World Cup Roster React

Submitted by Brian on May 23rd, 2014 at 1:03 PM

ALL RIGHT FINE IT STARTS NOW. If you weren't around four years ago or four years before that, when the World Cup rolls around I cover the USMNT like it is the subject of this blog. I'll be interested to see if the ratio of people pleased by this to people disgusted because 'Murica has gone up.

But whatever man. It's the offseason, and I like the World Cup a lot.




That's that for Landon Donovan, who didn't even make the 23. This made me a little EMOTIONAL last night, because I mean seriously.

This man was in a Mexican lottery commercial trying to sneak into Mexico wherein he says "it's easier to win in Mexico," which brings a threat of violence until he explains he's just talking about the awesomeness of Gana Gol. And then he gets kicked out because Mexicans hate Landon Donovan.

Before the existence of Donovan it was impossible to envision Mexican fans hating any specific USA player more than he hated whatever it was the jerseys stood for in their minds, because he killed them in a way no USA player was capable of before. Because Donovan was a little weird, a little effeminate he got saddled with unflattering nicknames like "Landycakes" as soon as anything went wrong with his career. And he may even have (momentarily) lived up to that nickname when he went a little stir-crazy last year. But never forget: Mexico feared Landon Donovan.

And then there's all this other stuff.

The Analytical Hat in re: Donovan

I still don't get it unless Klinsmann's doing it for You Must Step Up purposes. Brad Davis's inclusion is solely because he can play Tiny Beckerman on set pieces and the (very) occasional cross a high-level opponent will let him swing in. He's a legit A in that department; Donovan is at worst a B+ and is also Landon Donovan.

The only thing that makes sense other than hand-waving motivational stuff is that Donovan's performance on the infamous "beep test" was so bad that they couldn't look the rest of the team in the eye and bring him. I don't mind dragging Green along since player #23 is never going to play, so locking that guy down and prepping him for 2018 is worthwhile.

Brad Davis, though? I look at this roster and see no way he's getting in a game. Might as well bring Landon.

The unquestioned man, then

Michael Bradley of USA

Not that there was much of a question before, but minus Donovan and coming off this display of Keyser Soze-level will…

…Michael Bradley is the engine the team is built around. I mean.

"This will be a World Cup where teams that do well will suffer. We want to be the team that can suffer the most."

This is a man with an armband whether he has it or not.

I've expressed my opinion on this repeatedly elsewhere, but to reiterate: the USMNT looks its best when Bradley is paired with an outright holder and allowed to range upfield as far as he wants. With someone else maintaining a screen to help prevent breaks, Bradley has the fitness to recover when the US is caught out. When Bradley can become part of the rushes upfield on the regular, his passing, vision, and late runs into the box give the US attack verve it lacks otherwise. Bradley also does excellent work providing the kind of high pressure that leads to dangerous turnovers and central backs hoofing it upfield. There is no substitute.

Unfortunately, Klinsmann fave-rave Jermaine Jones is around and likely to start despite his inability to be that player. When paired together it's Jones flying up the pitch more often than not, and generally to little effect other than taking a long shot. Bradley stays back and plays well, but has much less impact on the game. And at this point it's clear that Klinsmann either can't or doesn't want to rein Jones in.

I would prefer Cameron or Beckerman, but with Goodson cut and Gonzalez shaky Cameron is at least the #3 center back and will compete to be #2. Meanwhile Beckerman struggles mightily against speed. The thing he has going for him is that the US has clearly focused on having quick outside backs, which may allow for Beckerman to do his positioning and passing thing as others cover for his lack of range.

Outside backs: fast


Yedlin also brings hair to the table, so much hair that GIS asks you if you'd like to search for not just "Yedlin hair" but "Yedlin hair 2013."

The US cut Parkhurst and Evans to include DeAndre Yedlin, a 20-year-old with one cap to his name, and Timmy Chandler, who hasn't been on the team in six months. And, yeah. Had to do it. Evans and Parkhurst were consistently exploited by low-level players because they simply could not keep up with them, and since they were no less likely to get skinned by the likes of Ronaldo you might as well roll with the guys who can catch up to him after.

Pair with DaMarcus Beasley and you've got a set of gentlemen who can keep up when pressed. Are things going to go spectacularly well there? No. But Evans seemed like a disaster waiting to happen at the World Cup level and I'm saying there's a chance things are okay with Chandler and Yedlin.

