Landon Donovan made his first public comments since sensationally being left off the U.S. men's national team's World Cup roster, talking to reporters at StubHub Center in California as he prepares to return to action with the LA Galaxy on Sunday night, and, as has been his style, he did not hold back from expressing his true feelings.
Donovan, the USA's all-time leading scorer and three-time World Cup veteran, won't go to Brazil unless Jurgen Klinsmann calls him in as an injury replacement -- something Donovan confirmed that he would accept unequivocally despite any potential lingering discord between the two parties. Donovan's main disappointment stemmed from not just not having the chance to go to Brazil, but more so because he thought he not only was firmly in the 23-man picture, he was in contention to start.
Klinsmann, in his public comments, stated that other players simply were ahead of Donovan in terms of performance. The 32-year-old attacker doesn't quite see it that way.
"No quite the opposite, actually," Donovan said. "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 part of the 23, I thought I was in contention to be starting. That's why this has all been pretty disappointing.
"I'm not angry. I'm disappointed. I've spent most of my adult life and majority of my life in general dedicating myself to the sport in this country and representing my country. I was really looking forward to the opportunity to play in another World Cup and help this team. Having been in camp for 10 days, I really thought I was going to contribute in a real big way, probably bigger than I expected going in. From that standpoint it's disappointing. I think every one of my teammates would probably echo those same words."
Donovan hasn't scored in MLS play yet this season -- his next goal will set the league's all-time regular season record, which he currently holds along with Jeff Cunningham -- but that does not mean his overall performances on the field have necessarily been poor. Nor does Donovan think that his play at Stanford over the last week-plus was sub-par.
"I don't agree with [Klinsmann's] assessment," Donovan said. "I think I was at least as good as everyone else at camp, so from that standpoint I don't agree with it. I'm pretty honest when it comes to my assessment. When I say I don't play well, I didn't play well. When I say I played well, I think I played well. I think I trained and played very well in camp. I think I was one of the better players, so that's why it stings a little. Like I said before camp, if I had gone in and didn't feel like I deserved it, then I can live with that, but that's not the case here."
Klinsmann had gone out of his way to label Donovan as a forward -- despite his overall versatility and his frequent play in the midfield throughout his career -- another assessment that Donovan did not see the same way.
"I think one of the real good attributes in my entire career has been my ability to play in a lot of different positions and a lot of different roles," Donovan said. "Also, although I'm an attacking player, I think I help the team defend in certain ways, I think I help the team get results in certain ways even when it's not attacking wise. I think I have a lot of versatility, and I think my experiences over the years have contributed to me being able to do that so i think i would've been able to help in a lot of ways.
"I think if I'm being judged based solely on what happened in camp then I absolutely deserve to go to Brazil."
As for his international future, Donovan has not closed the door, despite the abrupt nature of this episode and his age.
"Honestly, I haven't had much time to think about that," Donovan said. "I love this country, I love playing for this country, I've always loved representing this country. I can't imagine that if I'm given another opportunity I'd say no, assuming I'm still capable, but at this point I'm trying to deal with the disappointment.
"Of course I would say yes to being called in [if it happened as an injury replacement off the standby list] to play in the World Cup to represent my country. That's what I've been working for my entire life. I don't wish any body ill will, I hope everyone stays healthy.
"Although it's disappointing for the seven of us that didn't get to go and the many others who didn't get called into the 30, I think it's also very important that after today we all move forward and support this team, because they have a big task ahead and I have a lot of friends on that team and teammates that I want to focus the energy and move it toward supporting them so we can have a successful World Cup."