CARSON, Calif. (AP) - Landon Donovan’s passion for soccer is rejuvenated heading into his fourth World Cup run, and he spent the past few weeks stoking that fire in training camp with his U.S. teammates in Brazil.
The greatest scorer in American history just has to figure out where he fits on the team that’s heading back to Brazil in a few months.
Donovan is confident there’s still plenty of time to find a regular role in coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s lineup, but he’s also quite comfortable playing in multiple spots if necessary. He’ll learn more Saturday as the only big name on the field in an exhibition against South Korea.
“I want to make the team, and the good thing about playing in so many positions and situations and having the experiences I’ve had is that I can help in a lot of different ways,” Donovan said. “I’m not in a place in my life now where … I have this crazy burning desire to start and score and do everything. I want the team to do well.”
Luckily for Donovan, he has a bit of experience in adjusting quickly on his sport’s biggest stage.
“In 2002, we played multiple formations,” Donovan said of his first World Cup experience, even recalling a 3-5-2 set that was improvised on the spot by coach Bruce Arena. “I remember playing in at least four different positions over the five games.”
Klinsmann isn’t making any long-range predictions about guaranteed jobs in his 4-2-3-1 scheme, but he’s not worried about Donovan finding his role. He was pleased by Donovan’s presence this month during the Americans’ 2½-week dry run in the same hotels and facilities the team will use during the World Cup.
“We hope that on his home field (Saturday), he shows some excitement and basically shows off, in a good way,” Klinsmann said.
Wherever he fits in Klinsmann’s lineup, Donovan will be on his home field when the U.S. national team makes its 2014 debut at the sold-out StubHub Center south of downtown Los Angeles. It’s the first of just two scheduled matches before World Cup training begins in earnest in May.
Several Americans are still with their European club teams, including captain Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, Geoff Cameron, Jozy Altidore and goalkeeper Tim Howard. Michael Bradley also isn’t in town while getting settled in at Toronto FC.
Those absences have opened playing time to a wealth of newcomers and infrequent contributors. High-scoring Chicago Fire forward Mike Magee hadn’t been in a U.S. camp for nine years, and defender Michael Parkhurst was able to join the team in Carson after his recent move from Augsburg in the Bundesliga to the Columbus Crew of MLS.
“With this camp there’s all these new faces, so it’s been interesting,” defender Omar Gonzalez said. “It’s been great, because it’s giving us the chance to work on our communication and help other guys who haven’t been here before. It’s been a really tough three weeks, really taxing on the body, but it’s been fun being with the guys and getting better every single day.”
The final scheduled U.S. friendly on March 5 in Ukraine is on a FIFA fixture date, making every player available to Klinsmann. The Americans also might face Mexico in April, but Klinsmann also is grateful he seized the chance to take most of his MLS players to Brazil for workouts and team bonding.
“I don’t know if it’s an advantage,” Klinsmann said. “But it’s certainly a good feeling that we have a good understanding about our training side of the base camp (and) hotel. The players that will be joining us in the summertime already have a good idea how it looks like. I think that just makes you feel more comfortable.”