Again, I would prefer Fabian Johnson at right back but with the cut of Donovan he is the most obvious choice for left wing. In fact, he is about the only choice.

Who's on the left?

Johnson and Beasley have played a lot on the left side of the US formation. Nobody else on the roster has. And nobody else on the roster seems like a natural fit there. Bedoya and Zusi are right-sided players, Johannsson and Green are striker types, Diskerud is a central player… what happens if injury or cards knock out either one of the presumptive left sided starters?

A: the other one plays left back and the US tries something along the lines of what it was doing with Eddie Johnson playing "left wing" as an in-cutting player trying to get a shot off with his stronger right foot. That could be Dempsey if the US is in a two-striker formation with Bradley its defacto attacking mid; it is most likely to be Johannsson, who has a combination of speed and deftness on the ball that no one else on the roster does except possibly Green, who is… wait for it… really green.

Johannsson does have experience on both wings, and while he says he wants to play closer to the box, in-cutting wingers opposite crossing specialists (hi, also hi) are very close to strikers anyway.

The only thing about that in-cutting formation is that it does place demands on your left back to be a high-placed defacto winger… and demands on your right back to be quite good defensively. (Like the 4-3 under is halfway between a 4-3 even and a 3-4, a setup like this is kind of halfway between a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1.) In the event that Johannsson ends up as a left winger that might be a spot where you play Cameron at right back.

Chance to start against Ghana rankings

  1. Michael Bradley
  2. Tim Howard
  3. Clint Dempsey
  4. Fabian Johnson
  5. DaMarcus Beasley
  6. Matt Besler
  7. Jozy Altidore
  8. Jermaine Jones
  9. Graham Zusi
  10. Geoff Cameron
  11. Timmy Chandler
  12. Omar Gonzalez
  13. DeAndre Yedlin
  14. Aron Johannson
  15. Kyle Beckerman
  16. Alejandro Bedoya
  17. Mix Diskerud
  18. Julian Green
  19. Brad Guzan
  20. Chris Wondolowski
  21. John Brooks
  22. Brad Davis
  23. Nick Rimando

WAG at what it looks like

Don't take this bit too seriously, as Klinsmann has shown a penchant for changing things based on opponent. Bob Bradley would settle on a thing and roll it out over and over; Klinsmann has been experimenting.

But the most likely things is the 4-2-3-1 he's been rolling out on and off since his arrival:


Johnson                       Dempsey                          Zusi

                            Jones           Bradley

Beasley               Besler            Cameron              Chandler

I would prefer something like the 4-4-2 diamond they tried out in a recent friendly, with Bradley dropping back when faced with opponent possession and  Dempsey moving under Altidore to provide an outlet and link to Altidore up top.


                              Altidore          Dempsey


Johnson                                                              Zusi


Beasley                Besler          Cameron             Chandler




Johnson                                                                Zusi

                            Beckerman       Bradley

Beasley                Besler               Cameron            Chandler

I do think the Johannson-as-left wing scenario is in the mix, in which case Johnson would likely bump Beasley at left back and Cameron may flip to RB and allow Gonzalez to enter.

How I'm feeling

Nervous, man. This was supposed to be the last hurrah for this generation of players, but there are only five guys on the whole team who were at the last World Cup. This is uncharted territory for everyone save Dempsey, Bradley, Beasley, and Howard. I mean:

But I guess I'd be nervous anyway.



May 23rd, 2014 at 8:25 PM ^

I wish I had the same feelings of confidence as you do...I see Germany and Portugal running away with it. Germany obviously because...they are Germany. Portugal has a crap ton of GREAT well known and little known offensive weapons. After this world cup a lot of the players on portugals team know one knows about will be inking big contracts. 


May 23rd, 2014 at 8:23 PM ^

Doesn't deserve to be on the team. He is out of shape, and has not been on form most of the year. 

If he truly wanted to make this his last hurrah he would have worked much harder for it. Really shows me he may not have cared too much, and if that is the case I dont want him ont he team anyway.

I want players who will work their asses off for the United States of America.


May 23rd, 2014 at 9:11 PM ^

People keep saying this, but I don't care one crap about players who will work their asses off for the United States of America. I want players who will score for the United States of America. Whether or not they work their asses off to do that or not, I could not care less.

If Wondolowski runs through a brick wall for Klinsy, whoop-dee-fricking-doo. I don't care at all. I'm not going to stand up and cheer like I did for Donovan over Algeria in 2010. No one is going to make a hit YouTube video out of millions of people across the country reacting to how hard Wondo is working.

