Back in April, Jurgen Klinsmann sent out some hints about whether Landon Donovan would make the 23-man U.S. World Cup roster.
“Not talking out names, but there are players clearly ahead of Landon Donovan in how we see things,” Klinsmann said at the time.
“Most of the time [Donovan] was not part of that process. That was his choice, and I totally understand that, and it's no problem, but at the same time we're moving forward at our speed. There is a chemistry being developed of a group and you always have to feel where this whole thing is moving towards, and he hasn't been a part of that development of this team most of the time over the past two years.”
Everyone saw that and sort of disregarded the quotes. Surely the USMNT manager was just motivating Donovan and getting him prepared for the World Cup. Surely Klinsmann wouldn't leave off Landon Donovan, right?
Surely, we were wrong.
The 23-man squad was announced on Thursday, and the biggest talking point coming out of the selection was the lack of Donovan. The country's all-time leading scorer will not be heading to Brazil for his fourth World Cup. Given that he missed the last eight matches and played in just five of the 14 qualifying matches, it's not insane to leave him off -- but it's still a headline-grabber, and one with which many people will disagree. Even if he's not the vintage Donovan, his experience and ability to be a threat from the wing could have been useful.
Klinsmann is building the USMNT to last, and some of the roster moves clearly show an eye toward the future. DeAndre Yedlin is just 20 years old, and he was named to the team instead of Brad Evans. John Brooks, 21, beat out 32-year old center back Clarence Goodson. Julian Green, the 18-year old phenom who chose the U.S. over Germany, was one of the attacking midfielders selected instead of Donovan.
In fact, Clint Dempsey (31), Jermaine Jones (32) and Tim Howard (35) are the only guaranteed starters over the age of 28. It's a young roster, but it's also an inexperienced one.
With Donovan's omission, only two players to make the final cut have scored goals at a World Cup (Clint Dempsey 2, Michael Bradley 1).— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 22, 2014
In terms of actually lining up the starting XI, most of the spots seem pretty set. Jozy Altidore will be the striker, while Dempsey will be behind him. Graham Zusi will line up on the right wing. Bradley and Jones (or Kyle Beckermann, if you're into that) will be the defensive midfielders, sitting in front of the center back pairing of Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler. Timmy Chandler is the likely right back selection, with Tim Howard in goal.
The left side has plenty of questions, though, especially without Donovan. Fabian Johnson will start somewhere, but he can play both left back and left midfielder. If he plays left back, Klinsmann will have to look at Alejandro Bedoya, Green and free-kick specialist Brad Davis at the left midfield spot. If Johnson lines up on the wing, then veteran DaMarcus Beasley will play on the back line.
The starting spots will sort themselves out over the next three weeks, though -- after we move past the omission of Donovan.