A tribute to US Soccer's biggest prima donna
College Contributor Network
In the wake of the MLS Finals, many people are still buzzing about one of US Soccer's most iconic players retiring. At the age of 32, Landon Donovan is not particularly old by soccer standards, but the former captain of the national team has decided to hang up his boots.
For many, Donovan has been an icon, the player of a generation, or the best American player in history. For me, he is nothing but the nation's biggest prima donna. Despite being a prolific goal scorer, the forward's ego often eclipsed his ability on the pitch.
Though I have never been a huge fan of the nation's most popular soccer player, my opinion of him has only gone down over the past two years.
One cannot deny the skill and goal-scoring brilliance of Donovan, as the highest scoring player in US and MLS history, but many of the LA Galaxy man's decisions over the past two years were not made with his team in mind.
In 2012 Donovan expressed the desire to take a break from the sport in order to recover both physically and mentally. Not an unusual request, especially from someone who was such an integral part of both his club and national team.
However, the end of his break was the beginning of the end for Donovan. After taking a break, the nation's leading goal scorer was taken aback at what he was told. He was not welcomed back into the national team by coach Jurgen Klinsmann, as he expected to be.
The former German striker and current US Coach told the forward that he would have to earn his spot back. This proved to be a job that was harder than expected for Donovan. It seemed that Donovan was not expected to be only as good as he was before his sabbatical but better.
This was the beginning of a very bitter relationship between Donovan and Klinsmann. Klinsmann, while somewhat too harsh on the poster boy for US Soccer, made a tough decision as a coach but a necessary one as he used Donovan as an example that no player can go without working their hardest.
Tensions only grew between the two, especially as the World Cup quickly approached. Donovan was left out of several World Cup Qualifying squads by Klinsmann despite good performances in MLS play.
Even with not being an automatic selection for qualifying games, it seemed that there was no doubt LD would be in the team traveling to Brazil. He was in the camp that trained in California as the team prepared for the journey to South America.
As teams prepared to submit their final 23 man rosters, everyone in the nation including Landon himself expected his name to be the first on the team sheet for the United States, but Jurgen Klinsmann had other ideas. He was unimpressed by Donovan's effort in camp, and felt that he had not earned his spot in Brazil.
This was a decision that Donovan did not only disagree with, but took very personally. Donovan knew he had missed his chance at his final World Cup despite Klinsmann telling him he would be the first called up if there was an injury in the squad.
As expected, Donovan was devastated by Klinsmann's decision. He made an ordeal out of the situation and his reaction against his nation's team was not the most supportive it could have been.
Did Donovan have a right to be upset? Yes. However, I think the way he handled the situation and its aftermath was selfish and hurt the team he loved more than he could have realized.
Donovan took a job as a studio analyst for ESPN during the World Cup. Nothing unexpected for a superstar such as LD. However, during his analysis on ESPN he often visibly showed his disappointment for not being in Brazil.
He was also very critical of Klinsmann in several interviews especially after the World Cup leading up to his final game in Connecticut on October 10. The veteran openly criticized the coach's decision to leave him out of the squad as well as criticizing other decisions made.
Though this was clearly out of frustration with the 50-year-old coach, Donovan should have found a way to express his discontent rather than publicly addressing it.
I absolutely believe that Klinsmann made the right decision leaving Landon Donovan out of the World Cup Squad. There is no doubt that the US was very successful in Brazil. Julian Green, who was almost the direct replacement for Donovan, scored in his World Cup debut.
Klinsmann is a world-class coach, who made a tough decision and chose the best team at the time. While Donovan was one of the best players in the country, national team selections are made based on who the coach feels is best at the time.
I also feel that Donovan's quotes and feelings that he should have been the first name on the team sheet show that he was more of a prima donna than many people realize. LD must realize that Klinsmann was simply doing his job. It was also very arrogant to expect to be welcomed back with open arms after taking a break from wearing his nation's colors. He left the team with a lack of goalscoring firepower during his break which was replaced by Klinsmann with younger players. Klinsmann then showed that a place in his team must be earned upon Donovan being ready to return to the squad.
While I back Jurgen Klinsmann's decisions so far as coach of the US National team and look forward to seeing his future successes, I would also like to thank a national hero.
Congratulations to Landon Donovan on a fantastic career in both the MLS and for the US Men's National Team.
Nick Papadis is a sophomore at American University majoring broadcast journalism and broadcasts AU Men's Soccer amongst other sports. Nick is an avid Liverpool fan. Follow him on twitter @NPSoccerTalk