Why Jurgen Klinsmann's Decision to Leave out Landon Donovan Has Been Justified

Tre' Atkinson@@TreAtkinsonFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2014

RECIFE, BRAZIL - JUNE 26:  Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann of the United States waves to the fans after the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil group G match between the United States and Germany  at Arena Pernambuco on June 26, 2014 in Recife, Brazil.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

When Jurgen Klinsmann announced his 23-man World Cup roster back in late May, there was only one topic of discussion: Landon Donovan was not on the list. From there, the U.S. coach was questioned heavily, as many believed that he had made a huge mistake.

Fast-forward to today and the USA have made it out of the Group of Death and into the next round. Not only have they played well, but it also seems as though everyone has forgotten that Donovan is sitting at home watching the World Cup on television.

Simply put, Klinsmann's decision to leave Donovan out looks to have been completely justified, and here is why.

One of the biggest arguments for why Donovan should have been in the squad is his leadership ability. The 32-year-old has done it all for America and could have helped as a voice in the squad when they needed a leader.

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 02:  Landon Donovan #10 of USA checks in during the International Friendly against Mexico at University of Phoenix Stadium on April 2, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. Mexico and USA played to a 2-2 tie.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

That leadership quality hasn't really been missed all that much. 

Players like Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey have picked up the role of leaders and are the face of this U.S. team. When times get hard, the players can look to these two stars, and others, which has already happened.

Additionally, Donovan's absence has also allowed for other players to step up in leadership roles. Matt Besler, Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones have been much more vocal than usual over the past few weeks and are starting to become leaders in their own right.

There was also a bit of worry that there would be times when the U.S. needed to have Donovan either on the pitch or on the bench. That really hasn't happened either.

Despite Donovan's absence, the U.S. have not skipped a beat. The team is playing well and getting results, and they aren't finding themselves terribly overmatched. They have managed to keep the same intensity and quality without Donovan; a lot of that is likely due to Klinsmann's managing style.

Throughout the group stage it was quite clear that Klinsmann has his team exactly like he wants it. The defense is set, the midfield knows what they are to do and, despite Jozy Altidore's absence, the forwards are getting the job done well enough.

RECIFE, BRAZIL - JUNE 26: Brad Guzan of the United States (C) celebrates with teammates after being defeated by Germany 1-0 during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil group G match between the United States and Germany at Arena Pernambuco on June 26, 2014 in R
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Going into every group-stage match, the fans knew exactly what they were going to get from this U.S. side. The players were going to work hard, defend well and be really organized. All of this, again, has happened without Donovan. 

It can also be mentioned that leaving Donovan home was also a vote for working toward the future. Instead of bringing the 32-year-old, Klinsmann brought along rising stars such as Julian Green, John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin.

While Green has yet to see the field, Yedlin and Brooks have played decent minutes and put in great performances. 

When the decision came to leave Donovan behind, many thought it was based on form, which was likely part of the case. But more so, Klinsmann was looking at the future of U.S. soccer, and at 32, Donovan was on the way out.

Instead of bringing along a U.S. legend, Klinsmann saw that the team could do just as well without him while also making strides for the future. 

Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

There are still many who wish that Donovan was in Brazil wearing the U.S. shirt, but as we have seen so far, he hasn't really been missed. The Yanks have done tremendously well in his absence, which is surely praiseworthy.

None of this is to say that Donovan isn't a great player who wouldn't have helped the team. But there is always a time when players have to step aside and let the stars of tomorrow take the baton.

Klinsmann apparently saw that it was time for Donovan to hand over the baton. There may still be a time in this World Cup where the argument could be made that Donovan would have helped, but that isn't the case right now.

The United States have made it out of the Group of Death, and one of the most controversial decisions in U.S. soccer history has, for now, been completely justified.


Has Klinsmann's choice been justified? What would this team look like if Donovan had come? Leave your thoughts and comments below!