World Cup coach Jurgen Klinsmann knocks Kobe Bryant to explain why he left Landon Donovan off the team


(Jeff Chiu/AP)

When Team USA announced its roster for its World Cup team almost everyone was surprised to see Landon Donovan’s name wasn’t on coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s list. The big question was why? After all, Landon Donovan isn’t just the most recognizable name in U.S. soccer, but he’s arguably one of the best. Donovan is the national team’s leader in goals and assists, after all! But in the eyes of Klinsmann, that doesn’t mean a whole lot because the U.S.’s bar is so low. He tells the New York Times:

“He came back, and he was playing in MLS, and people say, ‘Oh, he’s playing well,’ but what does that really mean? This is where MLS hurts him. He was playing at 70 percent, 80 percent, and he was still dominant. That doesn’t help anyone.”

In other words, Donovan might help, but he wouldn’t help enough against stiff international competition. More importantly, adding the 32-year-old who took a sabbatical from soccer in 2010 to the national team may have undermined Klinsmann’s long-term goal — to get U.S. soccer to be a respected institution around the world. 

For that, Klinsmann is blatant about modeling the sport more on European traditions than American, which he says is a problem in for U.S. sports, in general. And poor (metaphorically) Kobe Bryant is getting the brunt of it, as Klinsmann’s example. He tells the New York Times:

“This always happens in America. Kobe Bryant, for example — why does he get a two-year contract extension for $50 million? Because of what he is going to do in the next two years for the Lakers? Of course not. Of course not. He gets it because of what he has done before. It makes no sense. Why do you pay for what has already happened?”

Klinsmann undoubtedly has a point, even if his shock over the amount of Bryant’s $48.5 million deal does seem a bit drastic compared to the crazy-high salaries for soccer players in Europe. Hopefully Bryant won’t take it too personally, however. He is soccer’s No. 1 fan and all

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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