STANFORD, Calif. — Five thoughts on Jurgen Klinsmann’s final 23-man World Cup roster for the United States:
• Cutting Landon Donovan will prove to be a mistake
Klinsmann wasn’t afraid to drop the hammer on Thursday when he made his final seven cuts more than a week earlier than expected, dropping the U.S.’s all-time leading scorer and the author of five goals over three previous World Cups. Donovan, 32, may or may not be starter quality for the U.S. anymore, but he figured to be at least a useful player to bring off the bench in Brazil with his vision and experience. Nor would Donovan have been a locker-room cancer at the World Cup if he wasn’t starting.
But Klinsmann’s view of Donovan’s current form was clear last month when he didn’t start him in a friendly against Mexico, and Klinsmann has said he thinks the U.S. media treats Donovan like a sacred cow. We’ll say it right now: There will come a time in this World Cup when the U.S. could use Donovan, and now that’s not a possibility (barring injury).
• I do like Klinsmann’s idea of cutting down the team to 23 now
After nine days of hard competition to determine the final spots, the U.S. will now be able to move forward with 23 guys and focus exclusively on preparing for Ghana on June 16 in Natal. Having 25 days to build chemistry and prepare with the guys who are going to Brazil is better than having just 14 days to do so (which is what would have happened if Klinsmann had waited until the FIFA deadline on June 2). Now that guys don’t have to worry about their spots on the squad, look for this team to come together more.
• Five German-Americans is a bit more than expected
Both Timmy Chandler and John Brooks made the final 23, which wouldn’t have been foreseen a few months ago. (Chandler hasn’t played for the U.S. since February 2013, while Brooks had a bad game against Ukraine in March.) But it’s clear that Klinsmann wants youth and athleticism in a group that includes athletic powerhouses like Germany and Portugal.
The other German-American picks were expected: Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson and Julian Green. The question now with Green will be whether the 18-year-old ends up playing (and how much). The only German-American in camp who didn’t make the final 23 was Terrence Boyd, who was beaten out for a forward spot by Chris Wondolowski.
• The World Cup isn’t World Cup qualifying
Every four years, there are guys who are stalwarts during the World Cup qualifying campaign who end up not making the World Cup and seeing someone else (often with little to no experience) take their place. One clear example: Brad Evans, who was a regular choice by Klinsmann at right back during qualifying and scored perhaps the most important goal during the campaign (for a late win at Jamaica).
Not only did Evans not make the final 23, but his 20-year-old Seattle teammate, DeAndre Yedlin, did end up making the World Cup team (and nearly doubling his MLS salary in the process). Evans has been a good soldier, and he’s learning right now that soccer isn’t fair sometimes.
• There’s a sizable MLS presence on the World Cup team
Five of Klinsmann’s seven cuts may have been MLS players, but there are still 10 MLS’ers on this team compared to just four in 2010. Some of them, like Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, were expected to make the team, but also making the squad are long-serving career MLS guys (Kyle Beckerman, Brad Davis, Chris Wondolowski, Nick Rimando) and youngsters like Yedlin. That’s a good sign for the league. GALLERIES: Classic photos of Landon Donovan; Classic photos of Jurgen Klinsmann