Speaking publicly for the first time since being cut from the U.S. men’s team that will participate in next month’s World Cup, Landon Donovan said he was surprised and disappointed he had not made the team and contested his coach's decision.
Speaking to reporters Saturday after a Galaxy practice in preparation for Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Union, Donovan said he was at peace with Coach Juergen Klinsmann's choice to leave him off the squad, but disagreed with it.
“I respect the decision but I just feel in my heart that I deserve to be there and that’s the pill that’s hardest to swallow,” Donovan said.
“I’m disappointed, I’m sad,” said the 32-year-old Galaxy forward who is the national team’s all-time leader in goals (57), assists (57), World Cup appearances (12) and World Cup goals (five). “I’m human and I wanted to go, I really wanted to go.”
The three-time World Cup veteran, who had been the face of U.S. soccer for the last 12 years after a breakout performance in the 2002 World Cup, said he felt he deserved a spot on the team based on his performance at the team’s 10-day camp at Stanford.
“Based on my performances leading up to camp, based on my preparation for the camp, based on my fitness, based on my workload, based on the way I trained and played in camp, I not only thought I was a part of the 23,” Donovan said, “I thought I was in contention to be starting, so that’s why all this has been pretty disappointing.”
Donovan also fueled speculation that Klinsmann's decision to leave him off the roster may have been more personal than performance-based. Asked if he thought the decision was part of personal differences between himself and Klinsmann, Donovan responded: “I think if I’m being judged based solely on what happened in camp then I absolutely deserve to be going to Brazil.”
Donovan said he disagreed with Klinsmann’s assessment that other players in camp outperformed him.
“I think I was one of the better players in camp,” Donovan said. “If I had gone in and didn’t think I deserved it then I can live with that, but that’s not the case here.”