I want the guys with the best chance of helping America win. No other criteria matter. Not how hard they work, not their race, not their country of origin, not their religion, not their anything else. That's one of the beautiful aspects of sports.


May 23rd, 2014 at 9:14 PM ^

If you don't think Brad Davis will get a game, you are delusional. He's the only true winger in the 23, and he's the only left-footed player in the front 6. He's also the only player in the front 6 with enough pace to get down the line and get a cross into the box. He will play.

As for the Landon gripe, I don't understand the outrage. Have you seen him lately? He is grotesquely out of shape. He's lost his greatest strength as he's aged; pace. Donovan would only have been useful off the front and that's where Dempsey plays and there's not a whole lot between those 2 and Dempsey is much fitter and is actually playing well this season. The outrage is incredible.

Don't get me wrong. I love Landon. Watching him in '02 was magical. That goal against Algeria was once-in-a-lifetime, but he's passed it and taking him would be akin to England taking Becks 4 years ago; purely motivational (though Becks wasn't actually in the squad).


May 24th, 2014 at 1:06 PM ^

Altidore has 2 goals in 27 starts and 38 games for Sunderland. He's been atrocious all season. 

The form bit is completely ridiculous. 

Donovan should be in the 23. Everyone acts like he's past it when less than a year ago he ripped up the Gold Cup and scored against Mexico in a qualifer. 

But yeah, he's past in 10 months later. He's completely useless. 

It boils down to Klinsmann A. Not being a very good manager and B. Klinsmann being a controlling prick who views Donovan as a threat to his new image of the national team. 


May 24th, 2014 at 2:15 PM ^

Comparing Jozy and Donovan is nothing short of ridiculous. Donovan is a winger who's strength was pace which he no longer has. Jozy could have 40 appearances and scoer 0 goals but he's the only striker we have who can lead the line on international level with his strength. His hold up play is key.

You must not watch football, sorry 'soccer', if you think players can't drop off in short amounts of time. Look at Fernando Torres. He went from one of the top strikers in the world to a donkey in almost that amount of time. He played injured and out of form and it hurt him in the long run as a player. David Villa is another example. Was one of the best players at the last World Cup but wasn't scoring a lick for Barca the second half of that season. IT HAPPENS, especially at Donovan's age.

And I know you don't watch soccer if you think Jurgen fucking Klinsmann isn't a good manager. Look at his record and tell me he isn't a good manager. If you've only suffered defeat 26 times in 121 matches, that's pretty freakin good.


May 24th, 2014 at 4:33 PM ^

Sorry man, only played through college. Guess that wasn't enough though. Obviously you must really be CR7 with all your knowledge. Gotta say though, might want to quit fellating Klinsmann long enough to get your boys back in the game. 

I'm saying the "form" excuse is total bullshit for not including Donovan. If "form" is your reason for excluding Donovan, then Jozy Altidore has no business stepping foot near the national team. He's been absolutely miserable all season long. The U.S. is taking numerous players who aren't "in form". Acting as if a few months of subpar play is enough to leave the best player in the country's history off the team as if he has no value is certifiably insane. And you'll note that a guy like Torres, despite being a "donkey" was still included in Spain's line-up in 2012 and might be there in 2014. Villa as well. But we've got so much more talent than Spain that they were forced to bring a scrub like Torres along in 2012 right? 

And yeah Klinsmann is an overrated coach.  

Let's think:

Coached Germany to a WC semifinal. Germany has been to every semifinal (as well as the final of the 2008 Euro Cup) since then under Joachim Low. Again, its been well reported that the people in charge of German football thought Low was the real genius and its showed since Klinsmann left.

Coach Bayern Munich for most of a season, went out in the QF of the Champions League. When he left, Bayern were near the top of the table. Again, not a magical feat by any means as Bayern has finished near the top of the table (top 4) from 1995 till now. Wow, that second place finish must have been all because of Klinsmann!

He's done nothing that makes him a "good" manager. He's fallen into circumstances where his teams would have succeeded whether he was there or not. And the best his U.S. team has looked was when - you guessed it - Donovan was tearing things up. 

So here we are on the cusp of the World Cup and he's dragging along guys with no experience as well as guys who are here because they Sprechen sie Deutsch while leaving Landon Donovan at home. 

The reality is, the guy has a reputation because of his playing career and because of Low. Nothing more. 



