The American soccer world was sent a jolt on Thursday when the U.S. national team’s 23-man World Cup roster for next month’s World Cup in Brazil was hastily announced without the name of Landon Donovan.
After a soul sojourn last year that left him out of the LA Galaxy squad at the start of the season, Donovan had to earn his way back in with the national team. The United States’ all-time leading scorer did so with an MVP performance at last summer’s Gold Cup where he led the side to its fifth continental title.
On the surface, Donovan’s goal and assist in another 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Mexico, which booked the team's ticket to Brazil last September, seemed to confirm that he was back in the fold completely but a slow start to the MLS season with the LA Galaxy could be the culprit for his omission.
Fire head coach Frank Yallop won two MLS Cups with Donovan at the heart of his attack in 2001 and 2003 with the San Jose Earthquakes.
“I was surprised,” Yallop told Chicago-Fire.com. “It was Jurgen’s decision and I’m not in camp so I don’t know. From the outside, it’s surprising to see a player with Landon’s experience and ability left out of the squad. It’s a tough blow and I feel for him right now.”
Donovan is not only the U.S. Men’s National Team’s all-time leader in goals and assists but also the leader in goal scored at World Cup finals with five. Donovan’s ability to show up on the big stage have been evident in U.S. World Cup wins over Portugal and Mexico in 2002 along with his late, game-winning strike to give the side a 1-0 win over Algeria in 2010.
Earlier this week, starting U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard signaled that Donovan was key to the team’s chances in Brazil saying, “If Landon's on the field he's in our top one or two players.”
Fire forward Mike Magee played over four seasons and won two MLS Cups with Donovan in LA said he was also surprised by his former teammate’s exclusion from the U.S. roster.
“It was weird. My initial reaction was asking what had happened,” Magee told Chicago-Fire.com. I’m wondering if he got hurt or if there was some sort of blowup at camp. He’s the face of that team for a lot more reasons than just his name. He’s the heart of the team and without him it’s kind of mind boggling to be honest.”
Following the news, Magee said he spoke with Donovan.
“I’ll keep the conversation private but like I said, I wanted to call and see if maybe he was physically hurt. Landon’s a brutally honest guy and the one thing I will say is he was hurting inside. Obviously he wants to be there and a lot of people feel his pain and think he should be there too.”
With Donovan seemingly out of the World Cup picture unless injury presents itself, the Fire will likely have a tougher game on their hands as the LA Galaxy visit Toyota Park June 1.