Landon Donovan deserves, on form, skill, leadership and experience to be a started for the United States Men’s National Team in Brazil. He is not the player he was four years ago, but he is still better than every American midfielder save Michael Bradley and, while not a pure striker, by any means, a more reliable source of goals and assists than anyone American striker (and yes, he is better than Clint Dempsey who is more one-dimensional; Dempsey brings hustle and a Paul Scholes’ like ability to ghost into goal scoring positions from the midfield and deeper areas, but he does not have the creativity nor the ball control nor the dribbling skills of Donovan).
He was left off because Klinsmann got upset because Donovan took a sabbatical from the sport, missing some national team games in early 2013 (though giving notice – he didn’t just not show up). Klinsmann couldn’t understand and didn’t forgive and that’s all she wrote.
There are no footballing reasons for America’s best attacker not be on the plane to the World Cup. And make no mistake, we were never likely to make it out of our group (the proverbial group of death). And if we were to make it out, it would be from an unlikely goal against a top team like Germany or Portugal. And if we were going to score that goal (a “John O’Brien moment”), it was only really likely to come from Donovan. Even if Dempsey were to turn it on, without Donovan to create chances and draw defenders away, he’s going to lack for space. And flat track bullies like Wondolowski and flat footed slowsters like Brad Davis won’t create that space and those chances against top opposition.
And one more thing, should it come up, Donovan was also our most reliable penalty taker. No one wants to see Clint take another penalty kick again.