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Will Klinsmann have any regrets after Landon Donovan’s record-breaking night?

May 25, 2014, 11:15 PM EST

In addition to being the national team's all-time leading scorer (56 goals), Donovan is the program's all-time leader in World Cup qualifying appearances (38). Getty Images

Landon Donovan sunk to his knees just after scoring his 135th goal in Major League Soccer.

He had just become the all-time leading goalscorer in the top-flight of North American club soccer after acting as the face of the league, the USMNT and soccer in the United States for well over a decade. Donovan had just etched his name into the record books.

It took the Californian native 311 games to claim the sole leadership of the MLS scoring record, 54 fewer games than Jeff Cunningham, the man he held the record with since last October. Immediately after creating history by scoring against Philadelphia, the expression on Donovan’s face was one of delight and ecstasy, however you could see the strain of the last few days in his eyes as he lifted his head towards the sky.

MORE: Donovan breaks MLS scoring record, ends rollercoaster week on a high

On Thursday afternoon Donovan was omitted from Jurgen Klinsmann’s final 23-man roster heading to the World Cup in Brazil this summer.  Shock. Anger. Devastation. Denial… those were just the emotions from vast swathes of the U.S. soccer community. Imagine how Donovan felt.

Donovan admitted that he didn’t agree with Klinsmann’s decision to leave him at home and to not allow him a chance to compete at his fourth-straight World Cup and help the USA in Brazil. Donovan then stated he would not speak about the topic again.

It seems as though the 32-year-old is hell bent on letting his boots do the talking and proving his doubters, notably Klinsmann, wrong. Setting up Leonardo to score the opener after 115 seconds with a sumptuous free kick, scoring LA’s second and fourth goals himself, Donovan put in a sensational display on Sunday against Philadelphia and proved that timing is everything.

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Will Klinsmann regret leaving Donovan off his roster this summer?

Just when everyone was writing Donovan off, he gave everybody a reminder exactly what he is capable of and exactly what the USMNT will be missing this summer.

When Donovan left the pitch just after his second goal against the Union to a standing ovation, with the entire stadium chanting his name, my mind couldn’t help but switch to what Klinsmann had made of all this. The USMNT head coach was likely sitting in a hotel room in Northern California watching the match on TV. Is he regretting his decision to leave Donovan, the USA’s all-time leading scorer and go-to man for over a decade, at home and off his World Cup roster?

MORE: Donovan talks U.S. omission, says he won’t speak about it anymore

Klinsmann will probably never admit it if he does have regrets. Yet with Donovan putting on a clinic of ruthless finishing and clever set up play just days after being deemed surplus to requirements by the USA’s head coach, it’s hard to imagine that he couldn’t contribute for the U.S. in Brazil this summer.

We don’t know what went on behind the scenes in camp, how much of Klinsmann’s decision is personal and what difference Donovan would’ve made this summer. We also don’t know how capable Landon was to succeed on the world stage and help the U.S. when it mattered, as scoring against the Union in MLS is a slightly different proposition to scoring vs. Germany or Portugal at the World Cup. What we do know, Sunday’s record-breaking moment was a timely reminder that Donovan can see passes others cannot, he can do things others can only dream of. At the flip of the switch he can change a game. Players like those come along once every so often and you can’t afford to overlook them.

I spoke to a well-respected coach within the game about the Donovan situation over the past few days. Here is what he had to say about Donovan being left out:

“A fit, motivated Landon would help for sure. He still can see things and make plays others can’t.”

No matter what happens in Brazil this summer, I’d bet there will be at least one or two moments in games where chances may be missed in the attacking third and USMNT fans will turn to each other and say “if Donovan was around we would have scored then.”

Let’s hope, for Klinsmann’s sake, that those moments aren’t plentiful and meaningful. If they are, he will have plenty of regrets about leaving Landon at home.

  1. schmutzdeck - May 25, 2014 at 11:46 PM

    “Donovan put in a sensational display on Sunday against Philadelphia and proved that timing is everything.”

    What timing?

    Had he been doing this all along then maybe he makes the 23. As it is this as they say, “a day late and a dollar short”.

    • nottinghamforest13 - May 26, 2014 at 9:37 AM

      Exactly

  2. jimmycrackcorn99 - May 26, 2014 at 12:35 AM

    The decision to leave LD at home is really baffling for me, in two very clear aspects:

    1) who is Bradley’s back up? LD seemed like the perfect fit in case of injury or card problems

    2) who best to bring in the 70th minute for an offensive spark? Even if LD is “too old”, missing a step or not a tactical alternative, he at least has the ability to change a game. I’m not sure that there is anyone else on the roster capable of this.

    • schmutzdeck - May 26, 2014 at 9:18 AM

      Bradley’s backup? Probably Jones. Maybe Mix after that.

      Since LD is not there then someone else will be forced to learn how to be that “70th minute offensive spark”.

      • jimmycrackcorn99 - May 26, 2014 at 10:43 PM

        According to my list of 23 players, no real viable alternative. Unless you have more insight…?

      • schmutzdeck - May 27, 2014 at 2:49 AM

        Mr crackcorn,
        Frankly, I don’t remember LD doing the sub as a hero bit ever. It seems to me all his great moments in recent history come when he is a starter. All I know is that when LD came into the Mexico game as a sub it was a huge letdown.

        The late game offensive sub spark role was Shea’s and theoretically now belongs to Green but I get the feeling Green may have a different role now. No one seems to be talking about how AJ is recovering from his injury. He’ s the guy who beat out LD as far as I’m concerned.