May 24th, 2014 at 4:59 PM ^

Form isn't THE reason he's not going, as has been stated over and over. But it didn't help his case at all. Why you keep comparing him to Jozy is beyond me. Compare his form, since you're so stuck on it, to Dempsey and Zusi and Davis, similar players who are going to the WC. Is he playing as well as them? Is it beneficial to take a finished Donovan instead of exposing younger players to international soccer? No, not at all.

Ronaldo and Ronaldinho are two of the greatest EVER to play the game. Both were left off WC rosters because they were past their best. Just because Donovan is the greatest attacker we've produced doesn't mean he can sleepwalk his way into squads. Especially not now. Yes he 'tore it up' when he was - you guessed it - in shape and in form. The only thing he tears up now is buffet tables by the looks of it.

And yes, Torres has been in Spain squads because Spain have no alternatives. Soldado and Negredo are distinctly average and Llorente is more of an impact sub because his strength is his aerial ability. Spain can't play through him. So that leaves Villa (who's form has picked up since his transfer) and Torres. Spain have tried playing with no striker, in the Euro's funnily enough, because their strikers are shit, Torres included.

Re: Klinsmann/Low: Joachim Low is a terrific manager, no question, but those German teams weren't all Low. The fact is, Klinsmann is a winner. He's a motivtor and he gets the best out of his players and you need that just as much as you need tactics. He didn't have Low at Bayern and he doesn't have him now but he's still winning.


May 23rd, 2014 at 9:16 PM ^

I'm a long time lurker and big fan of blog. Nick Sheridan actually coached at my university, which was a bit funny considering I used to skip my school's football game to endure the first year ride of Rich Rod's tenure. Anyways, as you can tell by my name, I support Ghana, and the exclusion of Donovan makes me happy as a Blackstars fan. He might be unable to play for 90 minutes, but he definitely offers a change of pace off the bench. You can't replace his experience in crucial moments. Donovan also offers the ability to drive at opposition defences and provide key passes and deadly set-pieces. It is baffling that Klinsmann dropped him while taking Beasley.

Outside of Bradley, who is the best player, no other player strikes fear into opposition teams. I was a bit unsure whether Ghana would win their opening game. Seeing this U.S. squad (especially Beasley in defence), I'd be disappointed if the Blackstars don't get all three points. But, soccer isn't played on paper.


May 23rd, 2014 at 9:47 PM ^

Tell us about your team! Does Essien still have it? Boateng? Gyan?

And yeah, that's pretty much what I thought fans of opposing teams would say. Thing about Beasley is, he turned in some serviceable performances last year, surprising me. But yeah, if Beasley starts... probably not a good sign.



May 23rd, 2014 at 11:00 PM ^

Yeah, I sent a text to my buddy, who is an American Outlaw, that the Nigeria warmup could be bad. Not because Nigeria is superior to the U.S. skill wise, but the Nigerians are just as athletic, and John Mikel Obi will be able to keep Bradley out of the game, which will be the key battle.

Regarding the Blackstars team, it is a mix of young, experienced players and veteran players closing out their careers. Ghana did well (I still think they should've beaten Uruguay) last World Cup with the youngest squad at the tournament. However, the team was anchored by an experienced defence and keeper, with a healthy mix of youth in the midfield and a veteran striker (Gyan). Unfortunately, this team hasn't progressed as much as I expected. Compared to the U.S., most of the starting 11 competes at a higher level in Europe,  (Jordan and Dede Ayew--Marseille; Muntari & KPB (Boateng-my supposed cousin)--AC Milan;  Asamoah--Juventus; just for example.) experiencing Champions League and league winning campaigns. The problem is that they have underperformed in regional tournaments, such as the African Cup of Nations. I was in Ghana when they choked against Zambia, who went on to win against Ivory Coast on pens. The despair didn't reach the level of the "Horror"; probably equivalent to a loss against Northwestern. So I was a little apprehensive about their qualifications, particularly when they were matched against Egypt. I guess the curse of the Bradleys helped.

About the specific players, Gyan is a handful for defenders. He left Sunderland after falling out with Steve Bruce a few seasons ago (that and money). It is actually interesting, because I feel like Altidore was brought in to fill a similar, target-man role. Gyan is the focal point of Ghana's attacks, holding the ball up for the wingers (Ayew and Asamoah, usually) and mids to surge up. He is lethal in the air and has a strong shot, though he occassionaly miscontrols the ball. Additionally, his passing can be poor. But he is an excellent target man for the team.

