Klinsmann says Donovan still in US plans
WASHINGTON (AFP) –
All-time US scoring leader Landon Donovan remains respected by US coach Jurgen Klinsmann and in the Americans plans for 2014 World Cup qualifying, the German football legend said on Thursday.
A day after Donovan told ESPN he was uncertain if he was still wanted around Klinsmann’s squad after knee injuries kept him out of World Cup qualifiers in September and October, Klinsmann made it clear the striker is very much wanted.
“He’s always in our plans, absolutely,” Klinsmann said in a teleconference. “I find it really courageous of him to talk openly in public about what goes through his mind.”
Donovan told ESPN he might need a break from football after the ongoing Major League Soccer playoffs due to physical and mental exhaustion and wondered if people thought he might have faked injuries to escape national team play.
“When you’re a guy who’s never been hurt for the most part and then all of a sudden you have all these injuries, I think people start to question it,” Donovan told ESPN.
“‘Maybe he’s faking it or maybe he’s not really hurt or maybe he doesn’t want to come in.’ That’s really frustrating.”
Klinsmann said he knew of no doubters, including himself.
“We just took it straight from him and we believe him. If he has a problem he has a problem,” Klinsmann said. “I don’t know if he has a feeling some players didn’t buy in. I didn’t see that.”
As for Donovan pondering a break ahead of February’s start of North American final-round qualifying for the 2014 Brazil World Cup, Klinsmann said it would be Donovan’s decision and he planned to speak with him after the MLS playoffs, but he hoped Donovan would find the motivation to play for the US squad.
“It’s really down to himself, what he wants to further achieve in his career and what he wants to achieve. Whatever he decides will be respected by us,” Klinsmann said.
“Things can change overnight in our environment. Whatever happens we will always adjust to it. We will put the strongest team we have into it and slowly develop our team heading into the World Cup down the road.”
The Americans will battle Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras next year for three guaranteed 2014 World Cup berths. The final qualifying schedule will be drawn next Wednesday.
The Americans, whose 9-2-2 record in 2012 is the best modern era showing for the club and includes first-ever wins at Mexico and Italy, will finish the year with an away friendly against Russia on November 14 at Krasnodar.
“Here’s another learning opportunity against one of the best teams in Europe at the moment,” Klinsmann said. “We want to see how the players handle the environment, how they connect, how the chemistry comes together.
“Overall it was a good year. We want to finish it off on a high note.”
The Americans have used 45 players so far this year, 11 of them getting their first taste of World Cup qualifying.
“We tried to evaluate all of them and have a very close look at them,” said Klinsmann. “It has been great to see some people breaking into the team and making their mark.”
Klinsmann dropped forward Jozy Altidore from the squad for the final two qualifiers last month and have not reached out to the former starter since.
“We’ve had no further contact since then and I haven’t made up my mind if I will call him in for Russia,” Klinsmann said.
Klinsmann said he is happy that his decisions, such as dropping Altidore, have sparked debate among US Soccer supporters.
“We enjoy that,” he said. “It just shows you soccer is growing in the US at a very fast pace.”