STANFORD, Calif. – If you wanted outrage, if you wanted cleat-stomping anger over Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision to omit Landon Donovan from the U.S. men’s national team that is headed to Brazil for the World Cup, Stanford University wasn’t the place to be Friday.
Team leaders Michael Bradley and Tim Howard expressed compassion for Donovan, the U.S.’s all-time leading scorer, and six others who fell short of making Klinsmann's 23-man roster, but they stopped far short of saying that the decision was a mistake or that it hindered the team’s chances in Brazil.
“We all have incredible amount of respect for and appreciation for and admiration for everything Landon has done for this team and for soccer in this country. To see him walk out the door yesterday, to see six others guys walk out the door, it is not easy,” Bradley said. “But at this point there are 23 guys in there ready to go to the World Cup and forget about everything else and make this something special. That is what we are talking about and what you should be talking about.”
Asked if Donovan’s absence might distract the team, Bradley said: “Not in any way. There is a lot that goes into this kind of stuff. Without a shadow of doubt every guy in that locker room is excited and committed and ready. When certain decisions get made, certain things are easy to say and write and talk about, but one of the strengths of this team is to shut that door and on the inside have a group that is ready and committed.
“Those players [who were cut] were our friends and teammates and in lot of cases our brothers. And when that door gets shut it is important they understand there is an appreciation for everything they’ve given to this team. They would also understand that we are not going to talk about Landon Donovan or Clarence Goodson or Maurice Edu for the next month. It is important to talk about the team and the World Cup and make sure we are focused on what is coming. This only comes every four years, and you don’t want to spend it thinking about decisions that were made a month beforehand. That is not what matters.
“Don’t misunderstand me, along the way you have to take the time to let those guys know how much you appreciate what they’ve done. In some cases show support, show sympathy, but the game moves on and we have to be able to do that as well.”
It was only a few days ago that Howard said of Donovan: "If Landon is on the field he is one of our top one or two players."
So how did he feel that Donovan didn’t even make the plane to Brazil?
“That was my opinion. I’ve never made a player personnel decision. My opinion doesn’t matter,” Howard said. “It is hard to see seven guys you’ve been in the trenches with go home, to have dreams cut short, but you have to move on.”
Howard’s demeanor, if not his words, conveyed that he didn’t endorse the decision, but he wouldn’t say that the team was worse off without Donovan.
“Since Jurgen was hired we have trusted in his decision making, his opinion of what is best for team. That doesn’t change because of yesterday,” Howard said. “He obviously has a vision for the team that he thinks is a winning one and so we believe in that.”