Essien and Muntari ( I include both because they play the same role), like Donovan, are hitting their decline. Essien has lost plenty of pace since his knee surgery that ruled him out of 2010. Don't expect the box-to-box beast of old. Muntari is an enigma--Ghana's Jermaine Jones, to compare the squads. He can provide a moment of set-piece brilliance, or he can commit an extremely stupid foul. Probably my least favorite player. Neither are particularly fast. Muntari is a bit faster, but Essien has better positional awareness. They both are strong players, and can place decent passes. In my opinion, Essien won't be starting once Kevin-Prince Boateng is fit. It will be KPB, Muntari, Ayew, Asamoah, and possibly Agyeman Badu. Essien provides the team spirit and experience that Donovan would have provided.

I'll admit to not seeing much of KPB this season (I'm an Arsenal fan). From following Germany a little bit, it seems as if he has had an ok season at Schalke. His injuries have prevented him from playing with the national team for much of their campaing. But his return is a major boost for morale (he seems to be very popular in the team) and he provides an additional attacking threat.

I'd say more, but then I'd have to write a diary piece. And I don't think I'm quite ready for that. If I were a US fan, I'd hope Klinsmann either doesn't start Beasley or adds a defensive minded mid on Beasley's flank to prevent Asamoah and Ayew from running at him all game and whipping in crosses for Gyan. Jones and Bradley vs Muntari and whomever partners him should be an interesting battle, but I think the game will be decided by the wingers. Just one blackstar's opinion. Other Ghanaians might disagree.


May 24th, 2014 at 7:04 AM ^

Thanks for this. Always good to hear a breaakdown from a knowledgeable source.

I think there's a good chance Beasley won't be starting, but I'm not sure that whoever is at left back will be that much better. More pace, maybe, but lacking in experience and decision-making. I also think that the US will have to win the middle of the field to win the game because the flanks are going to be a draw at best.


May 23rd, 2014 at 11:06 PM ^

I love sport in all forms but I just can't do the world cup. I obsess over college football even though it seems like the athletes aren't getting their fair cut, but these huge events like the world cup and olympics where some of the poorest people in the world end up paying so that the richest people in the world can party and make money for a few weeks, it's just a little too sick for me. 


May 24th, 2014 at 9:09 AM ^

I met a few Brazilians while I was in Puerto Rico a month ago. They were telling me that the best scenario is for Brazil to make the final and then lose. They are so pissed about the politics around this they'll be rooting against the home team. That'd be like us pulling for Russia against the US in Olympic basketball or hockey. If Brazil doesn't win it all, then the honchos in charge won't get any glory from the Cup.

One of the government's biggest transgression against the poor is raising public transportation fares by 10-20% so the gov'ment can pay to build all of the stadiums.


May 24th, 2014 at 5:03 PM ^

 For economics, Most of the evidence shows that hosting the olympics costs more than it benefits the country. I don't think it's the people pushing these events that pay that cost and i would think it's similar for the world cup.

But there is also the human cost. I could find many more examples, but here a couple:

Tclose to 1,000 people, mostly migrants from india who are promised high pay and then get cheated,  have already died building the stadiums in Qatar.

And I was in Vancouver (our neighbor! just like us) when they hosted the olympics and you weren't allowed to criticize the olympics outside designated "free speech zones". this was repeated in  Sochi where people were allowed to voice negative opinions about the olympics while their rights were suspended everywhere else.  

I know I'm lumping the olympics and world cup together, but it's pretty clear from the protests in brazil that the citizens there are not being heard. 



May 24th, 2014 at 12:04 AM ^

This reminds me a little bit of the decision to leave Torsten Frings home in 2010.

Off the field there were the changes in the youth system, but on the field the big change in the German side over the last decade (and thus what you'd expect to see change in the US with the hiring of Klinsmann) was a decision to play at a much higher tempo, with lots of one-touch play and very rapid transition from defense to offense.

After that first tournament, Loew realized that no matter how skilled they were, older players who had lost a couple of steps and whose effect on the game was to slow it down weren't compatible with the style they'd chosen. In 2008 Frings and Ballack were starters in the Euro final; in 2010 neither was on the side (Frings by choice, Ballack by injury). They were replaced by 21- and 23-year-olds, the team was much more dynamic, and they've never looked back. I don't think a midfielder over the age of 29 has had a start in a meaningful game since.

