Landon Donovan: re-discovering that inner fire and desire?

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In the long run, the injury absence that has removed Landon Donovan from competitive soccer for a month may be a wonderfully useful period for the U.S. national team’s all-time leading scorer.

Starting in June, Donovan began alarming everyone with out-of-nowhere retirement talk. If anyone wrote it off as a bad day or idle talk, the L.A. Galaxy attacker reiterated his uncertain status later in the summer, shortly before a hamstring injury took him out of the U.S-Mexico match on Aug. 15.

That’s the last time we’ve seen Donovan on the field. Two weeks ago on Soccer Today, he told myself and show co-host Marc Stein that he was already “chomping at the bit to get back on the field.” And that was after just more than a week away. He was already starting to miss it.

Besides, it was providing a needed respite for a man whose time off had been limited to less than three weeks over a two-year period.

Now Donovan has been away a month – and he sounds increasingly like a man who is cursing his inability to get back on the field. He sounds like a man who is re-discovering his fire and desire for the game. Here, for instance, is what the Galaxy attacker said about having to sit around nervously as the U.S. World Cup effort teetered too-close-for-comfort to the edge:

To be honest, it gives me a lot of anxiety. I hate watching. And sometimes I prefer not to watch, because it’s not fun. Yesterday was sort of sweaty palms and praying for the goal to come, and thankfully the goal came, and when the whistle blew at the end of the game, I think throughout US Soccer, there was a collective sigh of relief.”

That doesn’t sound to me like an indifferent sort.

Donovan is 30 years old. That’s way too early to talk about retirement. Let’s all hope he’s stepping away from the ledge on this one.