Manager Juergen Klinsmann announced the final 23-man World Cup roster for the U.S. men’s soccer team on Thursday, and Landon Donovan, the best field player to put on a red, white and blue kit, was left off the team.
But was Donovan really snubbed? Donovan clearly hasn’t been himself in 2014 MLS play, but he hasn’t been as terrible as you would be lead to believe. He isn’t scoring as much, but he is still creating chances for others and doing other things to help on the pitch.
Again, his goals and assists are down per game, but he’s doing more of the little things to help, even if it doesn’t always look like it on the field. Besides, Klinsmann’s decision to cut Donovan is a surprise is not because of how he’s performed for the Los Angeles Galaxy, but how he’s performed for the U.S. national team.
|Category||Total||U.S. Rank All-time|
|Caps||156 (12 at World Cup)||2nd (1st for World Cup)|
|World Cup Goals||5||1st|
As you can see, Donovan was a force for the United States, even if his heart wasn’t always in it.
Replacement: Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), age 32, 14 caps (0 goals) or Julian Green (Bayern Munich/II), age 18, 1 cap (0 goals)
Davis was taken for his dangerous left foot off free kicks. He’s maybe not a guy you start, but a difference-maker off the bench. Green, on the other hand, was taken for his youth and speed, and he’s now the top U.S. soccer prospect since, well, ever.
Davis has been very good this year for Houston, but the same problems that were negatives for Donovan are the same for Davis. Neither are as young or fast as they once were or will likely be able to go 90 minutes in the Brazilian heat. But Davis is completing 86 percent of his passes, too.
The case against Green is simple: He’s played three first-team minutes with the U.S. national team. Three.
Green plays for Bayern Munich II in the German Regionalliga, which is the fourth tier of German soccer. He does have 15 goals in 23 appearances for Bayern II. Klinsmann managed to get him to pledge allegiance to the United States after being one of the young stars for the German youth system.
When looking at the stats, it’s tough to argue Green is a better choice than Donovan, but with Green’s future it’s perhaps understandable why Klinsmann made the decision he did.
Here are some of the other snubs:
Snubbed: D Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), age 32, 46 caps (5 goals)
Goodson has rebounded after a disappointing start to his San Jose career after he transferred last August from Brondby of the Danish Superliga. He’s been better this season, as his Squawka score is already double what it was in 2013 in two less games.
Granted, at 32 he’s definitely a step slower than he was at the 2010 World Cup, but his experience is a great asset, while his speed was never his “thing” anyway.
As you can see, via Squawka, Goodson is tackling at a high percentage (83 percent) and winning the majority of his aerial duels through seven games this season. While a younger, faster Goodson with these types of numbers would be a guy who would have a very good chance of starting in 2014, he missed out on the flight to Brazil.
Replacement: D John Anthony Brooks (Hertha Berlin), age 21, 3 caps (0 goals)
So why was Brooks, a young and inexperienced center back, kept on the roster? Well, he’s young, talented and has a bright future for the United States. Is he as good as Goodson? Probably not right now, but the experience could be invaluable.
Here’s how Brooks fared in 16 appearances for Hertha Berlin in the same categories, via Squawka:
Snubbed: D Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), age 29, 17 caps (1 goal)
I thought there was a pretty good chance Evans could be the starter at right back for Klinsmann on June 16 against Ghana. Unfortunately for Evans, that won’t be the case. He’s struggled with injuries in 2014, and with the inability to find his form he was left off the squad.
He’s a versatile player who generally plays right back for his country, but has played left back, defensive midfielder, a more advanced midfielder and a right midfielder.
He’s only played 90 minutes four times in 2014, but his 2013 season was outstanding and included the game-winning goal against Jamaica during World Cup qualifying. This would have been a fair fight before injuries plagued him in 2014.
He seems to be taking it okay, though:
You got off easy this time @Cristiano
— Brad Evans (@brad_evans3) May 23, 2014
Replacement: D Timothy Chandler (Nuremberg), age 24, 10 caps (0 goals) or D DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders), age 20, 2 caps (0 goals)
Chandler and Yedlin both made the roster, but Evans could have replaced either for different reasons.
Chandler had a disappointing 2013-14 for Nuremberg as he struggled with fitness over the second half of the season. He struggled before he got injured, too.
That’s a snapshot of Chandler’s season in 2013-14. For comparison’s sake, Evans had a 499 Squawka score — a measure of a player’s ability to positively influence a game — in 2013 for Seattle. Obviously the talent in the Bundesliga is much higher than it is in the MLS, but still, that’s a staggering number.
Yedlin, meanwhile, is an up-and-coming player and likely the long-term answer at right back for the USMNT. He was a 2013 MLS all-star and one of the bright, young talents in MLS. The numbers would argue he’s more worthy than Chandler, but his inexperience at the international level is also an issue.