America is angry.
The Landon Donovan exclusion from the final 23-man World Cup roster has struck a chord with the nation. And it was confusing to me in light of one particular player taken ahead of him (LISTEN to ExtraTime Radio here).
Just double checking my math. 1 cap, no 1st team minutes with club team > 156 caps, 5 World Cup goals, best player in U.S. history. Got it.— Jimmy Conrad (@JimmyConrad) May 22, 2014
But now the news has sunk in a bit and we've slept on it. Distanced from the immediate knee-jerk reaction, you begin to entertain the other side to this story, which US manager Jurgen Klinsmann is sure to offer up in his meeting with the media at noon ET on Friday.
Here are five legitimate reasons, which when taken into account together, make a little more sense of the decision:
1. Better forwards: When Klinsmann says there are players a bit ahead of Donovan, he's right. When it comes to forwards.
Donovan's goal drought in MLS has been well-documented. But Seattle's Clint Dempsey is in form. Aron Johannsson is coming off a productive season in the Netherlands. Jozy Altidore is essential to the team's play. And Chris Wondolowski's superstitious extra "W" on the inside of his US jerseys has given him the magic touch. I'd also argue that 20-goal scorer Terrence Boyd is probably ahead of Donovan in case of injury.
2. Media distraction: If Donovan made it to the World Cup and was not a starter, Klinsmann and the players would have been badgered by the media about it. Especially if things don't start out that well, this is something the team could do without.
3. Tactics don't work: Don't expect Klinsmann to elaborate much on this, but Matt Doyle makes the point that perhaps the diamond midfield is the way of the future for the team in Brazil. If that's the case, and you accept that Donovan is not one of your best forwards, Donovan's skill set in that kind of midfield is not a perfect fit.
4. Practice squad: MLSsoccer.com's San Jose Earthquakes beat writer Geoff Lepper makes an astute point about how the reserve players are important to the training sessions in Brazil. And when Donovan admits he can't go 12 days in a row at a high level in practice (WATCH video here), that's an issue. There's a reason Bruce Arena famously said that the World Cup is a young man's game.
One last LD thought: Donovan was going to be the 18th/19th player. Those guys are typically tireless practice grinders. That's not 2014 LD.— Geoff Lepper (@quakesbeat) May 23, 2014
5. Mentality and drive: There are questions about whether Donovan's head was in the right place going into this World Cup. Former US World Cup assistant coach Jesse Marsch elaborated on the topic here. Did Klinsmann feel that Donovan's meek, take-a-back-seat approach was going to drag on the team and take some of the edge off?
So while Jonathan Klinsmann's tweets, Donovan's sabbatical in Cambodia and the rumored personality clashes over the years might suggest more insidious motivations behind his omission, we need to entertain the real possibility that there are legitimate reasons behind it.
But don't expect Klinsmann to get into any of them later today. He's not going to take a dig at Donovan's fitness, his mentality or his media presence. And he won't delve into a tactical discussion.
We'll probably have to read between the lines later today. Question is whether American fans will have cool enough minds to do it.