I think Landon Donovan would have been worth the gamble – muscle memory, vestigial skill, perhaps re-creating what Donovan did in the 91st minute against Algeria in 2010.
But the key thing to remember about Jürgen Klinsmann is that his contract has already been extended through 2018.
Klinsmann can afford to include players he can imagine being on the next World Cup venture, when the United States might have a better draw than this year’s Group of Death.
So he can afford to load up on defenders – none of whom are likely to stop Ghana, Portugal and Germany this time around – and cut the nation’s all-time scoring leader.
Klinsmann did not make the judgment that Donovan could contribute to one vital goal that would get the USA through to the second round. Then again, Klinsmann was never high on the attitude of Donovan, who twice explored the hard reality of the Bundesliga and quickly decided he missed the sound of the Pacific Ocean.
Other American pioneers like Paul Caligiuri, Eric Wynalda, Claudio Reyna and Kasey Keller faced the vicious winters and the equally vicious mid-week practices when, as Reyna once said, teammates battle teammates for a jersey on the weekend. Klinsmann observed this reticence from a player once labelled “Little Lord Landon” by a USA soccer official, and now Klinsmann made his ultimate judgment on Donovan.
Remember, German fans thought Klinsmann – whose family lives in Southern California -- had gone Left Coast when he coached the German national team in the 2006 World Cup. Klinsi brought in new-wave trainers and motivators. Then, with the considerable backup from assistant coach Joachim Löw, Germany finished a roaring third.
When Klinsmann took over the U.S. team after 2010, the assumption was that he would understand the psyche of the American player. He probably does. But he has retained the hard stance of the Bundesliga, openly goading his best players to show him more.
The shaky status of Donovan has been clear to people covering the USA squad training in California, like Ives Galarcep and Ridge Mahoney of Soccer America and even me, back in New York.
Ultimately, Donovan did not show Klinsmann enough speed, or desire. Instead, Klinsmann has loaded up on the future, particularly with German-born players eligible for American passports, like Timmy Chandler, who could be a terrific right back sometime, and Julian Green, a forward project for 2018. When Klinsi will be coach again.
“They may hate the cultural context they now find themselves teaching in, but they love their work. The Achilles’ heel of schoolteachers, one all too easily exploited by politicians, is that they love their students.”
(One of the best reads in the NYT these days is Margaret Renkl, in Nashville. In her latest post, Renkl describes the dedicated core of “born teachers” – the majority, she submits.)
(From Madeleine Albright in one of her final interviews in February):
“Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall but had not expected the whole Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.” – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, recalling her first meeting with the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin in 2000. – The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2022.