One thing Landon Donovan has always been is humble.
The U.S. winger proved that again on Thursday when he agreed with comments made by Jurgen Klinsmann concerning the player’s need to prove himself over an extended period of time before reclaiming his spot on the national team roster.
“I agree with him,” Donovan said following training with the Galaxy. “Just because you score a goal and have a good game doesn’t mean you’re a national team player. And I’ve said from the beginning that I have to earn my way back, and playing one good game doesn’t earn your way back. I still have a long way to go.”
Donovan’s potential recall to the national side has been a hot topic of conversation since returning from his sabbatical to Cambodia. Players, coaches and fans alike wonder whether the 31 year old would be able to contribute to his nation’s push for a World Cup Qualifying spot, and if so, how long it might take for that contribution to come to fruition.
In his fifth appearance since returning from a nearly four-month leave, Donovan provided a masterful performance in last weekend’s victory over Sporting Kansas City. His speed, ability to hold up play, and mesmerizing ball cuts resulted in a brilliant assist while his ability to anticipate and execute earned him a goal. Klinsmann was on hand to witness the genius but later explained how the feat was not nearly enough to earn the player a call up.
The coach told media Wednesday that certain players have moved ahead of Donovan in the selection line for June’s World Cup qualifiers and that his coaching staff plans to “observe him like we will observe all the other players over the stretch of a period of time” before naming him to the roster.
Fortunately, Donovan is under no delusions of grandeur. “I have to continue to build on what I did last weekend, and then at that point there’s still no guarantee, either,” said the winger. “Like Jurgen said, I’m well behind the group in a lot of ways, and I’m aware of that. All I want is a chance to prove that I belong, and I’m going to have to work hard to get that chance.”
Between now and the June 7th World Cup qualifier against Jamaica, Donovan will have nine more opportunities to prove himself to Klinsmann and the US coaching staff – seven matches with the Galaxy and, assuming he is selected, two exhibitions for the US (against Belgium on May 29 and Germany on June 2). It’s a stretch of matches that provides more than enough time for Donovan to leave his mark and for Klinsmann to get over his feeling of betrayal.
And get over it he will.
Not only is Donovan of the right mindset heading into the next six weeks but at least part of Klinsmann’s comments should be chalked as posturing. Don’t get me wrong, I believe Klinsmann when he says that Landon will be observed like any other player. Yet I also believe that as a head coach who endlessly strives for the respect of his players and the US Soccer community at large, Klinsmann has to make these statements.
But come June, Landon Donovan will be on that World Cup Qualifying roster.