STANFORD, California (AP) — Jurgen Klinsmann tried to dance around the questions: Why take unproven youngsters to the World Cup and leave Landon Donovan home?
A day after announcing his momentous decision to drop the most accomplished player in American men's football, the U.S. coach hinted at answers without ever saying specifically why Donovan was among the final seven cuts.
"As a coach, you have to make a decision based on what you want to execute in Brazil, what you want to see, how do you want to build those components into the entire group. And then I felt — we coaches felt — the guys that we chose, they're a little step ahead of Landon in certain areas," Klinsmann said Friday.
The 32-year-old Donovan, the American record holder with 57 international goals and second with 156 appearances, was trying to make his fourth World Cup squad. He is scoreless in seven games with the Los Angeles Galaxy this season, and Klinsmann dropped him from the national team for the first half of 2013 after Donovan took a four-month sabbatical.
Asked for specifics, Klinsmann said Donovan "maybe is not the one now anymore to go one against one all the time or going into the box or finishing off." But the coach praised "his outstanding passing game, his experience, which is a big factor always."
"He changed his game over the last few years, which is normal at that stage of his career," Klinsmann said.
The U.S. roster includes just five players who have played in a World Cup — Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore and DeMarcus Beasley — and seven players 24 or younger.
Donovan has five World Cup goals, including a stoppage-time score against Algeria four years ago in South Africa that advanced the Americans to the second round.
"We all have an incredible amount of respect and appreciation and admiration for everything that Landon has done for this team and for soccer in this country," Bradley said. "To see him walk out the door yesterday, to see six other guys walk out the door yesterday, is not easy."
Klinsmann said Donovan took the decision Thursday "with an amazing composure."
"Obviously, big disappointment. That is expected, and he said that, he doesn't kind of understand it," Klinsmann said. "He thinks he should have been in the 23."