The United States will not escape Group G in the 2014 World Cup without Landon Donovan.
Group G is an insanely difficult group to advance through. Germany are ranked No. 2 in the world. Portugal are ranked No. 4. Ghana are responsible for knocking out the United States in the past two World Cups. It will not be easy to get past this group, and Donovan would have been a big help to this team's chances.
The decision to leave Donovan off the 23-man roster was a surprising one by Jurgen Klinsmann. Donovan was never guaranteed a spot, but the final decision was made without any warning. This is how the news was broken:
See? No Donovan.
The decision may not have had everything to do with his play on the pitch, either. Martin Rogers of Yahoo Sports pointed out another reason why Klinsmann might have left him off:
He has scored 57 goals in 156 appearances for his country, but Klinsmann made it known that he was concerned about Donovan's commitment after the player took a controversial sabbatical at the start of the 2013 Major League Soccer season before subsequently regaining his appetite for the game.
This decision will ultimately leave the team scrambling. At 32, Donovan is far from the player he used to be. He's no longer as fast and can't play big minutes anymore. Had he made the roster, Donovan likely only would have played at the end of matches to provide the United States with one thing—offensive potency.
It doesn't matter how old Donovan is when it comes to scoring goals. Donovan has a knack for scoring high-pressure goals in the World Cup. His goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup is a perfect example of how clutch Donovan can be:
The scoring burden will now likely be shared by Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey. If the triumvirate succeed in Brazil, all talk about leaving Donovan off the roster will cease. If the United States fail to make it out of Group G, then the controversial move will define the 2014 World Cup for Klinsmann.
Klinsmann has made headlines this World Cup season not just for Donovan's omission, but also for his statements regarding his team. The coach essentially said that his team would not win the World Cup, leaving many to question his motives.
Donovan, now an ESPN analyst for the World Cup, not-so-shockingly disagreed with Klinsmann:
"I don't agree with Jurgen. ... We agree with the American Outlaws: 'We believe that we will win.'" - Landon Donovan #IBelieve— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 11, 2014
C.J. Fogler made a good point about Klinsmann's two controversial decisions as well:
As for Jurgen Klinsmann - if you know the USA can't win the World Cup, why didn't you give Landon Donovan a last appearance?— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) June 4, 2014
Without Donovan, this team is doomed. On an inexperienced roster (17 of the 23 players are World Cup rookies), Donovan would have provided invaluable leadership. Even coming off the bench, Donovan would have been able to mentor and groom the next generation of stars.
Without Donovan's penchant for late-match heroics and his ability to consistently threaten the defense with looks near the net, the United States are in a very tough spot.
Couple his leadership qualities with his ability to score, and one could argue that Donovan was supposed to be one of the most important players for the United States in this World Cup. Instead, he'll have to watch his team fail to escape Group G.
They don't have the firepower without him.