CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan’s near year-long absence from the U.S. National Team is over.
The 31-year-old LA Galaxy forward was called into the 23-man U.S. roster on Thursday for next month’s 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The all-time leader in goals scored for the U.S. last suited up for his country last August when the Americans picked up a 1-0 win in a friendly in Mexico.
Donovan will join up with the U.S. on July 1st ahead of their lone tournament tune-up against Guatemala at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego on July 5. The U.S. opens the Gold Cup at JELD-WEN Field in Portland on July 9th against Belize.
There will be plenty of motivation for Donovan throughout the tournament as he is out not only to prove to U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann that he merits consideration for September’s World Cup Qualifying matches, but also help lead the U.S. to their fifth continental title.
“I want to do my best in this tournament. This tournament historically has meant a lot to our team, it means a lot to me and I want to play in the tournament and I want to be a part of something special at the end of the month,” Donovan told reporters on Thursday. “I’m assuming that I’ll be one of the elder statesmen with a lot of guys that don’t have a lot of experience and I want to contribute in that way. I like winning and this tournament is a good tournament to win so that’s my goal.”
Donovan, who will be the second oldest player in the initial 23-man squad, has done well at the Gold Cup over his career as he is the tournament’s all-time leading goal scorer with 13 goals and has made a U.S. record 28 appearances in the competition. The 31-year-old will likely be one of the frontrunners for the U.S. captaincy at the tournament due to the relatively young squad.
He joins the National Team playing some of his best soccer of the season as he has notched a goal and an assist in his last three games with the Galaxy.
“Landon coming back to our group is exciting and this [is] a wonderful opportunity for him now to prove where he’s at now after his break and after a couple months now back with the Galaxy,” U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said in a teleconference with reporters on Thursday. “We’re curious to see how he picks up the rhythm, the speed and tempo and all the elements, and therefore we’re excited to have him back.
“He needed his couple of months,” Klinsmann added. “We’re simply happy to have him back and to see him now over a stretch of seven games performing.
Among those pleased to see Donovan make his return to international duty is his Galaxy teammate, defender Omar Gonzalez. The pair may end up teammates at the Gold Cup as Klinsmann will have an option of calling up four players from the team’s 35-man preliminary roster—which included Gonzalez—following the group stage.
Over the first half of 2013, Gonzalez has become a regular in central defense for the U.S., playing the full 90 minutes in all nine games that the National Team has played, and the 24-year-old center back expects Donovan to stake his claim for inclusion into the full national team.
“It’s great. It’s great that he’s getting back in there and I can’t wait to see him back in a U.S. jersey,” said Gonzalez. “We all know Landon is a great player and I think that it will be nice to see him back there on the field representing the U.S. and doing what he’s been doing for years. I think that it’s going to be great for everyone to see.”
While Donovan looks to lead the U.S. to continental glory, the Galaxy must replace the veteran in the lineup. Just who slots into Donovan’s spot in the lineup is up for debate as LA head coach Bruce Arena will have a host of options to fill the void.
Whether it is Hector Jimenez, Jose Villarreal or Jack McBean, Donovan doesn’t expect LA to miss a beat while he’s away.
“Historically, it’s not been an issue when people leave,” Donovan said. “When Omar is gone it makes a difference because he’s in a crucial part of the field when Robbie is gone, sometimes our production can go down a little bit in the offensive part. But for the most part guys step in and do their job, we expect that. Guys train hard and want their opportunity, now they get their opportunity so it’s time to show.”
Confident that his Galaxy teammates can hold down the fort, the veteran is ready to make the most of his chance with the U.S.
“It’s a tough part of the season as always to leave your team, but for me, it’s an opportunity that I’ve been waiting for so I want to take advantage of it,” Donovan asserted.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com