2013 Gold Cup

Donovan Has No Regrets; Happy to Be Back with U.S.

Ahead of tonight's friendly against Guatemala, ASN contributing editor Jon Arnold spoke with Landon Donovan about his sabbatical, his mindset, and his plans for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
July 05, 2013
9:34 AM
SAN DIEGO - Landon Donovan has no regrets about his time off.

If he stepped into a wormhole and transport back to the time when he decided to take a break from soccer, he says he’d do it the same way. But that doesn’t mean he’s not thrilled to make his national team return.

“I’m excited to be back here,” he said after the Americans’ open practice Thursday. “A lot of these guys I’ve played with, played against, for a lot of years, and we’re all excited to be a part of this. It’s an interesting tournament, and it’s a special tournament. I’ve been a part of it many times, and when you win and things go well, it’s a lot of fun to be a part of, so we want to replicate that.”

The United States plays Guatemala Friday (11p.m. Eastern, NBC Sports Network) in San Diego—a warm-up contest before the Gold Cup begins Tuesday night against Belize.

Putting winning above all might seem obvious or as almost a platitude, but the sabbatical has led some to question Donovan’s desire. The player made it clear Thursday that he puts success on the field first.

“I want to win the tournament,” he said when asked about his personal goal for the Gold Cup run. “I take this tournament very seriously. I’m very proud to be a part of this team, and we want to be successful. On July 28, we want to be holding a trophy.”


But while the L.A .Galaxy midfielder spoke often about winning, it was apparent he’s still the same guy who took some time off to clear his head, the same guy who has shown that the sport isn’t everything to him. He gave a half-smile when a reporter asked if he’s committed to playing soccer through the 2014 World Cup.

“I’m committed to today,” Donovan said. “We’ll see about tomorrow. I’m going to enjoy today and worry about tomorrow later.”

He might not know exactly what he’s going to do next summer, but his plans for this one seem solid enough. Barring a complete shift, he’s going to help lead a solid, though certainly not the strongest, U.S. side in a Gold Cup that seems there for the taking. But like nearly everyone else on the team—with the exception of DaMarcus Beasley and Herculez Gomez—he’s also in a fight for a spot on Jurgen Klinsmann’s top side, even if he doesn’t want to think about the future.

“Sure, that’s everyone’s goal,” he said of a potential return to the team’s most important matches. “That’s what this group is, everyone’s trying to make an impression. But at the same time, I realize very clearly that if the team succeeds than the individuals will succeed.

“You can’t have one or two guys play well and the team doesn’t do well. It’s not as good of a feeling. We want to be a part of something that feels good and feels special by the end of this, and I think if we do that, a lot of us have a better chance of playing in the autumn.”

His team-first attitude has helped him reintegrate with the national team–not that there were any hard feelings.

"I understood exactly why he did it," said Beasley, who will wear the captain’s armband throughout the tournament. "He’s had a lot of weight on his shoulders the last six, seven years. Being the face of MLS, being the face of U.S. Soccer. All that stuff. And he needed to take a little break."

"The guys understood where he was coming from, to sort out what he wanted to do. But at the same time I'm glad he’s back."

How will Donovan reintegrate on the pitch? If Thursday’s training is any indication, it won’t be too tough. He played several beautiful crosses and thumped a header into the back of the net during the team’s drills.

Jon Arnold is an ASN contributing editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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