        The best idea is to not be down 1-0 with 20 minutes to go.

    • nottinghamforest13 - May 26, 2014 at 9:36 AM

      If Bradley is filling the role of creative midfielder, the tournament is already over.

  3. davetheref - May 26, 2014 at 8:51 AM

    Enough already..he’s never been good enough to land a steady gig in European football..he quit international play a few years ago because he was burnt out, came back and made some lackluster appearances for the national team, got an invite to camp, didn’t perform and didn’t make the team.

    • nottinghamforest13 - May 26, 2014 at 9:38 AM

      Amen.

      • blugold94 - May 26, 2014 at 11:15 AM

        I swear it sounds like you were in camp watching. You weren’t. Klinsmann didn’t like him or feel like he was one of “his guys” and cut him. The kid’s tweet showed exactly what was going on inside Klinsmann’s head. Based on ability he should be there. Last Int. tournament he was the best player on the pitch….and that wasn’t 4 years ago.

        At least be honest about it and stop pushing the company line. If Klinsmann doesn’t like him he can cut him based on his position but stop the whole “he isn’t as good as all those others”…..can see that’s not true.

      • kadnamz - May 26, 2014 at 8:48 PM

        bluegold94, I didn’t everyone else was there to see how well or terrible LD performed. People continue to talk about JK not liking LD, if he doesn’t so what. JK is the coach of this team. He’s the one that has taken the responsibility for this decision. It has become a no win situation for JK. So, he must take the players that play the style that he feels is necessary for the USMNT.

      • schmutzdeck - May 27, 2014 at 3:19 AM

        blugold,

        This bad blood rationale has a very sixth grade feel to it.

        JK may or may not like LD but that is irrelevant. If you are a supervisor maybe you understand that you sometimes have employees you have a lot of issues with but you keep them anyway because their positives outweigh their negatives.
        .
        This is especially true in sports. Managers keep players they hate and cut players they love all the time. It’s not personal, it’s just business.

        JK has made it clear what he expects from his players. From what I’ve seen the past year or two LD acts as if those expectations don’t apply to him and spends a lot of time with the media expounding on that.

        So I would say its more of a case of an entitled player not liking the manager. Clearly he felt that as long as he was somewhere in the ballpark in terms of form and fitness that he would be given a pass because he was who he was. Obviously LD’s fans agree and JK does not.

        I call that a difference of opinion and usually, the manager wins those. Of course LD was used to getting his way with BB and Arena before him so this may have come as a shock to LD.

        JK has been defied by his players before. What do you think Dempsey and Mikey did? That was pretty much a slap in JK’s face but JK needs those two and anyway they have proven to be pretty indispensable.

        Do I think JK likes LD? No. But as shown by how he dealt with Dempsey/Mikey, if he feels the team needs you he will put that aside.

        So that shows me that if felt LD could help the team he would keep him regardless of any bad personal feelings.

    • tcb23 - May 26, 2014 at 2:29 PM

      Your point is that if you selectively strip away context you can make the decision seem non-controversial? Fair enough.

    • midtec2005 - May 27, 2014 at 11:17 AM

      You must be blind. He was VERY well respected in England when he had his loan there. He could have easily stayed if he had wanted.

      As for those lackluster appearances for the national team after his sabbatical, 12 games, 8 goals, 9 assists. That’s not lackluster.

  4. handsofsweed - May 26, 2014 at 12:56 PM

    Is it possible that Klinsmann is a genius and a master motivator? Is he now going to add Donovan after one of the lead up friendlies when someone “gets hurt?” Was he just interested in seeing how Lando will react to this sunb and seeing what Donovan TRULY has left inside his own heart and legs?

    I don’t know, but I’m wondering. We’ll see soon enough.

    • jimmycrackcorn99 - May 26, 2014 at 8:27 PM

      Interesting thought. I doubt one can see that far into the future, but you have to ask yourself, who is on the short-list in case of injury? LD surely covers anything in midfield or even as a striker.

      Due to the fact the the MLS and Euro-based guys have had almost no games together since before the Gold Cup, it will be so interesting in so many aspects.

  5. ws0001 - May 26, 2014 at 2:59 PM

    In as much as everyone looks back with 20-20 hindsight, it is hard to believe Jurgen will have regrets. If the decision was made that Donovan did not project to have an active role as a starter or one of the three subs, then he wasn’t going to help just by being in the stadium. I do not think the roster has the best 23 players the US has to offer at this moment, but I don’t have to decide who to bring in for a spark if down 1-0 to Ghana/Portugal/Germany with 20 minutes to go. If Jurgen knew that his decision wasn’t going to be Donovan (or for him starting, obviously), then why would he regret dropping him regardless as to how the tournament plays out? It is a difficult group. Even if Jurgen sent the mostly veteran team that was seen through qualifying, it would still be a challenging slate. There is no going back and getting a group with Switzerland, Algeria, and Greece.

  6. kurgen99 - Jul 16, 2014 at 1:23 PM

    One of the USMNT’s most dangerous aspects was the counter attack, especially from a corner kick. Timmy’s perfect 50 yard passes were always to Landon and Landon scored important goals in big games like that, against Brazil in the Confed Cup and Algeria in the WC. I never saw anything like that in Brazil. Fabian and Andre were good from the back, but it isn’t the same.

    Landon always scored goals in big games, throughout his entire career. Even one goal from him could have made a difference, and no one can say that, Zusi, Diskarud, Bedoya or Davis made any sort of impact.

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