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The 32-year-old attacker, bidding to make his fourth World Cup, was bypassed by U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann in favor of Aron Johannsson and Chris Wondolowski, who joined Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey as the forwards.
Also cut were defenders Brad Evans, Clarence Goodson and Michael Parkhurst, midfielders Joe Corona and Maurice Edu, and forward Terrence Boyd.
The U.S. Soccer Federation quoted Klinsmann as saying “this is certainly one of the toughest decisions in my coaching career, to tell a player like him, with everything he has done and what he represents, to tell him that he’s not part of that 23 right now.”
“I just see some other players slightly ahead of him,” Klinsmann said, “He took it the best way possible. His disappointment is huge, which I totally understand. He took it very professionally. He knows I have the highest respect for him, but I have to make the decisions as of today for this group going to Brazil.”
Donovan has 57 goals in 156 international appearances and has been the face of the U.S. team for a decade, both with the national team and with Major League Soccer, where he has won five titles.
Donovan was a mainstay of the national team before he took a sabbatical of about four months after the 2012 season, spending part of the time in Cambodia. Klinsmann said Donovan would have to earn his spot back.
“I was looking forward to playing in Brazil and, as you can imagine, I am very disappointed with today’s decision,” Donovan said in a statement posted on Facebook. “Regardless, I will be cheering on my friends and teammates this summer, and I remain committed to helping grow soccer in the U.S. in the years to come.”
He recalled Donovan for last summer’s Gold Cup, where Donovan excelled, and played Donovan for World Cup qualifiers. But Klinsmann kept him out of the starting lineup for last month’s friendly against Mexico, saying Donovan practiced poorly because of a knee problem.
Donovan said this week his knee was OK.
“I’m very confident in my abilities and I’m deserving to be a part of the squad, but I have to prove that, and I have to earn it,” he said on Monday.
Just six players return from the 2010 team: goalkeepers Tim Howard and Brad Guzan; midfielder Michael Bradley; forwards Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey; and defender DaMarcus Beasley, who is bidding to become the first American to play in his fourth World Cup.
Beasley and Donovan were teammates on the U.S. team that finished fourth in the 1999 FIFA Under-17 World Championship.
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