After his hugely controversial omission from the USA’s World Cup squad, Landon Donovan has admitted to initially rooting against the team this summer.
His name synonymous with the US side, Donovan’s absence from the final 23 caused a national outrage and even led many to call into question manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s leadership and ambition for 2014.
Forced to watch from home as the team set off for Brazil, the LA Galaxy forward acknowledged that he was overcome by jealousy to begin with, before ultimately coming to his senses and getting behind his teammates.
‘I'll be completely honest. Watching them play Azerbaijan, inside, part of me was thinking, I hope the game doesn't go very well today,’ he told the LA Times. ‘In my heart of hearts, I thought if we get a 1-0 win and the team doesn't perform well, that would feel good'.
‘Then the next day I woke up and said to myself, that's a really c****y way to feel,' he added. 'That's a bad way to live your life. It doesn't help me, it doesn't help the team and it doesn't help the energy that the team needs.’
With five career World Cup goals to his name, Donovan had been the USA’s undisputed focal point of the past three tournaments, boasting a record 156 caps and 57 international goals since making his debut in 2000.
Reports are, however, that Klinsmann did not appreciate the former Everton loanee taking a three-month sabbatical from the sport in early 2013, with the two’s relationship decidedly strained since.
Stuck in the German’s doghouse, despite leading the USA to 2013 Gold Cup success and impressing in the latter stages of qualifying, Donovan’s poor start to the 2014 season, combined with his noticeably declining physical skills, thus seemed to seal his World Cup fate.
So far, though, the 32-year-old has not been missed as much in Brazil as some anticipated, with the side defying pre-tournament expectations to progress from the 'Group of Death' ahead of Portugal and Ghana.
With Tuesday’s last-16 clash with Belgium surrounded by a great deal of optimism, another upset could well be on the cards, but if the side are struggling for a goal late in the game, then there will no doubt still be some questioning why Donovan was left at home.