By CAITLIN MURRAY
It was the same result for U.S. Men’s National Team: An exit in the Round of 16. Only this time, Landon Donovan, who had played such a pivotal role last time, had to watch it on TV.
Donovan, who was controversially cut from coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s World Cup roster, had been offering his pre-game analysis to ESPN throughout the tournament. But after the USMNT’s disheartening exit from the competition Tuesday, Donovan seemed to put the blame squarely on the coaching staff.
“I think we’re all disappointed in what happened yesterday. I think the most disappointing is we didn’t seem like we gave it a real effort, from a tactical standpoint,” Donovan told MLSSoccer.com. “I thought the guys did everything they could, they did everything that was asked of them, but I don’t think we were set up to succeed yesterday, and that was tough to watch.”
The U.S. had lost 2-1 to Belgium, even despite a record-setting 16 saves from goalkeeper Tim Howard. The Americans appeared to be under siege for the vast majority of the match. They took precious few shots for the first 90 minutes as shots pummeled Howard and only finally attacked hard in extra time after going down a goal.
Donovan voiced disagreement with the roles given to Michael Bradley, who he said should’ve played deeper in the middle, and Clint Dempsey, who he said plays better with a partner up top. For Donovan, it all was part of a change that had been made tactically but didn’t work.
“If you really look at the performances, there were some good performances by guys, some not-so-good performances by guys. As a whole, I think tactically, the team was not set up to succeed,” Donovan said. “They were set up in a way that was opposite from what they’ve been the past couple years, which is opening up, passing, attacking — trying to do that. And the team’s been successful that way. Why they decided to switch that in the World Cup, none of us will know.”
With the loss, the team did no better than they had in 2010, when Donovan helped propel the USMNT out of the group stage with a late goal to win over Algeria. Donovan also represented the USMNT in 2002 and 2006, when the U.S. exited in the quarterfinals and group stage respectively.
Immediately after being unceremoniously cut from the national team before the World Cup, Donovan said he was committed to promoting soccer in the U.S. and left the door open to returning to the USMNT if called upon. Asked about that possibility on Wednesday, Donovan sounded unsure.
“That depends on a lot of conversations that would have to be held,” he said.