A fitness freak like Miroslav Klose can hold onto his place; otherwise they've consistently turned spots over to younger, fitter players. Even younger players are out if their impact is to slow the game. They have ball-winners of course but they haven't had a true holding midfielder since Frings. They don't want to hold the ball, they want it moving upfield. (That part's not relevant to Donovan of course but it might explain some other selections.)

I think you can expect Klinsmann to treat things the same way. although I suppose it's worth noting that he didn't really turn the lineup over when he was in charge in Germany--I'm not sure if that's because they hadn't yet understood the need, or if he'd already burnt too much political capital. Either way, I have no doubt that when he looks at what Loew has done he likes what he sees.


May 24th, 2014 at 7:14 AM ^

Good points about style of play. I would say this is more like leaving out Beckenbauer than Frings, though. You're probably right about Klinsmann's thinking. Seems like he should have more fully commiitted to this ultra-youth/pace movement before now, though. Missed opportunities in 12 and 13.


May 24th, 2014 at 2:34 PM ^ the same way that Cullen Finnerty was like Charles Woodson.


And, FWIW, I agree with you about the missed opportunities. I'm also not surprised--for all the press, there were missed opportunities while Klinsmann was in charge in Germany, too, and the real national team revolution didn't happen until he left.

And the youth program revolution had already happened when he got there. He gets credit for that but it wasn't really his.

The one thing that was his, though, was an emphasis on fitness. Soccer in continental Europe has always emphasized technique over fitness...and rightfully so as far as it goes, but JK realized you need both and he thought Europe was missing something that he found was commonplace over here. He brought it nutrition and strength and fitness people from the US--if I'm remembering it right they were mostly basketball guys. Players resented it and the soccer hierarchy didn't like it, but it worked and it's there to stay.

He's not going to put players on a WC side if they aren't fit. That should have been understood when he was hired.


May 24th, 2014 at 6:31 PM ^

I'm interested in your thoughts about Loew and his tactical decisions, particularly for the World Cup. I was shocked when Italy beat them in the Euros (and World Cup 2006) on the counter-attack. It seemed as if Germany took a very naive approach defensively. Do you think they have learned from that, or as you said above about Germany's pushing the ball upfield tactics, will they continue to push the ball forward regardless of who they're playing (other than Spain). I actually have Germany or Argentina as my favorites should Spain falter, but the Germans, even with all the upcoming and current talent (that midfield, outside of Spain, is the best in the world) seem to fall short tactically. Will Loew adapt some precaution to their play?


May 24th, 2014 at 11:48 PM ^

because that's on topic.

I don't know if you remember Klinsmann as a player (a lot of people here probably aren't old enough to). He was amazingly fit, did a lot of extra running to help defensively that most strikers wouldn't and probably couldn't do. I never had the impression it was something he'd worked especially hard at, it wasn't so much a result of some conditioning regimen, he just seemed to be naturally inexhaustible.

And like a lot of great players, as a coach he seemed to have trouble empathizing with players that didn't share his particular gifts.

At the '06 WC he used the same starting eleven in every match unless his hand was forced by injury or suspension. He pretty much used the same substitution pattern, too. That meant that by the time the semifinals came around he had a lot of players that had played every minute in five games over a little more than two weeks, including 30 minutes of extra time in the QF. When the semifinal went extra time too, they were knackered.

Lippi had taken the opposite (and more common) approach--he didn't put his best 11 out there until the knockout stages. They kind of limped through the group stage, like they often do (they were good against Ghana but awful against the US), using everybody (didn't they have ten different players score in the tournament?), but were fresh when it mattered.

Asked about it, Klinsmann said he thought the rotating of players in '94 had caused them to lose their edge and he didn't want to make the same mistake. The possiblity that players might tire over the course of a tournament seemed to be an alien thought to him.

Which maybe isn't so surprising, since (1) he never had that problem and (2) he had no coaching experience. Any club coach that's had a team in multiple competitions knows that when you're playing multiple matches in a week you have to rotate the minutes to keep your players from wearing down. He'd never coached, so he'd never learned that lesson.

I hope for the US's sake he's learned it now.


May 24th, 2014 at 8:05 PM ^

Yeah, I didn't mean to be comparing Landon to Beckenbauer in terms of skill/impact/all-time greatness.

I just meant that leaving Landon off the US squad was more like Germany leaving Becknbauer off than Germany leaving Frings off. Of course Landon isn't Beckenbauer. I just meant that Donovan had a bigger stature relative to US soccer than Frings did relative to German soccer, if that makes sense.




