Landon Donovan took his World Cup snub hard. Really hard. So hard, in fact, that after he was left off the U.S. team roster in late May, he briefly hoped they wouldn't do well without him.
"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,'" the soccer stud told the Los Angeles Times on Friday, June 27. "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.'"
The low point came after Donovan, 32, a player for the L.A. Galaxy and the all-time leading scorer in U.S. soccer, was cut from the 2014 World Cup squad by U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Fans were outraged, shocked, and confused by the move—and so was the athlete himself.
"I respect the decision, I just feel in my heart that I deserve to be there," he said at the time, "and that's the pill that's hardest to swallow."
Donovan told the L.A. Times that he struggled to overcome his bitterness, and was alternately sad, angry, upset, and disappointed. "As athletes, we all have egos, we all think we can help, and when you're not given that chance, it's hard to watch," he explained, noting that he actually watched one of the early non-U.S. games in disguise at a bar.
Ultimately, though, his loyalty to the team, and to his former teammates, won out. "The next day [after rooting against them], I woke up and said to myself, 'that's a really crappy way to feel,'" he said. "That's a bad way to live your life, it doesn't help me, it doesn't help the team, it doesn't help the energy that the team needs."
Since then, he has become one of the team's most vocal cheerleaders, appearing on ESPN as an analyst, and in a commercial for EA Sports. "I feel like I owe it to the sport to keep growing it," he told the Times. "I can't let what happened to me ruin three or four weeks of what could be an incredible experience for everyone."