CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan is headed into his final appearance with the US national team happy for the opportunity to “put a ribbon” on a 15-year international career effectively closed with his World Cup snub.
US Soccer is giving Donovan a chance to say farewell in Friday's friendly against Ecuador in East Hartford, Connecticut (7 pm ET; ESPN), and it provides him a chance to exit the world stage on agreeable terms.
“This summer, obviously, was tough, not only for me, but for my family,” Donovan said following the Galaxy's training session Tuesday morning at StubHub Center. “… And you don't want your last memory to be getting cut from the team, and my family didn't either, so this will be a nice way to hopefully put a ribbon on my career. And I'm excited to have a chance to say goodbye to a lot of people who have been supportive of me.”
Donovan will be in the starting XI and wear the captain's armband for his 157th cap, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann revealed Tuesday, just seven off Cobi Jones' US record, and will only play 30 minutes with the LA Galaxy facing a huge showdown Sunday at FC Dallas (7 pm ET; ESPN2).
Donovan thanked U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati for “making the effort to make this happen.”
When asked if his appearance would not have happened without Gulati’s insistence, Donovan replied: “I don't know for sure, but I'd say that's a safe assumption.”
Donovan said he's not heard a peep from Klinsmann since he was eliminated from World Cup consideration last May, but that he doesn't “give it too much thought, to be honest.”
And as painful as was his controversial omission from the team that reached the knockout stage in Brazil, he said it “hasn't at all” been the driving force in his sensational second half of the season with the Galaxy.
“I'm glad in a lot of ways [that I was cut],” Donovan said. “As crazy as this sounds, some of the worst things that have happened in my life have turned out to be some of the best things. And I had an opportunity to grow a lot from what happened this year.
“And I wouldn't have had that opportunity had I gone to the World Cup and played in the World Cup. I've grown a lot from it, and I think it's probably shown in the way I've played.”
Friday's friendly is the first real step into the new World Cup cycle, and although the game doesn't count toward anything, it's not a “testimonial” match in the strictest sense. Donovan is aware of that.
“I've so far approached it as a nice event for me to have a chance to say goodbye, and, I think, for the fans to have a chance to say goodbye,” he said. “But the reality is that it's a class-A international game that means a lot to a lot of people. So this week, I've turned my focus to making sure that I don't just go and soak up everything, that I go and help the team the way I can.
“That's important to me, too. I owe that to everybody that's playing in the game, and I want to make sure that I have that attitude.”
Donovan said he's been swarmed with messages from longtime US teammates and players around the league, and that it’s “been really nice.”
He said he’s been most touched by the outpouring of support he's received from fans. He's looking forward to sharing Friday's game with them.
“I'm overwhelmed,” he said. “A lot of people have said, ‘You know, I won't be able to pay rent this month because I bought a ticket to Hartford to go watch your game,’ and things like that. It's pretty cool. I think sometimes when we're wrapped up in all this, we forget how special it's been along the way – both ways, for me and for them – and this will be a nice week to sort of reflect and enjoy all of it.”