STANFORD, Calif. — Jurgen Klinsmann tried to dance around the question: Why take unproven youngsters to the World Cup and leave Landon Donovan home?
A day after announcing his decision to drop the most accomplished player in American men’s soccer, the U.S. coach hinted at answers without ever saying specifically why Donovan was among the final 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,” Klinsmann said Friday. “And then I felt — we coaches felt — the guys that we chose, they’re a little step ahead of Landon in certain areas.”
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.
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.”
Donovan has five World Cup goals, including a stoppage-time score against Algeria four years ago that advanced the Americans to the second round.
Klinsmann said he hopes Donovan remains available in the future: The Americans have the CONCACAF Gold Cup next year and the Copa America in 2016, when qualifying for the next World Cup also starts.
Donovan also could return for the World Cup if there is an injury to one of the players selected for the roster.
“How this new cycle will start after Brazil obviously depends a lot on the outcome in Brazil,” Klinsmann said, “but the vision is, absolutely, that Landon continues his national team career.”
A World Cup champion with West Germany and European champion with Germany, Klinsmann was hired in July 2011. Less than a week after the Americans were drawn in December into a difficult World Cup group with Ghana, Portugal and Germany, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced Klinsmann’s contract had been extended through 2018.
He maintained the new deal didn’t make him think more toward the future when making his picks.
“This is based on today. This is based on what hopefully goes well the next seven, eight weeks, so that had nothing to do with my contract or with the perspective that those young players have for the longer run,” he said.
His squad includes 18-year-old winger Julian Green, who made his national team debut last month and has just six minutes of first-team experience with Bayern Munich; 21-year-old central defender Anthony Brooks, who has three international appearances; and 20-year-old right back DeAndre Yedlin, whose only national team appearances were as a second-half substitute this year.
Since returning to the World Cup in 1990 after a 40-year absence, the U.S. has alternated first-round elimination with advancement. The Americans open against Ghana, which knocked them out in the group stage in 2006 and the second round last time.