Jurgen Klinsmann extinguished Landon Donovan's World Cup hopes and publicly critiqued him on several occasions over the German-American coach's tenure as US national team coach.
But Klinsmann offered up some warm remarks for the LA Galaxy star in remarks to the media ahead of the USMNT's Wednesday friendly against the Czech Republic in Prague, proclaiming his enthusiasm for the Donovan tribute planned for the Oct. 10 friendly with Ecuador in East Hartford, Connecticut.
“It's not awkward at all for me,” Klinsmann said in a roundtable with reporters on Tuesday when asked about Donovan's sendoff match. “As a player, obviously he deserves every piece of recognition for an amazing career. [He's] done so much for the national team program. It's a pleasure to give him that farewell match and give him that recognition.”
The relationship between the two men has gone under the microscope since Donovan was left off this year's World Cup squad, a decision which stunned many given the USMNT icon's contributions to the program over the years and drew sharp comments from the player himself afterward.
Klinsmann - in roundtable with reporters - said it's "absolutely not awkward at all" to include Donovan after his comments during WC. #usmnt— Kyle McCarthy (@kylejmccarthy) September 2, 2014
This week Klinsmann reiterated his rationale for leaving the iconic national-team veteran out – “I decided the players in his position, whether it is forward or midfielder or whatever, are just ahead of him,” he said – but insisted that no ill will exists between them.
2/2) Klinsmann said Donovan reaction at being left off WC roster inc. criticism of JK is "a good reaction. It shows he cares." #usmnt— Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) September 2, 2014
“That he is upset about that decision and not going to the World Cup is, for me, a good reaction. It means he cares,” Klinsmann said. “That he's made some statements that he's not content, sees it differently, that's legitimate and that's totally fine with me.”
The selection of a very young roster for Wednesday's friendly (2:15 pm ET, NBCSN, UniMas) suggests that the coach and his staff are now setting their focus on the 2018 World Cup cycle that lies ahead. Yet Klinsmann said he's delighted to make next month's first friendly an occasion to commemorate Donovan's distinguished decade-plus of service to his country.
“We'll give him a blast in that moment and hopefully the stadium will give him standing ovations,” he said of Donovan. “We'll give him the best farewell we feel that we can do—make it a huge event that he deserves.
“Hopefully, he has a smile on his face.”