Landon Donovan said he was "very disappointed" to be left off the United States' final 23-man World Cup roster, while coach Jurgen Klinsmann called Donovan's omission "one of the toughest decisions of my coaching career."
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Donovan is the U.S.' all-time leading goalscorer with 57 and has made 53 more appearances in a national team shirt than any other active player, but he was deemed surplus to the team Klinsmann will lead in Brazil.
After the decision on Thursday night, Donovan wrote on Facebook about his disappointment.
"To my fans, It has been an honor and privilege to have represented the US National Team in three World Cups," he wrote. "I was looking forward to playing in Brazil and, as you can imagine, I am very disappointed with today's decision. Regardless, I will be cheering on my friends and teammates this summer, and I remain committed to helping grow soccer in the US in the years to come."
Klinsmann, who selected Aron Johannsson and Chris Wondolowksi to make their World Cup debuts as forwards in support of veterans Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey, said cutting Donovan was not an easy decision.
"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, 'You're not part of those 23 right now," Klinsmann said. "I just see some other players slightly ahead of him. He's been in that final 30 roster."
Donovan took four months away from the sport at the start of 2013 and missed three World Cup qualifying matches. Klinsmann said he would have to earn his way back into the squad, and Donovan excelled at the CONCACAF Gold Cup last summer.
He participated with the rest of the 30-man preliminary squad this week in Stanford, Calif., but Klinsmann said he was still not on the same level as the other players.
"In terms of now the last 10 days, he's done everything right. He was always positive. He took it the best way possible," Klinsmann said.
Donovan would also have been the most-capped player at the World Cup on any team. At 156 appearances, he is eight away from matching Cobi Jones as the U.S.' most experienced player.
"His disappointment is huge, I totally understand that," Klinsmann said. "He took it very professionally because he's an outstanding professional player. And he knows that I have the highest respect for him.
"But I have to make the decisions as of today. I have to make the decisions what is good today for this group going into Brazil. And there, I just think that the other guys right now are a little bit ahead of him."
Donovan would also have been among the first Americans to appear in four World Cups, but now that honor will fall only to DaMarcus Beasley.
Beasley and Donovan came up together as teammates on the U.S. team that finished fourth in the 1999 FIFA Under-17 World Championship.
"Landon is my brother. I've known Landon since I was 15. We've been through a lot together," Beasley said. "To not have him there is difficult."