- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio | Landon Donovan is caught between two continents.

As the United States meets Mexico on Wednesday to open the final round of World Cup qualifying, Donovan, on loan to Germany’s Bayern Munich, is waiting to hear whether Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy will let him stay in Europe after the agreement ends next month.

But that’s in the future. For now, all Donovan cares about is the game at hand.

“Let’s talk about Mexico today,” he said twice Tuesday night when asked pointed questions about his future.

Donovan arrived in Columbus on Monday night after crossing the Atlantic. No fan of travel, he said his time with Bayern had prepared him for the showdown with Mexico.

“I’ve always been ready for this game. I’m excited for it tomorrow,” he said. “In the future I’ll always be excited for it no matter where I am. So it doesn’t really change anything - except that I traveled a little further to get here.”

If Donovan stays in Europe, he won’t be the first acclaimed Galaxy player to do so. David Beckham is considering a move to AC Milan to strengthen his chances of playing in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Donovan has previously said he would like to remain in Europe after his loan deal with Bayern Munich expires. He has been in Germany for only a few weeks and has seen only limited game action, mostly coming off the bench to fill in for forwards Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni. But he likely will see more playing time in the coming weeks.

By early March, a decision will have to be made whether he will return to Los Angeles to play MLS.

He declined to speculate on his plans or those of his employers. Returning to the theme of playing Mexico instead of talking about his own future, Donovan did say that he remains motivated to play in World Cup matches for the United States.

“Regardless of where I am, where I was or where I will be, this game’s always the same,” he said.

Donovan answered questions from a media throng in both English and Spanish. He said he learned to speak Spanish from players - many from Mexico, South and Central America - who were teammates of his when he was younger.

As always, he remained confident of the American side’s chances. He said the series with Mexico has changed dramatically from when he first played on U.S. teams against the Tricolores.

The two sides have met 54 times since 1934, with Mexico winning 29 and the United States 14. But since 1999 the United States has won nine of 13 meetings - including the two previous World Cup qualifiers at Crew Stadium, by 2-0 counts in 2001 and 2005.

No longer does Mexico come in expecting to beat the Americans.

“I would guess that the tone of it has changed, for sure, since we first played them a long time ago,” he said. “That’s good. But it doesn’t give us any advantage for tomorrow. Yes, we’re confident, but it doesn’t matter what the media is saying. When they show up tomorrow, they’re going to be good regardless of what’s going on.”

Over the years, Donovan has said that playing for his country is among the most important things to him in his soccer career. International games still get his blood pumping.

“It’s just fun,” he said. “Anybody in any job, when there’s a more exciting opportunity or atmosphere or whatever, you’re going to be more excited and more prepared for it. That’s the way this is.”

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