May 24th, 2014 at 11:19 PM ^

...and that's what I meant by the Cullen Finnerty comment.

But I don't think most Americans have any idea what a WC is like in a soccer country. There's nothing analogous here. We don't take international competition particularly seriously, so to the extent there are any sporting events of anywhere near the same magnitude of interest here, we aren't ever all on the same side. The pressure on national team players and coaches during a WC, or even a Euro, is pretty unimgainable unless you've had the good fortune to live in an Italy or Germany while the tournament's going on.

When the Donovan news hit Sportscenter, 3/4 of the viewers probably shrugged their shoulders (and half the rest probably yelled 'WTF is wrong with this country. I f'ing hate soccer.'). That's not how it works in Germany. Donovan's stature relative to US soccer might be bigger than Frings's relative to German soccer, but his stature in the US pales compared to Frings's in Germany.


May 25th, 2014 at 8:35 AM ^

I think I understand your point. Yeah, soccer's stature overall in US culture is nothing compared to... most other countries. I was in Greece the summer of '06 and I was in Costa Rica the summer of 01 when they qualified for the first time in a decade. Nothing like it here in the States.

Soccer's profile is increasing here, though. Way more of my students know Landon Donovan than Charles Woodson. I would say that Landon is, on a smaller scale, a transcendent figure the way LeBron, or Peyton Manning, or someone like that is, rising above fame just among sports fans to be famous among people in general. Maybe not people my age (I'm old). But my students - non-sports fans have heard of him. Not the way people in other countries have heard of footballers in those places, though.

These days I have just as many students, and just as vocal ones, who identify as Gunners/Chelsea/FCB fans vs Red Sox, Bruins, Steelers, etc. There was a girl walking down the hall of my high school the other day wearing a Chelsea FC hoodie. I have kids wearing MLS, Prem, La Liga (well, FCB mainly) shirts all the time. Still a long ways to go, but I'm not sure I ever imagined seeing what I'm seeing now.


May 25th, 2014 at 4:53 PM ^

Yes, there's a lot more soccer interest now, but I don't see much MLS kit. None at all, since I left Chicago, and there wasn't all that much there even though they have a team. I'd see Chelsea and Man U. and Milan and Barcelona; I even used to see a guy on my train in the morning wearing a Levski Sofia scarf, but Fire shirts were rare except at matches.

I think maybe the increased exposure to top-level soccer has made it impossible to maintain the illusion that MLS really delivers what the name promises. People go to games, even follow the teams, because it's all we've got, but they know what they're seeing.


Maybe it's different out in the 'burbs? In the city soccer fandom tends to be an expression of ethnic heritage. I don't think I'd ever met a fan of the US national team (as opposed to being fan-for-a-day when they played Mexico) until I came to this blog.


May 24th, 2014 at 3:37 PM ^

Not horse shit. Donovan hasn't scored a goal since October. I respect him as a player, but allegedly (emphasis on allegedly) failing a conditioning test, being open about not training as hard as he once did-including a leave of absence, and not performing in his profession that pays his bills would warrant being cut from a national team in my book.

It's like saying that Brazil should still let Ronaldinho play just because he used be really good (world's best player in 2006), had YouTube inspiring moves, and was a national icon. But he suddenly just stopped performing, much like Donovan has this past year. But there are younger players who have an opportunity to grow into potential studs, or solid role-players who can provide better strategical advantage that have to stay home. All of it just so people can feel some nostalgia.

Donovan is the best scorer the USMNT has ever had, and a great competitor, but in this day and age of having to "perform-or-you're-out", I agree with the move. A lot of experts have come out and said they understand the move as well.

I just want to get past group play and hold out for 2018. I'm hoping by then the US will have a good farm system in place from the current overhaul and our young players will have some experience to make a solid run to a spot in the championship game. I don't honestly think we'll be champions in the next 2 cups, but maybe 2022...?


May 24th, 2014 at 9:33 PM ^

Altidore hasn't scored since December and he's played a lot more football. (My point with this is even though he's been shit, he still provides value, before anyone throws another fit). 

What Klinsmann is saying by not including Donovan is that he would have zero value to this team. Do you really believe that? Do you really think that Donovan would be a worthless asset? That he - in the very least - wouldn't be someone you'd want to bring on in the last 20 minutes or in OT or right before PKs?

And please, let's stop comparing the United States to Spain, Germany and Brazil. Those teams have a vast array of talent to choose from. We aren't replacing Donovan with anyone close to the caliber that those guys are replacing their better players with. 



