Landon Donovan has been a fixture in the US national team's starting lineup during the last three World Cups, but that streak may not hold this summer in Brazil – and Donovan knows it.
The LA Galaxy star spoke about his prospects recently at a promotional event in Carson, Calif., and ESPNFC.com's Jeff Carlisle reported on Donovan's comments on Tuesday. Above all, Donovan attributed his potential slide down the pecking order to age, rather than a difference of opinion with USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
"I think it's more this point in my career – and it started briefly with Bob [Bradley] in the Gold Cup a few years ago – where you may not be penned in as a starter or as part of the team every time," Donovan said. "That as an athlete is a hard realization to swallow, because we all think we're invincible, we all think we're great, we all have an ego at times.
"Dealing with that process has been ... not challenging but interesting, and it's just coming to grips with it. I've sort of had to realize that. I think Jurgen's motto – and I think to his credit it has worked and been good – is that you have to be good all the time, and you have to prove it every day. That's hard for older players."
Still, Donovan did not hesitate to declare himself ready for the upcoming World Cup, where the US will face Ghana, Portugal, and Germany in Group G.
"When I'm [with the national team], I still feel like I'm one of the best players, and that I can still contribute in a big way," he said.
The difference between past World Cups and this one? Donovan said he must pace himself in training in order to remain fresh for the games.
The 2013 Gold Cup MVP indicated Klinsmann's approach regarding training was different than what he experiences on the club level, as he said Galaxy boss Bruce Arena was more likely to "trust" Donovan's judgment regarding an ongoing problem with knee tendonitis. Klinsmann said following a 2-2 draw against Mexico in a friendly on April 2 that Donovan did not start in that game because the tendonitis had affected the veteran and he hadn't looked good in training leading up to the match.
"I can't do it every day in training. That's why leading up to the Mexico game, when I don't train well for a couple of days, alarm bells probably go off in Jurgen's head," Donovan said.
"But I know myself, and I know when game day comes, I know how to perform."