He's arguably the best outfield player the United States has ever produced and its career scoring leader. But Landon Donovan will be missing out on his fourth straight World Cup.
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Donovan, 32, was among seven cuts announced today as head coach Jurgen Klinsmann trimmed his roster to the required 23 players ahead of the tournament beginning next month in Brazil.
"This is certainly one of the toughest decisions - also the toughest decision in my coaching career – to tell a player like him with everything he's done and what he represents, to tell him that you're not part of those 23 right now," Klinsmann said in a video distributed by U.S. Soccer. "I just see some other players slightly ahead of him."
Klinsmann added that Donovan took the news "the best way possible."
"His disappointment is huge. I totally understand that. He took it very professional, 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," he said. "I just think that the other guys right now are a little bit ahead of him and I told him that. And he understands it, but obviously he's very disappointed."
The news stunned followers of the team.
Klinsmann going all in with the young guys. That is just stunning to me. #usmnt— Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) May 22, 2014
You have to give Jurgen credit. Whether you agree or not he is doing it his way. When dust settles either a genius or a cautionary tale.— Kyle Martino (@kylemartino) May 22, 2014
If the #usmnt plays well in Brazil this summer, Jurgen will look like a genius. If they don’t...— Doug McIntyre (@DougMacESPN) May 22, 2014
Donovan has 57 goals in 156 international appearances. For the past decade, he's been the face of soccer in the U.S., both with the national team and Major League Soccer, where he's won five titles.
Donovan has also appeared in more World Cup games, 12, than any other U.S. player, and he's second in all-time appearances as a national team member only to Cobi Jones. His iconic goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup secured the team's advancement to the knockout stage.
Donovan was named the MVP of last summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup after regaining his place in the national team. He had taken a roughly four-month sabbatical after the 2012 season.
No problem with LD out of #USMNT, but you do it after Cambodia. Don't name him to 30 in May '14 and then tell me he's not one of best 23.— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) May 22, 2014
Donovan told ESPN in an interview last month that he can no longer push himself in practice if he wants to have enough energy for games on the weekends. He didn't start in a friendly against Mexico last month and Klinsmann said he didn't practice well beforehand because of a knee injury.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.