Photo by David Bernal/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
Landon Donovan has made light of his cut from the U.S. Men’s National Team’s World Cup squad in recent weeks, but he did not always have a rosy outlook on the matter.
In fact, he was so bitter in the immediate aftermath of the highly-discussed decision that he initially hoped for the U.S. to not do well.
The honest Donovan told the LA Times over the weekend that he felt a bit of jealousy shortly after U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann controversially left him off the U.S.’s 23-man roster that would head to Brazil. Donovan’s envy did not last very long, but it was strong enough that he found himself not happily supporting the Americans in their first send-off series friendly vs. Azerbaijan on May 27.
“I’ll be completely honest, watching them play Azerbaijan, inside, part of me was thinking, I hope the game doesn’t go very well today,” said Donovan. “In my heart of hearts, I thought, ‘If we get a 1-0 win and the team doesn’t perform well, that would feel good.’”
Donovan’s instant reaction is understandable on many levels given all that he has done and how long he has played for the U.S., but it did not last very long. Donovan woke up the day after the Americans underwhelmed en route to a 2-0 win over Azerbaijan with a different and more positive outlook.
“Then the next day I woke up and said to myself, ‘That’s a really crappy way to feel,’” said Donovan. “That’s a bad way to live your life. It doesn’t help me, it doesn’t help the team, it doesn’t help the energy that the team needs.”
The 32-year-old veteran realized that he did not want to turn his back on his former teammates despite the burning pain he felt, so he embraced what happened and poked fun at it.
He did several commercials – including one for EA Sports that quickly became very popular and earned him public acclaim – in which he comically mocked himself for not making the U.S.’s World Cup squad for the fourth straight cycle. Donovan also signed on to become an ESPN analyst for the Americans games at the World Cup, and has drawn positive reviews for the job he’s done there.
“I feel like I owe it to the sport to keep growing it,” said Donovan. “I can’t let what happened to me ruin three or four weeks of what could be an incredible experience for everyone.”
There was initially a large outcry against Klinsmann’s decision to omit Donovan, and speculation ran rampant on why the Americans’ all-time goals and assists leader would not be in Brazil. The belief that Donovan should be there still lingers with some fans despite the U.S.’s success at the World Cup – they advanced from a group that included Germany, Portugal and Ghana – and not all of them who think that way are American.
“I remember one message from a Mexican fan who wrote, ‘I hated you my whole life, but what happened to you is wrong and disrespectful,’” said Donovan. “My girlfriend said that a lot of times you don’t hear things like this until you are dead.”
It is unknown at this point if Donovan will ever play for the U.S. again. Even so, Donovan is past the point of being too upset about his controversial cut.
“Life isn’t perfect, of course, but we all know it’s how you react to things that counts,” said Donovan. “I did not want to let this define me.”
What do you make of Donovan’s comments? Is his initial bitterness understandable? Do you think he will ever represent the USMNT again?
Share your thoughts below.