As he winds down towards his retirement at the close of the current MLS season, Landon Donovan is enjoying one of his best seasons as a professional, spearheading the LA Galaxy's promising hunt for hardware and looking forward to what promises to be an emotional swan song with the US national team in their Oct. 10 friendly vs. Ecuador (7 pm ET, ESPN/UniMas).
But based on the revelations of a new SI.com interview with Donovan published on Thursday, awkwardness may well eclipse nostalgia at that match in East Hartford, Connecticut.
In an in-depth conversation with SI's Grant Wahl, Donovan revealed that USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has not spoken with him at all about this month's sendoff, which is apparently the brainchild of U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati.
Donovan – who declined to emphatically rule out a future comeback to the sport, but called it “unlikely” – also made clear that the wounds incurred by Klinsmann's stunning decision to leave him off the USA's 2014 World Cup roster have not healed.
After the German-American coach's son Jonathan mocked Donovan in a tweet shortly after the roster announcement, Klinsmann publicly asserted that his son owed the USMNT icon “a huge apology,” but apparently no such olive branch has been extended.
And Donovan's conviction that he could have been of use in Brazil this summer has not wavered.
“I think there was a very tangible way I could have helped that team,” he said. “I believe in my abilities.”
It appears that the bad blood between Klinsmann and Donovan – who seemed to be respected friends until the latter failed to adequately impress on a loan stint to Bayern Munich during Klinsmann's brief, star-crossed tenure as the German superclub's manager in 2008-09 – nearly prevented the Galaxy legend from accepting one last callup to the national team he helped put on the map.
“I thought about it for a while,” Donovan said. “Obviously, this summer didn’t leave the best taste in my mouth with everything that happened. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this was something that I think would be really special, not only for me to feel and receive, but also my opportunity to say thank you.
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“I’ve met so many people here in LA that have said, ‘We’ve booked our flight, we got our tickets, we’re going to Hartford to say goodbye to you.' For me that makes it special.”
As is his custom, Donovan offered up a range of other thoughtful, honest quotes during the interview, including an observation about the sporting world's lingering hesitance to accept the reality of mental health issues among athletes.
“The biggest thing that we can all do is be compassionate,” he said. “There are these phrases that go around in sports that are so prevalent, that 'he’s soft' or 'he’s weak mentally,' all these things. Of course sports is a macho, testosterone-driven activity.
“But we’re all human, and so just like there are gay athletes in sports, just like there are athletes from different races and ethnicities, of course there are athletes that have mental issues, just like everyone else can have mental issues in society.”