U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann says he dropped Landon Donovan from the World Cup roster because other forwards in the player pool surpassed him in the months before the American team gathered for its pre-tournament training camp.
"As a coach, you have to make a decision based on what you want to execute in Brazil, what you want to see, how do you want to build those components into the entire group. And then I felt — we coaches felt — the guys that we chose, they're a little step ahead of Landon in certain areas," Klinsmann said at a news conference Friday, a day after announcing his 23-man group.
Klinsmann said Donovan "maybe is not the one now anymore to go one against one all the time or going into the box or finishing off," but still has "his outstanding passing game, his experience, which is a big factor always."
"He changed his game over the last few years, which is normal at that stage of his career," the coach said.
The 32-year-old Donovan, the American record holder with 57 international goals and second with 156 appearances, was trying to make his fourth World Cup roster.
Klinsmann, a World Cup champion with West Germany and European champion with Germany, was hired in July 2011. Less than a week after the U.S. was drawn in December into a difficult World Cup group with Ghana, Portugal and Germany, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced Klinsmann's contract had been extended through 2018.
He maintained the new deal didn't make him think more toward the future when making his picks.
"This is based on today. This is based on what hopefully goes well the next seven, eight weeks, so that had nothing to do with my contract or with the perspective that those young players have for the longer run," he said.
His roster includes 18-year-old winger Julian Green, who made his national team debut last month and has just six minutes of first-team experience with Bayern Munich; 21-year-old central defender Anthony Brooks, who has three international appearances; and 21-year-old right back DeAndre Yedlin, whose only national team appearances were as a second-half substitute this year.
"Some have a learning curve ahead of them, there's no doubt about it," Klinsmann said. "But they are ready for that learning curve, and they might surprise some people out there."