May 25th, 2014 at 9:38 AM ^

Fine, a bit of hyperbole on my part. Using your way better phrasing, my original point still holds true. Donovan should be on the team because he holds more value than guys who are on it. In theory, Julian Green brings close to zero to the team, so Klinsmann's making a statement that Donovan could not provide almost any value at all to this team. But its all semantics. 

Side note: In private, Klinsmann would probably tell you Donovan is worthless. I'm sure that's the message he relayed to his son. 


May 24th, 2014 at 11:20 AM ^

The residents will be doing human chains to stop the players from reaching the stadium. My mother in law there said she will stay home for almost a full month and is getting supplies. I hope the games get off.


May 25th, 2014 at 10:27 AM ^

I am not an avid soccer fan but LOVE any international competitions that occur every 4 years. I remember staying up all night in HS to watch 3am games with my buddies who played soccer. That transitioned into finding the few bars who would open at 6 am (Ruggers Up and Under -Kalamazoo) once we were in college. Thanks gor the run down on all the info, much appreciated!

Ron Utah

May 26th, 2014 at 11:12 AM ^

I love the write-up, Brian.  WC is one of the best--if not the best--sporting events in the world.  I hate that we're so often told we can't be fans of football and soccer.  I love both.

As for the roster choices, I trust Klinsmann.  While Donovan has a proven track record of production at the MNT level, he's also fallen off recently and has never had the killer instinct that Klinsmann is trying to instill in his team.  I have followed Donovan's career since it started, and he has always had a reputation for being soft and not training at a world class level.  When he was in the Bundesliga, he said he was shocked to see the top level players going all out in practice and risking their careers and their millions just to make a tackle during training.

Don't get me wrong--Donovan is the most productive player in USMNT history, and is deserving of his accolades.  I don't hate him or wish him ill.  But creating a culture of success is Klinsmann's first and most important job as coach.  The problem is that you cannot create that culture without actually experiencing success.  Can the US make a World Cup run without its best scoring playmaker of all time?  We'll see.  But Klinsmann needs to continue to build not just for this summer, but for the future of US soccer.  If he doesn't believe Landon has a role to play in that, I trust him.

You can't argue with results.  While Donovan's numbers speak for themselves, he has slowed down and if the rumors of a lack of fitness are true, you don't want him out there.  Klinsmann's results as a coach are just as successful as Landon's as a player.  That is why I trust him.

For those wondering, "Why not just take Donovan as the 23rd guy?" I think the answer is not so simple.  Donovan's career success and strong friendships with team leaders make him a defacto captain, even without the armband.  Players will look to and look up to him, regardless of how he is playing now.  Klinsmann may not want an out-of-shape player with a reputation for being soft as a team leader.  He may not want the distraction of having the media and fans calling for Donovan to start of sub at the first sign of trouble.  And he may just genuinely believe that Donovan is not one of the best 23.

This is a lose-lose for Klinsmann.  Put Donovan on the roster, and you're expected to play him and he becomes a defacto captain.  Leave him off, and everyone will clamor for him and bitch if the team doesn't do well.  The only Klinsmann wins here is if the US gets out of the toughest group in the tournament and demonstrates they can win without the best player in the history of the team.

A tough decision, but I admire Klinsmann for sticking to his beliefs and making a hard he has to prove it was the right choice.


May 26th, 2014 at 7:47 PM ^

2 goals and an assist, pretty much the definition of a statement game from the greatest US soccer player of all time. And the statement was, "Suck it, Jurgen."

As I said in my first post, I very much hope that Klinsmann proves me wrong and succeeds in Brazil. I hope he and the USA win the whole thing.

But this situation reeks of personality problems and ego issues. Extremely unlikely Klinsmann's son developed his antipathy for Landon on his own. And if that tweet was what came out in public, you can only imagine what's being said in that house in private.

No matter whether you think Landon should have been on the team or not, you can't be happy with the way that Klinsmann has handled this situation. It's a distraction and it opens him up to criticism and second-guessing. Not an easy situation he was dealt, but that's why he gets paid the megabucks. Klinsmann or someone should have figured out a better way to handle this.


May 27th, 2014 at 11:33 AM ^

I hope tonight that Fabian doesn't start at RB. Would much rather play him on the left wing and put Chandler at RB. Beasley could be a bit of an issue but if he bends but doesn't break in Brazil I can live with that.