WASHINGTON – Landon Donovan knows he's got fences to mend and points to prove to Jurgen Klinsmann and the rest of the US national team, but the star midfielder says he can't wait to return to full speed with the LA Galaxy and hopefully earn the right to don his country's colors again.
“My primary goal is to get back playing here,” he said after the Galaxy's Thursday morning training session at Georgetown University. “I realize I have a long way to go both on the field and off the field to work my way back into the national team, and that's my goal. If that's something that presents itself, then that's something I want to do. I miss being a part of that and I want to represent my country again.”
Donovan capped his four-month sabbatical this week as he rejoined LA for an MLS Cup commemoration at the White House and resumed team exercises with an eye towards resumption of club play. But his thirst for an international comeback was soon whetted by the USMNT's gutsy 0-0 draw with Mexico in Tuesday's World Cup qualifier at Estadio Azteca.
“It was fantastic,” he said of the rare point gained in Mexico City. “Having been a part of many of those games both home and away, I don't think you can overstate the significance of that result, and I was so proud to watch, so proud to be just an American fan – forget about a player or a teammate.
“In those games, it's not always pretty but there's not many teams that go there and get a result.”
Donovan was frank in admitting that Klinsmann had taken issue with his decision to step away from the game at such a crucial period in the USMNT's schedule. He has been in communication with the German-American coach, however, and remains hopeful that he can return to strong enough form in MLS play to earn a recall to the national team.
“Jurgen and I have always been very honest with each other. That's one thing that I respect about him,” he said. “He certainly hasn't agreed with a lot of my choices and that's understandable. But we've always been honest and I let him know that I needed some time away.
“He's heard that a lot from me, unfortunately, lately. I needed to do that for myself. But he's always been very respectful, he's always been supportive and now my task is to find my way back in. There's certainly no obligation on anyone's part to let me back in – I've got to earn my way back.”
Donovan traveled to Cambodia and Wisconsin during his hiatus, but says that the destination he appreciated most was more of a spiritual one than any particular geographic point.
“My favorite part was being home with my family,” he said. “For 15 years, I haven't spent more than two weeks at a time with my family, so it was really nice to do that.”