| Wednesday, December 18, 2002 22:00 EST
Donovan stays with Earthquakes
NEW YORK -- Landon Donovan is staying right at home, just the way he wanted.
The 20-year-old sensation, who scored two goals for the United
States at the World Cup, didn't want to return to Germany, where
Bayer Leverkusen owns his rights. Under an agreement finalized this
week, the forward will remain with Major League Soccer through the
The German club then can either repurchase his rights, or
decline the option, which would allow MLS to retain Donovan on a
"I know there are quite a few people, my family included, who
are extremely happy to have me here,'' Donovan said during a
telephone conference call. "But I am by far one of the happiest
people on earth right now.''
Donovan has seven goals in 29 games with the national teams
since his international debut in October 2000, and coach Bruce
Arena expects him to become a team leader by the time qualifying
for the next World Cup starts in 2004.
"He is a player that will probably hit 100 caps very fast in
his career,'' Arena said Tuesday. "It is time to look real hard in
building this team around Landon, so certainly in the next year we
will be giving him a lot of responsibility, until he gets
comfortable in becoming one of our veteran players.''
Bayer Leverkusen, which signed him as a 16-year-old, agreed to
let him join MLS and the San Jose Earthquakes before the 2001
season, and Donovan didn't want to go back to Germany, where he
didn't get into any games.
Bayer Leverkusen, which lost the European Champions Cup final to
Real Madrid in May, is struggling this season, 14th in the German
Bundesliga at 5-7-5 and 0-2 in the second round of the European
"It would have been easy for them to say that one way to help
turn the season around is to bring Landon back and maybe that would
make things better,'' Donovan said. "They chose the better, more
humane option if you will, and said they would look at me as a
person and not only as a player, and that if that was what I wanted
to do they would help accommodate me. I am forever indebted to them
for that because it's definitely not a decision they had to make.''
Donovan knows that if he returned to Europe and became a top
scorer, it was raise his profile among the world's top clubs.
"Many people said I'd go and play and make a lot of money and
everything would be great,'' he said. "But you never know. I don't
know that I'm going to start every week in San Jose, but I know
that regardless I'm going to live a good life and be happy.
"Maybe three games from now, if I had gone back to Germany,
they fire the coach and a new coach comes in and he doesn't like me
for whatever reason and I'm back in the same situation. You can't
predict those things. What I can predict is that I'm going to be
happy in San Jose, in America. It wasn't appealing for me to go
back to Germany, at least not now. A lot of U.S. players overseas
don't play for whatever reason and I can speak from experience that
it's miserable when you're not playing.''
Donovan is expected to be part of the U.S. Olympic team in 2004,
but that's secondary to qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, which
will be played in Germany.
The U.S. national team resumes training Jan. 4, and has upcoming
exhibition games against Canada (Jan. 18), Argentina (Feb. 8) and
Jamaica (Feb. 12) to prepare for two tournaments in 2003: the FIFA
Confederations Cup (June 18-29) and the CONCACAF Gold Cup (July
12-27), which is the championship of North and Central America and
"There's a lot more pressure now,'' Donovan said. "We're not
hopeful to win games but we're expected to win games. That's good
because that's what makes you better.
"The goal for the 2006 World Cup is to win it. If you don't set
your goals to win it then you're selling yourself short.''
MLS also announced its contract extension with F Brian
McBride, who plays for the Columbus Crew. McBride has been picked
for all seven MLS All-Star Games despite missing parts of the 1997,
2000, 2001 and 2002 seasons with injuries that included a severely
sprained right ankle, a swollen right eye, a sprained right knee
and a broken right cheekbone. "Day in and day out, Brian gives to
this sport,'' MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis said. "Whether
it's giving up his body or his autograph, he is absolutely