By FRANCO PANIZO
Jurgen Klinsmann made it clear on Monday that he hadn’t forgotten the important goals Eddie Johnson scored while helping the U.S. Men’s National Team qualify for the World Cup.
Those goals, and those memories, ultimately still couldn’t keep Johnson from being left off the preliminary U.S. World Cup roster.
Johnson was left off the 30-man squad that Klinsmann unveiled on Monday afternoon, easily the most surprising snub in the bunch, and Klinsmann explained his reasoning for that decision on a conference call by saying that other players had moved past Johnson on the U.S. forward depth chart.
The veteran striker has gotten off to a slow start in his first season with D.C. United this year, recording just one assist and no goals in eight starts. Johnson also recently made headlines for some uncomplimentary comments about his new D.C. teammates, but Klinsmann said that played no part in the decision to leave the 30-year-old striker out of the U.S. team that will convene for its pre-World Cup camp later this week.
“His comments and the recent couple of weeks had actually nothing to do with the decision and I spoke with Eddie quite for a long time and tried to explain it as good as I can,” said Klinsmann. “It has to do a little bit with we only take six forwards into the 30-man roster and then there’s Landon Donovan also competing for one of those spots – I don’t see Landon as a midfielder, I see him clearly as a striker, as a forward.
“You go through every one of those players and you evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and what they bring to the table and I just felt like, ‘OK, the way I want to build that puzzle for the 23-man roster, I see those players now competing a bit ahead of the curve.’ But I always recognize Eddie’s value and his strengths overall, and not only by scoring some very important goals getting us to Brazil, but he’s a player that can make a difference within a second of being on the field with scoring a goal or making an assist.”
Klinsmann’s comments regarding Donovan’s potential role in Brazil were especially illuminating given that the LA Galaxy attacker has played mostly as a midfielder for the U.S. in recent outings.
It also spoke to the fact that Donovan might not be a starter once the tournament in Brazil gets underway, though Klinsmann admitted he could still use Donovan in the midfield if certain scenarios call for it.
“By putting these 30 players together, we just think that’s where we want to see them compete in (the) first place, that’s where we see them as a first option,” said Klinsmann. “That makes it maybe then difficult for a player like Eddie that you have to leave out. In Eddie’s case, it’s really, really difficult because he’s also a player that brings so much to the table and he’s done tremendously well with us over the last two years and scored very, very important goals for us and he can also play in the left wing and right wing.
“But at the end of the day, you’ve got to put them now together and you’ve got to make your rankings and you’ve got to make the way how you look at it.”
Here are more notes from Klinsmann’s conference call:
OROZOCO, REAM, KLJESTAN AMONG OTHER TOUGH CUTS
While Johnson was the most shocking omission, he was hardly the only notable name left off the 30-man squad.
Klinsmann was asked Monday who were his toughest cuts and some of the names he mentioned aside from Johnson were midfielder Sacha Kljestan and centerbacks Michael Orozco and Tim Ream. Klinsmann also mentioned fullback Edgar Castillo and wide midfielder Brek Shea as players he had a hard time leaving off the team and who he believes can return to the fray later this year.
“There are so many, but you have to make those calls, you explain it from your perspective the best way you can do it, but then obviously you know that the player on the other end of the line has to swallow hard (and accept it),” said Klinsmann. “That’s something you’ve got to do and we’ve got to do it in three weeks again when you have to leave seven out of that 30-man roster on June 2.
“It’s definitely not easy for the players to take that message and you just have to try to encourage them as much as you can to look ahead of time and they’re all still part of our roster, they’re still part of the national team program after the World Cup.”
GONZALEZ EXPECTED TO BE READY FOR START OF CAMP
If there were any lingering worries about the health and availability of injured centerback Omar Gonzalez, Klinsmann put them to rest on Monday.
Klinsmann said that Gonzalez should be fully recovered from the left knee injury the LA Galaxy defender recently suffered and able to go full throttle in most of the U.S.’s preparatory camp in Stanford, Calif. Gonzalez sustained the knock in the first half of the Galaxy’s 1-0 loss vs. the Colorado Rapids on May 3, and missed this past weekend’s 1-1 draw at the Portland Timbers as a result.
“We are not concerned at all about Omar’s situation,” said Klinsmann. “It’s very short period of time that he can’t go 100 percent. By the end of the week, he actually should be at 100 percent already. It kind of runs him just a few days late, which is all right, so we have him for beginning of next week full speed with the group.
“Thankfully the injury was not that bad and it didn’t take him out for much longer. … We’re all good on Omar’s side.”
Think leaving Johnson off the 30-man roster is a bad decision? Which of the other players who just missed the cut would you have like to seen included by Klinsmann? Surprised to hear Gonzalez will be ready by the start of camp?
Share your thoughts below.