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Why Landon Donovan can't replace Jozy Altidore against Portugal

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Landon Donovan - L.A. Galaxy vs. Philadelphia Union
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LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 25: Landon Donovan #10 of Los Angeles Galaxy reacts to his supporters after a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Union at StubHub Center on May 25, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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SAO PAULO – Three weeks ago, Jurgen Klinsmann sat in a small auditorium at Stanford University and said it: Landon Donovan would be the first man called if the United States suffered an injury to one of its World Cup forwards.

Fast forward to right now and here we are with lead striker Jozy Altidore having sustained hamstring damage that will rule him out against Portugal on Sunday and maybe longer.

So why is Donovan still in Los Angeles, making commercials in his bathrobe for video game makers and chiming in with his two cents as an analyst for ESPN instead of getting ready to fly to Brazil and step into action?

The reason lies with FIFA, soccer's wonderfully strange governing body, and its rulebook for matters relating to the World Cup.

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While it's annoying for those who would love to see Donovan return to the U.S. fold, FIFA rules state that teams have until 24 hours before their first tournament game to replace players on their 23-man roster. The deadline for the Americans was 6 p.m. ET last Sunday.

So when Altidore fell to the ground screaming in pain in the 20th minute of Monday's 2-1 win over Ghana after a hard sprint for the ball with Ghana defender John Boye, there was no longer any external recourse available.

Aron Johannsson was brought in as a substitute with mixed success, and he and Chris Wondolowski will compete for Altidore's spot against Portugal.

The latest episode of the Donovan saga is a bit overblown. That is because, despite Klinsmann's comments before the tournament, in a hypothetical world where the coach could call anyone right now, his choice would likely not be Donovan.

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The logical decision would be to make a like-for-like swap and bring in Terrence Boyd, a physical, powerful forward from Austrian team Rapid Vienna who plays a similar style to Altidore's. Donovan's game is based on movement and trickery, making him a bad fit for a role that slotted him directly into Altidore's spot.

It is all moot now, of course, and doesn't bring Donovan any closer to Brazil.

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