US coach Jurgen Klinsmann praised Landon Donovan on Friday for the “professional” way he handled being left off the World Cup squad and kept the door open for him to return in case of injuries.
However, the German gave few clues as to the motives behind the controversial decision announced on Thursday to leave Donovan, the country’s all-time top scorer, off the final 23-man squad, saying other forwards had just edged out the Californian.
“He said that he doesn’t kind of understand it, he thinks he should have been in the 23, which is well taken. I want the player to speak up and say that,” Klinsmann told a news conference in Palo Alto, California. “I tried to lay out a couple of reasons, those are technical parts... I am not going into those details right now. I told him that I hope for his understanding and that he stands by us and that if something happens tomorrow and that I can call him and he is back right away. He assured me that 24/7 he is at our disposal and when the call comes he is ready to go, but obviously he also expressed his disappointment, but also in a very professional way — I admire that a lot.”
Klinsmann later told ESPN television that Donovan is his first choice replacement in the case of any injury to a striker. However, the decision to leave out a player who competed in the past three World Cups and has been the face of US soccer for more than a decade was one Klinsmann was unwilling to fully explain.
“As a coach, you have to make a decision based on what you want to execute in Brazil, what do you want to see and how do you want to build those components into the group,” he said. “I felt ... the guys we chose are a little step ahead of Landon in certain areas.”
Asked for specifics on what areas Donovan had been lacking in, Klinsmann threw the ball back to the media, but gave some clues.
“You can read him as well in his game, that is also part of your job. We read everything where he is maybe not the one now anymore to go one-against-one all the time or going into the box, or finishing off. He brings other values to the table — his outstanding passing game, his experience, which is a big factor always, and other elements,” Klinsmann said. “He changed his game over the last few years, which is normal at that 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 the last 10 days, he has done everything right, like all of the guys, they all have very strong cases.”