CARSON -- Landon Donovan trained with the U.S. national team Monday for the first time in nearly nine months after joining preparations in Orlando, Fla., for three friendlies -- the first Saturday against Scotland -- in advance of next month's World Cup qualifying openers.
The Galaxy's captain and, with Clint Dempsey, the Americans' biggest star (he's played in three World Cups, has 138 caps and is the all-time U.S. leader for goals (46) and assists (47)) has played just twice under Jurgen Klinsmann, in the German legend's debut with the national team last August against Mexico and in the Home Depot Center loss to Costa Rica last September. He has since pulled out of three camps or trips because of injury or illness, most recently missing February's victory over Italy in Genoa.
Donovan, at 30, remains pivotal for the U.S. even as Dempsey's star ascends -- the Texan scored 23 goals in 46 games for English Premier League side Fulham this season -- and a new generation of talent, including Chivas USA newcomer Juan Agudelo and several German-born sons of servicemen, begin to assert themselves.
He's one of 27 players on Klinsmann's initial list for games against the Scots in Jacksonville, Fla., Brazil on May 30 in Landover, Md., Canada on June 3 in Toronto and qualifiers for 2014 against Antigua & Barbuda on June 8 in Tampa, Fla., and at Guatemala on June 12. That list will be trimmed Friday to 23, and Donovan is certain to be on that list.
Donovan spoke to media about his return to the national team following the Galaxy's SuperClasico defeat Saturday night to Chivas USA:
You haven't spent much time in camp with Klinsmann.
Yeah, it’s been a long time for me and I’m excited. I’m excited to see the guys, and excited to be a part of what they’re doing there. It’s hard when you’re looking from the outside in for so long, so I’m excited to get there. As always when you do this, you’ve got to refocus quickly and be ready, because no one cares what’s happening here [with the Galaxy's struggles], they care what’s happening there.
You've been away so long. Will it require some reintegration?
I know Jurgen well, and I know the guys well, so it’s not -- there’s maybe a few new players but I think it’ll be pretty seamless, and it’s not my first camp, so I’ll be fine. But it’ll take a little bit of time to understand ideas and philosophy and those kind of things, but I think Jurgen and I see the game the same way, so it’ll be pretty easy.
You have three games to prepare for the real ones against Antigua and Guatemala.
We’ve got a lot of time which is good, a lot of training time, a lot of games, and you know at this point, it’s been so long I have to go and prove myself. And those guys have been together now for a bunch of months in a row that I haven’t been a part of, so that’s my mindset is to go in and make sure that I become a part of the team again.
What are the challenges these qualifiers present?
I think you’re seeing around the world now, how difficult qualifying is becoming, and, you know, last time I think Brazil struggled, at times Argentina struggled, in Europe some teams struggled against opponents that you would say they shouldn’t struggle against. But now the soccer world is getting smaller and smaller, and a lot of these guys that we’ll be playing, some of the Central American players and Caribbean players, a lot of them play in our league, and they have good experience and they’re good players. So it’s getting harder and harder as the soccer world gets smaller and smaller.
You've got Antigua at home, so that's a game you'll be expected to win by some lopsided score.
In these games, you just win. If it’s 1-0 and it’s an own goal, then you take it. Ideally, you win and it’s a little more comfortable, but at the end of the day, you never know what can happen in these games. You have to kind of expect the unexpected and get the result you need no matter what it takes.
Antigua's national team more or less plays in the USL Pro league, as Antigua Barracuda. How does that prepare them?
Well, that’s a competitive league. Those games are never easy when MLS teams play against those teams. It’s never easy. They’re competitive guys, they’ll compete hard and they’ll be hard to play against, but obviously our experience and our talent should take over.
Then you go to Guatemala, where it's never easy to win.
That’s going to be our first road test, and that’s going to be difficult, and we know that. Guys who have been a part of this know what those games are all about. Even more so than the Antigua game, you do whatever you can to get a result and any time you get a point on the road or three points on the road, it’s huge and that’s the objective.
What do you make of Clint Dempsey and the season he's had?
He’s been incredible and, I think, take myself kind of outside of being a player and just watching as a fan from abroad, it’s really fun to watch. I think it’s inspiring for all of us to see someone do that at that level, and now when he scores, you don’t even bat an eye anymore, it’s to be expected almost. I don’t think an American has ever had that. We're all proud of him, and he has an infinite hunger to succeed and it’s good for all of us to see.
You'll be missing the Galaxy's games Wednesday against San Jose and Saturday at Houston. How much will you miss being there?
A lot. It’s a tough time right now, and I want to be here with the team, but it’s part of it. It’s life.
Here's the full training-camp roster:
Brad Guzan (Aston Villa/England)
Tim Howard (Everton/England)
Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers/Scotland)
Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo)
Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana/Mexico)
Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96/Germany)
Clarence Goodson (Brondby/Denmark)
Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin/Germany)
Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Lisbon/Portugal)
Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland/Denmark)
Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake)
Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona/Italy)
Joe Corona (Club Tijuana/Mexico)
Landon Donovan (Galaxy)
Maurice Edu (Rangers/Scotland)
Fabian Johnson (1899 Hoffenheim/Germany)
Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04/Germany)
Jose Francisco Torres (Pachuca/Mexico)
Danny Williams (1899 Hoffenheim/Germany)
Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA)
Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar/Netherlands)
Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund/Germany)
Clint Dempsey (Fulham/England)
Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna/Mexico)
Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)