STANFORD, Calif. – Michael Bradley wasn't being as heartless as it sounds when he said the United States men's national team needs to "shut that door" behind the Landon Donovan selection saga, but the message was clear.
It is time to move on.
While the primary point of discussion in American soccer has been Donovan's exclusion from the U.S.' final World Cup squad, Bradley insisted that within the camp there should be no looking back.
"Not in any way," said Bradley when asked on Friday if Donovan's omission by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann would affect group morale. "There is a lot that goes into this kind of stuff. Without a shadow of a doubt every guy in that locker room is excited, committed and ready to go to this World Cup and really give it a go.
"When certain decisions get made, certain things are easy to say and write and talk about. But one of the strengths of this team has been the ability to shut that door and on the inside have a group that is together and committed and ready to step on that field and fight."
While Clint Dempsey is team captain, Bradley is as much of a leader in the squad as anyone, a fierce competitor who leads by example and regularly produces his best form for his country. The 26-year-old midfielder is fully aware of the special place Donovan occupies in American soccer history and his significance to the national team dating back more than a decade.
However, as Bradley enters what may be the prime years of his career, he is not willing to allow one issue detract from preparations for the tournament and the huge challenge that awaits the U.S. in Brazil.
"For me it is simple," Bradley said. "We all have an incredible amount of respect and appreciation and admiration for everything Landon has done for this team and for soccer in this country.
"To see him walk out the door, to see six other guys walk out, is not easy. But at this point there is a group of 23 guys who are ready to go to a World Cup and forget about everything else and make it something special. That is what we are talking about and that is what you guys should be talking about."
Donovan has returned to Los Angeles and is expected to address the media on Saturday before playing for the Galaxy in its Major League Soccer clash with the Philadelphia Union on Sunday.
Meanwhile, in the Bay Area, the U.S. squad has a somewhat different feel to it now that the competition for spots has concluded and the remaining men know their tickets to Brazil have been punched. The relief and delight could be seen on the faces of players such as DeAndre Yedlin and Kyle Beckerman, who found themselves on the right side of the bubble and will be among 17 players heading to their first World Cup.
For a rookie like Yedlin, the thought that he would be selected for the tournament was as unlikely six months ago as the suggestion that Donovan would not be around. But Klinsmann's philosophy focuses solely on the present, with no favor conferred for past performance or weight of experience.
The wisdom of that approach has been much criticized ever since his squad was announced. In reality, the only accurate judgment can come in the form of the team's results next month.
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- Landon Donovan
- Michael Bradley
- Jurgen Klinsmann