May 23, 2014

Donavan Left Off of U.S. World Cup Roster

Klinsmann had better know what he's doing

Well, I guess it doesn't get much more blunt than that, does it?

The decision by Jurgen Klinsmann to leave Landon Donovan at home for the 2014 World Cup caught most everyone by surprise. The second-most capped player in US Men's National Team history, the general consensus was than Donovan would be on the squad.

After all, Donovan has scored 57 goals for the US side. The next closest active player is Clint Dempsey with 36. Donovan's 57 assists are also the most for any US player.He has been in the past three World Cups. It seems it would be a no-brainer for Donovan to be on the team.

Instead, Donovan will watch the World Cup on television while Aron Johannsson will try to justify Klinsmann's decision.

Donovan could be looking back on the end of a great national career

Johannsson, who plays for AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch Eredivisie, is an American by fortune of being born in Mobile, Alabama to Icelandic parents. He moved back to Iceland at age 3. Since then he has developed into quite a solid player. He scored 17 goals for AZ in the 2013-14 season. He is also 23 years old and I think that played a big role in Klinsmann's decision.

The United States has an absolutely brutal schedule at the World Cup. First off, they have to play Germany (one of the best sides in the world), Portugal (has the best player in the world) and Ghana (has beaten the US in the last two World Cups) in the group stage. That is hard enough.

The travel makes it worse. The US team will have to travel from Natal to Manaus to Recife over a 10 day period. Recife and Natal are on the northern Brazilian coast, not too far from one another. Manaus is in the middle of the Amazon. The distance between Natal and Manaus is a little over 4,600 kilometers, or 2,900 miles. The distance from Manaus to Recife is about the same.

It's like flying across the US twice in less than 10 days. Except you have to play three games of soccer. And one of those games is in the middle of a sweltering, humid rain forest. The average daytime temperature in Manaus in June approaches 90 degrees Fahrenheit, along with extreme humidity.

This is going to be an extremely taxing schedule for the US team. And a young Aron Johannsson is more likely to be able to physically tolerate that schedule than Landon Donovan.

That is also likely why so many of the defenders selected are young. Besides DaMarcus Beasley, there is no US defenseman over the age of 30. That isn't a mistake; it's a plan taking into account where and when and how the US will be playing their three games.

If Klinsmann wants the US to play an up-tempo game (and he likely will) then these players will have to be at peak fitness. And be able to tolerate the travel and weather that will come with playing that kind of game.

It's sad that Donovan was left off the side. He has been an integral part of the US team for as long as most of us can remember. But this is part of sports; players coming and going. It's why Tim Howard is the goalie now instead of Brad Friedel. It's why Michael Bradley mans the midfield instead of Pablo Mastroeni.

And it's why Aron Johannsson is now a forward on the US team instead of Landon Donovan.


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