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Back from sabbatical, Landon Donovan determined to regain spot on U.S. team

Donovan, who took four months off for physical and mental exhaustion, is training again with the Galaxy. He says he is 'very motivated again' to rejoin the U.S. team by the next round of World Cup qualifiers.

March 28, 2013|By Kevin Baxter
  • Landon Donovan helps present President Obama with a Galaxy jersey and soccer ball during a visit to the White House last week.
Landon Donovan helps present President Obama with a Galaxy jersey and soccer… (Michael Reynolds / EPA )

Landon Donovan admitted Thursday that he nearly walked away from soccer for good after the Galaxy won last year's MLS title.

But after a four-month break to alleviate physical and mental exhaustion, the former Galaxy captain returned to training this week "very motivated again" and with the hope of regaining his job with the U.S. national team by the next round of World Cup qualifiers in June.

"I have a long way to go and a lot of work to do," said Donovan, the all-time leader in goals and assists for the U.S. national team. "But if given the opportunity, I would love to play for the U.S. and I would love to represent my country again."

Donovan touched on a number of topics during a wide-ranging 25-minute conference call from Washington, where the Galaxy is training for a Major League Soccer match Saturday with Toronto.

• Of retirement Donovan, 31, said he "had those thoughts at the end of last year" but after the first extended break of his career "I knew that I wanted to still play."

• Donovan declined to set a date for his return to the lineup but said he is not ruling out the Galaxy's two-game CONCACAF Champions League series with Monterrey beginning April 3.

• Of his future Donovan, who has made no secret of his desire to play again in England, was evasive, saying only that he was focused on this year, the last in his four-year contract with the Galaxy. But he added that he hoped to "contribute to numerous teams going forward."

• Donovan said his Galaxy teammates, who have already played five games without him, were overwhelmingly supportive of his decision to go on sabbatical: "These are guys that know me on a pretty intimate basis and I think to a man if you had asked them 'Is this something that Landon would benefit from and needs to do?' I think all of them would say yes."

Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena was not always as supportive, however, and Donovan said that led him to question the way mental issues are commonly viewed.

"Unfortunately, we have a sort of stigma that being in a different mental place is not acceptable. We should pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and fight through it and all this," said Donovan, who spent much of his vacation with family members.

"It's a little peculiar to me, that whole idea. If someone's physically hurt, we're OK with them taking the time they need to come back. But if someone's in a different place mentally, we're not OK with allowing them to take the time."

Much of Donovan's focus now will be on persuading U.S. Coach Juergen Klinsmann to invite him back to the national team.

"It's my job to earn my way back in," said Donovan, who last played for the national team in August. "It has to be my job to do whatever I can do that it's impossible for them not to have me there.

"And that's what I'm motivated to do."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

twitter.com/kbaxter11

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