It’s really hard to imagine, but Landon Donovan was more or less a U.S. national team afterthought at this time last year.
That’s the same Donovan who has already been to three World Cups, who leads the program in all-time goals and assists, who scored a memorable goal at World Cup 2010, one that got his team into the second round and surely saved Bob Bradley’s job for the time being.
The United States opens its 2014 season – a huge season, where the World Cup will dominate and everything else will be window dressing – today outside Los Angeles against South Korea. (The game is on ESPN2 at 5 p.m. ET)
At this same point one year ago, Jurgen Klinsmann’s team was moving forward, preparing for life AD, after Donovan.
He was on hiatus, a bit of a wandering soul, and the chances that Donovan might one day regain his starring role were a toss-up at very best.
But as we know, the big summer of Donovan happened, he said and did all the right things and his place has been firmly re-established. He’s still one of the difference makers out there, and still versatile enough to play four, maybe even five different positions in Klinsmann’s preferred, modified 4-3-3.
Donovan is also quite humble about it all, still saying all the right things, careful not to be presumptuous about place in the team. Clearly, he would need a seismic loss of form to somehow fumble away his place in the final 23-man roster.
Donovan, a sharp cookie, knows so. But this is the smart way to play it, as he’s still cognizant of some raw feelings around the team from all that career waffling a year back. Here’s what he said late this week about his place in the big picture, about competition for roster places and starting spots:
I just want to make the team. And the good thing about playing in so many positions and situations and having the experience that I’ve had is that I can help in a lot of different ways.
“I’m not in a place in my life now where I have this crazy, burning desire to start and score and do everything. I want the team to do well, and I want the team to be successful, and I want to be part of it. Of course, we all have egos, we all get enjoyment out of doing those things, but I want to help this team do well, and I want to help US Soccer make another big step.”