U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has defended his decision to overlook striker Eddie Johnson for his preliminary World Cup squad.
Klinsmann announced his roster Monday, with Johnson the most notable absentee for the upcoming trip to Brazil, where the USA has been drawn against Germany, Portugal and Ghana in Group G.
Johnson, capped 63 times by the national team, scored four goals throughout the Americans' World Cup qualifying campaign — only Clint Dempsey was more lethal, with eight to his name.
But the 30-year-old, who featured at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and made the preliminary squad four years later, hasn't scored in seven appearances for D.C. United following an offseason trade from the Seattle Sounders.
"I spoke with Eddie for a long time on the phone and I tried to explain this as well as I can," said Klinsmann, who represented Germany at the 1990, 1994 and 1998 World Cups. "I always recognize Eddie's value and strengths overall, not only by scoring very important goals for us, getting us to Brazil, but also he is a player that can make a difference within seconds of being on the field, if it's scoring a goal or making an assist.
"But it has to do a little bit with the fact that we take six forwards into the 30-man roster and in those forwards I also see Landon Donovan competing for one of those spots. I don't see Landon as a midfielder coming in, I see him clearly as a striker. You go through every one of those players and you evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and what they bring to the table.
"I just felt like the way I want to build that puzzle for the 23-man roster, I see those players competing a little bit ahead of the curve."
Although Johnson raised eyebrows last week by seemingly questioning his United teammates in comments published by The Washington Times and MLSSoccer.com, Klinsmann said the remarks "actually had nothing to do with the decision."
The USA will head to Stanford University this week for a training camp, with the Americans set to face Azerbaijan on May 27, Turkey on June 1 and Nigeria on June 7 before opening their World Cup campaign against Ghana on June 16.