. “I just have to do what I believe is the right thing as of today, and time will tell over the next seven weeks if it was the right move, if it was the right decision on players, on tactical approaches for Ghana, Portugal and Germany, and everything you’re going to do now from today going forward. As of today, I am strongly convinced that this is the right way to go, that this is the right decision that we made and I believe in that. Time will tell. If I’m not getting the job done at the end of the day, you know the outcome of those things in the soccer world.”