CARSON, Calif. – "Surprising and disappointing."
That's Landon Donovan's reaction to Jurgen Klinsmann's decision to omit him from the US national team's 23-man World Cup roster, saying the news came as a shock and that he believes he deserves to be headed to Brazil.
The 32-year-old attacker, a veteran of three World Cups, star addressed media following the LA Galaxy's training session Saturday morning at StubHub Center, saying he appreciated the “overwhelming” support he's received since the 23-man roster was announced Thursday and imploring Americans to support the team in Brazil.
Donovan, the all-time US leader in goals (57) and assists (58), in 156 international appearances, was nearly certain that he was going to be among the group.
“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,” he said, “I not only thought I was part of the 23, I thought I was in contention to start. So that's why this has all been pretty disappointing.”
Donovan, who will play in the Galaxy's home clash against the Philadelphia Union on Sunday evening (8 pm ET, UDN), said his performance at the Stanford University sessions had him believing he could “contribute in a real big way, probably bigger than I expected going in.”
He said he would, “of course,” join the group if recalled because of an injury to another player, but “I don't wish anyone ill will. I hope everyone stays healthy.”
Klinsmann, on Friday, held a press conference to discuss his roster choices and reiterated what he said earlier in the week about Donovan's exclusion: "The coaches feel that the players we chose are a little step a head of Landon in certain areas," Klinsmann said. "At this moment we feel that the other players – without naming any of those guys – are a tiny little bit ahead of him."
The manager declined to detail the areas are in which Donovan was behind others, and on Saturday, Donovan assessed his own performance during the 10 days he was at Stanford University.
“I don't agree with that assessment,” he said. “I think I was at least as good as everyone else in camp, so from that standpoint, I don't agree with it. I think you guys who know me well know 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, In think I played well, and I think I trained and played very well in camp.
“I think I was one of the better players. and so that's why it stings a little. I think at the end of the day, 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.”
He also noted that “coaches make decisions, and you have to live with that and respect that. Do we agree with it always? No. That the part that has been hard for me. I firmly believe that not only should I be going, but I feel like I really deserve it and not from anything I did in the past, but from what I've done over the last week and a half.”
Donovan, who learned he was not in the 23 following Thursday's training session in Northern California, was asked about rumblings of a personal incident in the past with Klinsmann. His answer was succinct.
“I think if I'm being judged solely on what happened in camp, then I absolutely deserved to be going to Brazil.”
He said he “absolutely” would repeat, if he could change things, the four-month sabbatical he took following the 2012 MLS season, that “I actually think I've been a much better player since I came back.”
He says he hasn't pondered the future of his international career, but imagines “that if I'm given another opportunity, that I would, assuming that I'm still capable.”
Klinsmann, when he announced the 30-man roster, said he saw Donovan as a forward rather than a midfielder, and so it is assumed Donovan was compared solely to the other forwards in camp. He was asked whether Klinsmann might have pigeonholed him and failed to take into account his versatility.
“I think one of the real attributes in my entire career has been my ability to play in a lot of different positions, a lot of different roles,” Donovan said. “Although I'm an attacking player, I think I help the team 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 that I would have been able to help in a lot of ways.”
The response from fans, media and colleagues, most struggling to make sense of Klinsmann's decision, has been heartening.
“The amount of support I've had has been – I mean, overwhelming is the best word I can use,” Donovan said. “The responses and messages I've had from fans, from friends, from family, from my teammates in camp, from my staff at camp, from my teammates here and coaching staff, it's really been pretty amazing.
“And someone said to me, and I think it's true, a lot of times you don't hear those kind of messages unless, unfortunately, you're already dead, at a funeral. So some of these things I heard were really uplifting, sort of validates the way I feel about myself as a player and a person.”
He said he would not speak again on Klinsmann's decision, that he wants “to focus on the Galaxy and doing what I need to do here, and I really urge people to support the [US] team.
“Because going to a World Cup is an unbelievable experience, and I don't want there to be a negative tint to any of this. We're all professionals, we're all men, and we have to handle things like this. But I think it's important that we support our team and support our nation. They need us.”