Landon Donovan has returned to training with the Los Angeles Galaxy, and has let it be known that he wants back in on the U.S. national team too. After winning a second MLS Cup in a row with the Galaxy last December 1, Donovan went on an extended sabbatical, as he tried to re-ignite his passion for the game.
The longer Donovan, the United States all time leader in both goals and assists stayed away, the more the tide of public opinion seemed to turn away from the longtime face of U.S. soccer. And while Jurgen Klinsmann and U.S. national team members have been careful not to say anything negative about Donovan’s decision to stay away, it became apparent that constant questions about the situation had worn thin.
Just this week in a pre-game press conference a member of the Mexican based media asked U.S. captain Clint Dempsey to comment on Donovan’s absence. Seated beside his captain, a small smile on his face, Klinsmann’s expression seemed to say, “not this again.” U.S. soccer scribes had long since stopped asking about Donovan, what more was there to say? The party line was, he’s not training or playing for his club, so he can’t be considered for the national team.
To the foreign media though, to see a United States team without Donovan was still big time news, particularly in Mexico where Donovan has long been the number one villain, so the question was to be expected. Dempsey acknowledged that, “you want to have your best players that you possibly can at your disposal.” “But,” Dempsey went on, “Like you said, he’s been absent, he hasn’t been training, so how can he be available for selection.”
“We go on, we battle on,” the captain said. He sounded as if he was standing up for the group of players who have been available these last months when he noted, “we were able to do that (battle on), in the last round of qualifying.” “If he wants to come back,” Dempsey said, “then we will have to wait and see what happens,” but, “ Dempsey continued, “we have to keep moving forward.” “We’ve got a great group of guys and I think we have the team with the quality that we can get the right results that can put us in a position to qualify for the World Cup.”
Donovan is no fool and he seems well aware that he has some fences to mend before he is accepted back into the group. He told MLS.com that, “Jurgen and I have always been very honest with each other. That’s one thing thing that I respect about him.” Donovan admitted, “he certainly hasn’t agreed with a lot of my choices and that’s understandable.” “But,” the wayward American star contends, “we’ve always been honest and I let him know that I needed some time away.”
Donovan went on, “He heard that a lot from me, unfortunately,” indicating that the two men may been communicating fairly often. “I needed to do that for myself, but he has always been supportive and now my task is to find a way back in.” Donovan realizes that, “there certainly is no obligation on anyone’s part to let me back in, I’ve got to earn my way back.”
“If I can go back in with the national team and they ask me to play goalie, then I’ll play goalie,” Donovan deadpanned during a conference call with reporters.
He added, more seriously: “My job now is to make it so that he wants me back. He has not said anything — he hasn’t said he doesn’t want me to be part of it. He has said the door is open and once I’m playing again, he’ll evaluate me like any other player, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
No mention was made of his teammates in Donovan’s remarks, and it is not difficult to imagine some players resenting Donovan’s proposed return. This past 10 days the U.S. team seems to have established a camaraderie and a willingness to fight for one another in the face of an article that painted the team as divided. The U.S. picked up four valuable points in difficult conditions in Colorado and Mexico, pulling together when they most needed to.
Now, ironically a player who has meant so much to this national team for so many years will have to earn not only his coach’s trust, but perhaps more importantly, the trust of his teammates.
Holden Loaned To Sheffield Wednesday
Like Donovan, Stuart Holden has been away from the United States national team for some time now, although Holden’s absence was anything but voluntary. Holden has been trying to work his way back from a devastating knee injury for most of the last two years. Originally injured against Manchester United on March 19, 2011, Holden returned to action in September of the same year. Unfortunately Holden required another operation just days later and was out of the game until this January. Holden hasn’t played for Bolton since late February, so this loan is designed to give the midfielder some game time.
Sheffield are in the midst of a relegation battle in the English Championship, while Bolton are in 8th place in the same league, and are not entirely out of the running for a spot in the playoff to earn promotion back to the Premier league.
The loan runs for one month, before the former Houston Dynamo returns to the Wanderers. Holden’s contract with Bolton is up at the end of this season and the Lancashire club have made it clear that they would like for Holden to stay on.