Landon Donovan was the face of U.S. soccer  but times have changed.AP PHOTOSun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
Landon Donovan was the face of U.S. soccer but times have changed. AP PHOTO

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

The death knell for Landon Donovan sounded shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday, a cacophony of "Oh no's" and adverse shock rippling across social media. It was announced that the LA Galaxy midfielder won't be going to Brazil with the United States men's national soccer team.


There are many who believe that Jurgen Klinsmann is wrong to leave off Donovan--the hero of two of his three World Cups--from the 23-man squad that takes on Ghana, Portugal, and Germany in Group G play some three weeks from now.

I say nay nay. I tell you as you enjoy your coffee and Cocoa Puffs on this Saturday morning that there is nothing wrong with what Klinsmann did Thursday.

There is no denying that Donovan has been the face of U.S. football for the past decade and a half. Donovan saved our bacon in 2010, triggering a comeback against Slovenia with a well-placed, 48th-minute strike that nearly took the goalkeeper's head off, and then punched in the lone goal in second-half stoppage time against Algeria. His level of play on the national side has been incredible--but not for the last two years, ever since he stepped away from the sport before the USA began its 2014 qualifying run.

Was Donovan's sabbatical ill-timed? I think it was. You do not step away from the sport--especially this sport--and expect to keep your spot in the national side. There is also the fact that Donovan is now 32--relatively ancient in football--and this is usually about the time that players bow out from the international stage.


We all knew that this would have been L.D.'s final World Cup anyway. Inevitably, the torch of American leadership would have been passed after Brazil.

What Klinsmann did Thursday is not a bad thing. Including Donovan in the United States' World Cup squad at this juncture would have held the team back in its development. Sure, the United States is one of the top two footballing nations in CONCACAF, with Mexico. The United States can compete with European and South American sides, and it showed it in friendlies over the course of the last qualifying cycle.

But the point of the World Cup, and competing at the World Cup, is to beat--and to do it regularly--the best nations in football. Landon Donovan's time at trying to do that is over, and if the United States wants to be the best in this sport, it has to develop.

You do not grow as a footballing nation by being sentimental. You grow as a footballing nation with what Klinsmann did Thursday afternoon.

This is not an obituary on Landon Donovan's career: he'll continue with the Galaxy until he is pulled back to being a last 20- or 30-minute player, then he'll retire with the professional grace and humility that he has always shown.

But his time with the national team truly ended when he pounded in Dempsey's rebound against the Algerians in 2010.

We just didn't know it at the time.

Follow Sean Sweeney on Twitter: @MrSeanMSweeney