USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann defended his decision to keep all-time American top scorer Landon Donovan out of his FIFA World Cup™ squad, saying the 32-year-old striker simply was not good enough.
"The other strikers we see that inch ahead of him," Klinsmann said. "We feel those guys are a little step ahead of Landon in certain areas. That's why we made that decision."
Former German star international and coach Klinsmann noted how Donovan's game has evolved as he has grown older with fewer one-on-one attacks and charges into the penalty area. He reflected how players gain experience as they get older but "maybe physically they lose a little bit of an edge".
"He has done an amazing job the last ten days he was here," Klinsmann said. "He has done everything right. It has been not easy. These are very close decisions. It's not a decision against a player, in this case Landon. It's a decision for another player. We coaches had the feeling over the last few days. We had an inkling a little bit. We sensed it was the right time now."
Klinsmann, whose USA team opens in Brazil against Ghana on 16 June, cut his squad from 30 in training camp to the final 23-man lineup due to FIFA next month, saying he and his staff felt the timing was right and the selections were clear.
"It's a difficult situation for all of the players coming into a camp. It hangs like a cloud over the group for eight, nine, ten days. If you wait it gets even heavier," he said. "It's a huge boost for everybody in the 23. We can start preparing for the details going into the match with Ghana."
I have to do what I think is the right way. I'm very strongly convinced this is the right way. We'll find out the next seven weeks if it was.
Klinsmann said that if a forward is hurt before the roster is locked into place, he would call on Donovan, who has 57 international goals and sought a fourth World Cup appearance.
"If it's a striker, the first one that I call will be Landon Donovan," Klinsmann said.
"It's certainly one that catches everybody by surprise," midfielder Michael Bradley said. "To see him hurting and upset that now he's not going to have another chance to go to the World Cup is certainly hard."
Added USA goalkeeper Tim Howard: "The senior players certainly love him and appreciate him. It's hard when you get such tough news."
Klinsmann said he supports players' feelings on team-mates but "when it comes down to player selection that's down to the coaches. I'm not looking to the players. In the end, we're the only one to look after every one of them. I don't think all the players have the ability to see all their team-mates. Our picture is therefore a different one."
Donovan, who has 114 caps, made his only reaction on Facebook, saying, "I was looking forward to playing in Brazil and, as you can imagine, I am very disappointed."
But Klinsmann said Donovan, who plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer, took the snub well.
"He took it highly professionally," Klinsmann said. "Amazing composure. Obviously big disappointment. That's expected. He said he doesn't kind of understand it. He thinks he should be in the 23.
"I tried to lay out a couple reasons. They are technical. I'm not going into them. I told him I hope he stands by us and if we call him that he will be ready to come back to us. He expressed his disappointment in a professional way and I admire that a lot."
Asked if snubbing Donovan put more pressure on the team to succeed in Brazil, Klinsmann left that for others to judge.
"I have to do what I think is the right way," Klinsmann said. "I'm very strongly convinced this is the right way. We'll find out the next seven weeks if it was."
* Squad lists are only official once they have been confirmed and published by FIFA on 5 June at 12:00 CET.