Landon Donovan will not play for the U.S. national team in a pair of upcoming World Cup qualifying matches because of an injured left knee, adding to what will be a pressure-filled few days for the Americans.
U.S. Soccer said Tuesday that Donovan — who has more goals, assists and starts than any player in program history — will likely not be replaced on what was a 24-man roster for the upcoming qualifiers, first on Friday on the road against Antigua and Barbuda, then in Kansas City on Oct. 16 against Guatemala.
Donovan was injured while playing Saturday for the Los Angeles Galaxy. He was selected by U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann for these qualifiers anyway, and was getting checked out on Tuesday just to ensure that his knee was fine.
Apparently, that's not the case. Both the national team and the Galaxy said Donovan was returning to Los Angeles for further evaluation.
"Landon was very optimistic over the weekend when his knee was feeling much better, but now he needs time to recover," Klinsmann said.
The severity of the Donovan injury, whatever it is, seems to have caught Klinsmann off-guard. Hours before the Donovan decision was announced, Klinsmann said the Americans were "very, very positive" about his status and that an MRI exam — which Donovan originally was to do in Los Angeles on Monday, plans he scrapped because he thought the knee had improved — was just to err on the side of caution.
"You want your leaders on the team there," Klinsmann said.
The U.S., Guatemala and Jamaica all have seven points after the first four matches of play in this qualifying round, while Antigua and Barbuda has one point. For the U.S. to reach next year's regional finals, four points — a win and a tie — would seem to be the most probable requirement.
If the Americans win on Friday, they would control their destiny as far as reaching the next round, no matter what the Guatemala-Jamaica result is that same night.