Landon Donovan deserves USMNT farewell, says Jurgen Klinsmann
PRAGUE -- U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann insisted that Landon Donovan's farewell game against Ecuador on Oct. 10 will "not be awkward for me at all."
Klinsmann left Donovan off the World Cup roster in May, opting to take players such as Brad Davis, Julian Green and Chris Wondolowski instead. In the days that followed the final roster cuts, Donovan admitted to briefly hoping that the Americans would struggle in a send-off game against Azerbaijan, before giving the U.S. side his full support at the World Cup.
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He later criticized Klinsmann's tactics in the U.S. team's World Cup round-of-16 defeat to Belgium, saying, "I don't think we were set up to succeed."
Since that time, Donovan has announced his retirement from soccer, effective at the end of the current MLS season. As such, U.S. Soccer decided to honor Donovan at the previously announced match against Ecuador to take place in Hartford, Connecticut, at Rentschler Field.
Speaking at a roundtable with reporters ahead of Wednesday's friendly with the Czech Republic, Klinsmann said he was completely on board with the decision.
"As a player [Donovan] obviously deserves every piece of recognition for an amazing career with that farewell game, and has tremendously done so much for the national team program," he said. "So it's a real pleasure to give him that farewell match, and give him that occasion and give him that recognition."
As for the criticism that Donovan has sent Klinsmann's way, the U.S. manager said he didn't have a problem with that, either, and that the player's reaction was understandable.
"That [Donovan] was or is upset about that decision, about not going to the World Cup, is for me a good reaction," he said. "That means he cares. ... That he's not happy about that, that he makes statements that he's not content, he sees it different, that's legitimate, that's totally fine with me."
But Klinsmann also suggested that he's not at all conflicted about leaving Donovan off the roster.
"[Donovan], he built his case leading up to the World Cup, and I decided that the players that were in his position, whether it's forward or midfield, are just ahead of him," he said. "For me in my evaluation as a coach, it was a simple decision. Obviously it was a big deal, I knew that, too, but at the end of the day, I needed to take those players that I believe would make a difference. That was my decision."
Klinsmann added that he is looking forward to the team and fans giving Donovan a proper send-off.
"We give him a blast in that moment," he said. "Hopefully the whole stadium will give him a standing ovation, we give him the best farewell that we can do and make it a huge event that he undoubtedly deserves. Hopefully, he has a smile on his face."
Donovan debuted for the U.S. in October 2000. He last played for the team in April. His 156 international appearances are second-most on the U.S. list, and Donovan has scored a record 57 goals for the national team while assisting on 58 -- also a record. He scored five times in 12 World Cup games, participating in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 tournaments.