Four U.S. Olympic soccer players were named to the final 23-man U.S. roster for this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Landon Donovan wasn’t one of them.
Donovan, a 2000 U.S. Olympian and the United States’ all-time leading scorer, was a surprise omission when U.S. Soccer unexpectedly announced the final roster on Thursday night.
Of the players who will be going to Brazil, goalie Brad Guzan, midfielder Michael Bradley and forward Jozy Altidore represented Team USA in Beijing in 2008 while goalie Tim Howard was a member of the 2000 Olympic squad. The U.S. men did not qualify for the 2004 or 2012 Olympic soccer tournaments.
In a statement released by U.S. Soccer, coach Jurgen Klinsmann did not address specific players but called Thursday’s announcement “an exciting moment” and said “we thought the point has come to make a decision” despite the final deadline not being until June 2.
Klinsmann is scheduled to hold a press conference Friday at the team’s training camp in Palo Alto, California.
In Donovan’s absence, defender DaMarcus Beasley is the only U.S. player going to his fourth World Cup in 2014. Howard and forward Clint Dempsey were named to their third World Cup rosters. Altidore, Bradley and Guzan return from the 2010 U.S. World Cup team.
Thirty players had been called into the U.S. camp in Palo Alto, which began May 14. Forward Terrance Boyd, midfielders Joe Corona and Maurice Edu, and defenders Brad Evans, Clarence Goodson and Michael Parkhurst joined Donovan in the final round of cuts. Edu and Parkhurst are both 2008 Olympians. The greatest attention, however, has gone to Donovan’s omission.
With 57 goals, Donovan is the United States’ all-time leading scorer. His 156 games rank second all time, while his 12 World Cup games and five World Cup goals are also U.S. records.
However, the Los Angeles Galaxy star took a controversial sabbatical from the sport last season and has struggled to regain his standing with the national team. Although Donovan, 32, had since rejoined the national team and the Galaxy, a lingering knee injury and questions about his commitment and fitness persisted throughout the training camp.
Ultimately Klinsmann decided to go with a younger, less experienced team by including players such as 18-year-old midfielder Julian Green and 20-year-old defender DeAndre Yedlin.
The U.S. squad opens the World Cup June 16 against Ghana, before playing Portugal and Germany. In the meantime, the team has three sendoff matches: against Azerbaijan on Tuesday in San Francisco; against Turkey June 1 in Harrison, New Jersey, and against Nigeria June 7 in Jacksonville, Florida.
“It’s an exciting moment when you have narrowed the roster down as a coaching staff, and these 23 players that you’ve chosen can focus now purely on Brazil,” Klinsmann said in the press release. “We can go into more specific things about technical approaches, and about the opponents. For the players, it’s very important to know that they are now part of it and they can relax and know they are on the list going to Brazil and taking it from there. After almost 10 days of work right now, we thought the point has come to make the decision.”
2014 FIFA WORLD CUP – U.S. ROSTER
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (8): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), MattBesler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (HerthaBerlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud(Rosenborg), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), JermaineJones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
Chrös McDougall has covered Olympic sports for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.