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Coach Jurgen Klinsmann ruffling a few feathers as he reshapes U.S. soccer (w/video)

  • U.S. men's soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann talks with his assistants before the start of practice June 4 in Jacksonville, Fla. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

When the 2014 World Cup kicked off with Brazil's 3-1 victory against Croatia on Thursday, it was former British footballer Steve McManaman and renowned commentator Ian Darke who teamed up to call the match for ESPN. One week earlier, the duo had hosted a conference call to trumpet the event.

McManaman and Darke blended their voices in harmony when it came to the magnificence of the World Cup and ESPN's ability to cover it like a blanket, but their opinions took a sharp split on the subject of coach Jurgen Klinsmann cutting his most famous player from the U.S. roster.

“The fact that he hasn't chosen Landon Donovan is not a big story to me,” McManaman said. “If a player's not in form, he doesn't get chosen, and that's the way it's always been for me, whether it's the greatest player in the world or whether it's an average player. ... You need to be playing well for your club, you need to be playing well week in and week out to warrant the chance to play for your country.”

Darke saw it differently.

“I slightly agree with Bruce Arena that if the USA have 23 better players than Landon Donovan, they better go pretty close to winning this World Cup. He isn't the player he was, there's no question about that. ... I still think he could have done a job, even if it was only for 20 minutes from the bench.”

If McManaman and Darke can't agree on Klinsmann's maneuvers, how can the rest of us? The short answer: We can't.

Almost from the time he was entrusted with the future of American soccer three years ago, Klinsmann had emerged as a polarizing figure.

A brilliant player in his prime, both for the German national team and for a series of elite soccer clubs, he sometimes acts as though he has little regard for history.

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