CARSON, Calif. — Landon Donovan returns next week to the US national team for the first time in nearly a year, and the CONCACAF Gold Cup represents an opportunity for him to regain prominence within Jurgen Klinsmann's pool and contribute to the Americans' World Cup qualifying campaign later this year.
It's a prospect he's pursued since returning to the LA Galaxy from a nearly four-month sabbatical in late March, but he says he's taking things one step at a time.
“It's nice,” Donovan said, to be part of the 23-man roster Klinsmann announced Thursday, but “it's a tough part of the season, as always, to leave your team. But for me, it's an opportunity I've been waiting for, so I want to take advantage of it.”
Donovan, who has 144 caps and is the all-time US goals leader, with 49, last played for the national team in the victory last August over Mexico at Estadio Azteca. Injuries have limited his appearances since Klinsmann took charge in July 2011, and he hasn't been considered for any of the World Cup qualifiers this year.
“I think once I get back in, I'll realize how much I miss it,” he said. “I've been [with the US] a long time consistently, so it sort goes to the back of your mind, but once I get back in, I'll be excited. I'm excited to have the opportunity again.”
Klinsmann said he is looking forward to seeing where Donovan's game stands.
“He has a wonderful opportunity now to prove where he's at now after his break,” Klinsmann said. “We're just curious to see how he picks up the rhythm, how he picks up the speed and tempo. Therefore we are excited to have him back.”
Donovan, who could miss as many as five Galaxy games while away, said his chief aim was to enjoy the experience.
“I'm at a point now where I really want to enjoy each day, whether it's here [with the Galaxy] or with the US team, and I think when I do that, I play my best ...,” he said. “I don't want to worry about what happens in the future, but I want to do my best in this tournament. This tournament historically has meant a lot to our team, it means a lot to me, and I want to win the tournament, and I want to be part of something special at the end of this month.”
Many of the teams, including the US and Mexico, are sending “B” sides to the Gold Cup, which begins July 7 at the Rose Bowl. The final is July 28 at Soldier Field in Chicago. The US play Guatemala in a friendly July 5 in San Diego, open the tournament July 9 against Belize in Portland, Ore., and follow with Group C games against Cuba on July 13 in Sandy, Utah, and Costa Rica on July 16 in East Hartford, Conn.
“This tournament will be a little bit different. A lot of teams that are in [World Cup] qualifying are going to send rosters that look a little bit different ...,” Donovan said. “For us, the goal is always the same: Get out of the group and try to win the tournament. And it's a tournament we feel like we have a good chance to win, so we always approach it that way.”