By Simon Evans
(Reuters) - Landon Donovan, the United States' record scorer who was left out of the World Cup squad, has criticized coach Juergen Klinsmann's tactics during their campaign which ended with a 2-1 second round extra-time defeat by Belgium.
Klinsmann's decision not to include 32-year-old Donovan in his 23-man squad surprised many fans and pundits and increased speculation that the pair did not see eye-to-eye.
While Donovan has been careful with his words in his television appearances during the tournament, the team's exit prompted a pointed critique of the German coach's approach.
"I think the most disappointing is we didn't seem like we gave it a real effort, from a tactical standpoint," he was quoted as saying on the Major League Soccer official website .
"I thought the guys did everything they could, they did everything that was asked of them, but I don't think (tactically) we were set up to succeed... and that was tough to watch."
Donovan said Klinsmann had turned away from the positive approach he had adopted since taking over the U.S. team in 2011.
"They were set up in a way that was opposite from what they've been the past couple of years, which is opening up, passing, attacking – trying to do that. And the team has been successful that way.
"Why they decided to switch that in the World Cup, none of us will know. From a playing standpoint, I think the guys will probably be disappointed in the way things went," he said.
After striker Jozy Altidore was injured in their opening win against Ghana, Klinsmann opted to play Clint Dempsey as a lone striker and Donovan said that was a negative approach.
"My feeling as a player, if I'm in that locker room before that game – before the Germany game, before the Belgium game – and the coach walked in and said we're playing a 4-5-1 and Clint is up top by himself, I would have been disappointed. Because I would have said let's go for it. I want a chance to go for it and try to win the game," he said.
L.A. Galaxy winger Donovan also criticized the decision to play Michael Bradley in a more advanced role in midfield.
Donovan evaded the question of whether he expected to return to the national team ahead of next year's Gold Cup.
"We'll see. That depends on a lot of conversations that would have to be held," he said.
On Wednesday, Klinsmann said he intended to turn towards young players in the coming year as he seeks out new talent for the national team.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Ken Ferris)