CARSON, Calif. – After a whirlwind month in South Africa that saw him lead his team into the World Cup Round of 16 and return home a bona fide star, Donovan was understandably exhausted.
Donovan returned to training with the Los Angeles Galaxy Friday, but did not participate in the entire session. Just six days removed from an agonizing World Cup exit, though, Donovan said he was not going to use his physical condition as an excuse or a crutch ahead of Sunday’s match against Seattle.
“Physically, from a sleep standpoint, I’m a little tired and worn out. Physically from a body standpoint, I played the last stretch of the World Cup with a strained hamstring so I need to rest that,” Donovan said in a press conference on Friday. “Emotionally, I’m actually pretty excited about this game.”
In the second half of the Slovenia match on June 18, Donovan picked up a hamstring issue that continues to linger. While it did not affect his status against Ghana – he played against the Africans and, according to FIFA, ran 15,184 meters or 9.44 miles while doing so – Donovan may rest against Seattle.
But if he does sit, his injury or physical condition won’t be a way for him to sidestep any responsibility.
“For me this is now another opportunity to grow and to become better,” Donovan said. “The easy way out would be to say, ‘I’m tired. I’m drained. I’m not ready. I’m worn out.’ I’m going to use this as an opportunity to perform really well on Sunday.”
Donovan scored three goals in South Africa as the US won a World Cup group for the first time. That has apparently drawn interest from abroad, as Manchester City is at least one club rumored to be interested in Donovan.
But Donovan said he is just glad to return to Southern California and being back with his team.
“Right now I want to be in America. I absolutely love being here and I loved getting back to my teammates (Friday),” he said. “As you know, I never say never to anything. Right now, rumors are rumors and if there is something serious to look at I will, but for now I’m very excited to be home.”
Donovan made the rounds among the mainstream media upon returning to his homeland. He appeared on such show as Late Night with David Letterman, Live with Regis and Kelly, and the Early Show on CBS before heading back to the Galaxy.
Carrying the flag for his country in South Africa is one thing, but stepping into a role of celebrity and the potential face of American soccer in the mainstream is something to which he seems to be growing more and more accustomed.
“For a long time I think our sport lacked star power, and for us as players it’s not so important, but in the bigger scheme of things I understand how big that is,” he said. “I understand when you score a goal like the Algeria goal, a lot of that is going to be directed at me, but the reality is we don’t play an individual sport, and I think a lot of people have recognized a lot of different guys for doing well.”
One way in which the Galaxy and MLS are capitalizing on the United States’ success is the match against Seattle. ESPN has picked up the match for telecast on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.
“When a company like ESPN now wants to put our game on TV this Sunday, I think that says a lot,” Donovan said. “I think we’ve all seen what ESPN has done for this World Cup and how fantastic their coverage have been and how much it’s driven our sport, and when they’re behind our league as well it’s very helpful.”