By ADAM SERRANO
CARSON, Calif. — In the last 264 days, Landon Donovan has played for two teams. The U.S. men's national team is not one of them. He has played against Clint Dempsey, but the two have not suited up for the same side since Bob Bradley was the one roaming the U.S. sidelines. After nearly nine months since the last time he represented his country, Donovan has finally returned to Jurgen Klinsmann's squad and is eager to make up for lost time.
Donovan trained with the team this week during training camp in Orlando, Fla., ahead of friendlies against Scotland and Brazil as well as next month's friendly against Canada and World Cup qualifiers against Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala after being called up to the squad last Sunday. The matches will be Donovan’s first stint with the national team since Sept. 2, when the U.S. men faced Costa Rica at the Home Depot Center. He has missed all subsequent camps and friendlies.
Despite having a long history with the national team that includes 138 caps and the all-time records for goals and assists, Donovan understands that he must use the camp and the upcoming matches to reintegrate himself with his teammates.
"We’ve got a lot of time [to prepare] 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," Donovan before departing for Orlando. "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."
One aspect of his return to the national team that will be heavily scrutinized will be his adaptation to Klinsmann’s playing style. Donovan has played just two games for the U.S. coach since he replaced Bradley, and Donovan has missed all important landmarks, most notable the recent, statement victory over Italy, while the rest of the player pool has meshed and grown under Klinsmann's watch.
Although Donovan has not worn the U.S. jersey in some time, he expects a quick transition into Klinsmann’s attacking style.
“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,” said Donovan. “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. "
Easy or not, Donovan won't have long to settle in with key matches looming. With the Americans set to face off against the likes Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala in World Cup qualifiers, Donovan believes that the road to Brazil 2014 will not be easy.
"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," Donovan said. "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."
No matter the opponent, with his absence from the national team finally in the past, Donovan is simply pleased to re-join the national team fold.
"It’s been a long time for me and I’m excited," Donovan said. "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."