LOS ANGELES (AP) — ESPN has hired Landon Donovan to offer commentary on the U.S. soccer team he was cut from just before the World Cup.
The 32-year-old Donovan, the American career leader in goals and assists, was dropped last month in a highly debated move by coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Donovan made his debut during ESPN's two-hour World Cup preview show Wednesday.
On Klinsmann's comments that the U.S. isn't ready to win a World Cup, Donovan said on air: "This will come as a surprise to nobody, but I disagree with Jurgen." Donovan will work out of the company's Los Angeles studios, with a particular focus on his former team. He will provide analysis before and after the Americans' group-stage matches and during halftime. Donovan also will appear on shows such as "SportsCenter."
"Clearly he knows the team," ESPN President John Skipper said in Sao Paulo. "We're going to have him concentrate on the day before the U.S. games, the day of the U.S. games. It is not our expectation to put him on the spot."
A veteran of three World Cups, Donovan can provide inside analysis of the Americans. "We're much more interested in tactics and his reaction to how they are playing," Skipper said. "He knows the team."
Donovan scored a U.S.-record five World Cup goals, including a stoppage-time goal against Algeria sent the Americans to the second round four years ago. Former teammate Jozy Altidore said in Sao Paulo he wasn't too surprised by the move.
"He's a smart guy. He knows the game very well," Altidore said. "It was always going to going to happen — right? — him to be a commentator." Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya agreed that "I don't see any problem with it."
"I feel like people are probably going to want to tune in on that, yeah," he added.