SAN DIEGO – Landon Donovan returned to the US national team after nearly 11 months away, and it could not have gone much better.
The LA Galaxy standout was increasingly dynamic and dangerous in the Yanks' romp Friday night over Guatemala, scoring two goals, setting up a third and playing the key role in a tactical change that turned a tight if rather one-sided contest into a 6-0 blowout.
It's a good start toward an important assignment when World Cup qualifiers roll around later this summer, as long as he builds on it over the next month in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“I'm not going to get carried away because I scored a couple of goals in a friendly against Guatemala,” said Donovan, who started on the right side of midfield, then joined Herculez Gomez up top after a half-hour to increase the pressure on their foes' packed-in defense. “But it's good for confidence, it's good to score goals, it's good for the team to win, but it's going to get a lot harder in the coming weeks, and we know that.”
Donovan won and then converted a penalty kick in the 55th minute, set up Chris Wondolowski's 71st-minute goal with a through ball that ricocheted off a defender, then capped a marvelous return a minute later by volleying home a Stuart Holden chip for a 4-0 lead. He might have had more, or an assist or two, with better fortune.
“We are happy for Landon, that he picks up the rhythm, he's part of the group again, he kind of settles in again, and goals always help. For each striker, it's the best recipe ...,” said Jurgen Klinsmann, who hadn't called in Donovan since he went on an extended leave of absence late last fall that lasted until late March. “It's going to be a progression over the next couple weeks. We're just happy that he picks up the goals again. Scoring number 50, 51 is awesome. That's what we like to see, feeling more confident and feeling more a part of the team again.”
DaMarcus Beasley, the US captain for the game (and the Gold Cup), welcomed back his longtime partner – dating the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Cup – with a hug after Donovan's finish from the spot, the 50th goal of his international career.
“Big performance by him,” Beasley said. “I was excited that he's on the roster, I was excited that he got a start today, and I was excited that he got the two goals – and an [unofficial] assist. He'll tell you that he's not back to the Landon [of old], but the second goal showed that he's there. He can make things happen on the field, and that's what we need. We need attacking players that make things happen, create goals, score goals, work hard defensively. We need that in our team.”
Donovan said getting No. 50, and then No. 51, was meaningful.
“I'm really proud of it,” he said. “Obviously, I've been sitting on 49 for awhile [since May 2012], and it's a nice feeling. I realize at the end of the day, it's just the ego that feels good and it doesn't mean anything when I'm on my deathbed, but I am still proud of it, and I'm happy.”
There is still work to be done.
“We want to do well and we want to succeed [in the Gold Cup],” Donovan said. “And I want to be part of it, whether that's playing every minute every game, whether that's playing and contributing a little bit, whether that's just being on the bench and helping. I want to be holding a trophy at the end of the month, and I think we all feel that way.”