CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy were as shocked as everybody else was when Jurgen Klinsmann announced his World Cup roster and Landon Donovan wasn't on it, but they see a bright side to the news.
“One of the first things I thought about was, 'Oh, great, we got Landon back,” winger Robbie Rogers said following LA's training session Friday morning. “He's the best player in MLS. Which is crazy – he's the best player in MLS, and he's coming back to us.”
Donovan is back for the Galaxy, slated to train and speak to media on Saturday morning, then be available for Sunday evening's game against Philadelphia at StubHub Center (8 pm ET, Univision Deportes), and his teammates are excited for his return. They just wish it wasn't happening for another five weeks or so.
“That was shocking,” said defender A.J. DeLaGarza, who made two US appearances under Klinsmann in 2012. “There's not too much you can say. A guy with his experience, and he can still turn a match by his own skill, his own playmaking ability, and then you have guys on [the roster] who I don't even see dressing on a regular basis. Obviously, Landon's stats and all that aside, he's a veteran leader, a guy you can trust when it comes down to crunch time.”
Head coach Bruce Arena, who had Donovan on his rosters at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, said he wasn't shocked by the omission, but it did catch him by surprise.
“When coaches make decisions, you've got to support those decisions unless they're proved otherwise,” Arena said. “The last thing I'm going to be is a Monday-morning quarterback like everyone else in the world is. These are hard decisions. I'm sure Jurgen has his reasons for it, and you've got to respect that. It's not easy.
“If it was my decision, he'd be on the team, but it's not my decision, so I leave it at that. Only time tells if these things make sense or they don't make sense.”
Rogers was on the 30-man preliminary roster in 2010 but did not make the 23-man tournament squad.
“Obviously, I was heartbroken when I was cut at the last minute, but I also wasn't a guy who has led this program for I don't even know how many years,” Rogers said. “Time will tell. Who knows? Maybe Jurgen pulls [out something great] and the team gets out of the group and does well. You never know with sports.”
The responsibility, of course, lies with Klinsmann, and he'll be judged on how it plays out.
“He made his own bed, I guess he has to lay in it,” said DeLaGarza, who said he also was surprised that Philadelphia's Maurice Edu, San Jose's Clarence Goodson, Columbus' Michael Parkhurst weren't on the final list. “He chose the team he's comfortable with, let him do his job and see how it goes, I guess.
“Obviously, if we don't perform on the World Cup, he's going to be under a microscope. And if he gets out of the group, everyone's going to praise him.”
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Arena said the critics likely don't have Klinsmann's ear.
“I'm gonna tell you from the coach's perspective,” he said. “I don't listen to one fan that has an opinion on who should be playing and not playing and how he should play, nor you people [in the media]. Not to disrespect, but our job is to make those decisions. You make those decisions and you live with them. That's a decision [Klinsmann] made, and he has his reasons, and that's in his realm of responsibility to decide how he wants to articulate that and then get on and move his team forward."
The Galaxy expect Donovan to be atop his game Sunday.
“I think he'll come in with a chip on his shoulder and fired up,” DeLaGarza said. “I expect him to come in and really give his all. We're his focus now, hopefully we'll get 100 percent of that and above and beyond what he's done for us.”