Forget the United States' first match at the FIFA World Cup on June 16. Forget even the opening send-off series match against Azerbaijan. U.S. soccer fans may feel like they already lost before their squad has even taken the pitch.
The top all-time international goalscorer for the United States, Landon Donovan, was left off the World Cup 23-man roster as announced today by U.S. men's national soccer team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
"This is certainly one of the toughest decisions in my coaching career, to tell a player like him, with everything he has done and what he represents, to tell him that he’s not part of that 23 right now," Klinsmann said in a release (via USSoccer.com). "I just see some other players slightly ahead of him."
But could the move by Klinsmann to exclude Donovan be the result of bad feelings? Patrick Rishe of Forbes points out that Klinsmann was slightly bitter about Donovan taking an extended absence from the national team beginning in 2012.
Donovan did return in time for the Gold Cup in 2013, but it may have sent a signal to Klinsmann that Donovan did things on his own timeframe.
Also fanning the flames was the tweet from Jurgen Klinsmann's son Jonathan, which was covered by Bleacher Report's own Kyle Newport. The younger Klinsmann expressed joy over the fact that Donovan wasn't selected. He has since apologized, but the damage from the incident has already been done.
Could Jonathan's initial sentiment reveal that there was an ulterior motive in keeping Donovan off of the roster? Apology or not, it's clear that Jonathan Klinsmann was celebrating Donovan's omission.
It's easy to cite age as a factor for leaving Donovan off, and Klinsmann mentions that other players selected were just slightly ahead of Donovan. But given the full cast of players selected, it's tough to agree that someone with Donovan's experience and leadership qualities shouldn't even be available for the squad off the bench.
It's still possible that Donovan could be selected if one of the forwards were to be injured in the send-off series. But would Klinsmann make that move? Would Donovan even accept at this point?
Was the move by Klinsmann to leave Donovan off the USMNT roster personal or professional?
Klinsmann is certain to be under the microscope now. If the team goes to Brazil and flops, especially if they struggle to score, he may be forced out. Will it happen? Klinsmann will have plenty of time and chances to answer questions.