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WORLD CUP

Landon Donovan seems a lock for World Cup team, but role is up in air

Donovan seems certain to be named to the U.S. roster. What's less clear is where Coach Juergen Klinsmann will position him and whether Donovan will start.

January 30, 2014|By Kevin Baxter
  • Galaxy star Landon Donovan doesn't know what his role on the U.S. national team will be or even if he'll start during the FIFA World Cup in Brazil this summer.
Galaxy star Landon Donovan doesn't know what his role on the U.S. national… (Nelson Almeida / Getty Images )

A year ago, with Landon Donovan in the middle of a three-month self-exile from soccer, his future with the U.S. national team was very much in doubt.

But now, after a spectacular summer, his place on the U.S. roster for this summer's World Cup seems pretty much assured. Still to be decided, however, is whether he will start and where he'll play once he gets to Brazil.

U.S. Coach Juergen Klinsmann prefers to line up with a heavy midfield behind a solitary striker, which figures to leave Donovan part of a crowded field competing for a job on the wings.

Or, Klinsmann suggested, he could use Donovan as a second striker. Or he could play him in the hole, just behind the forward. Or he could use him off the bench.

Or … well, you get the idea.

Exactly how Klinsmann plans to use the versatile Galaxy star could become a little clearer Saturday when the U.S. concludes its winter training camp by meeting South Korea, another World Cup qualifier, in a friendly at a sold-out StubHub Center in Carson.

For Donovan, 31, who played four positions in five games in his first World Cup in 2002, just being in uniform is more important than where he stands on the field.

"I want to make the team," he said. "The good thing about playing in so many positions and situations and having the experiences that I've had is that I can help in a lot of different ways."

And scoring isn't necessarily the most important way.

"I'm not in a place in my life now where I have this crazy, burning desire to start and score and do everything," said Donovan, the national team's all-time leader in goals and assists. "We all have ego, we all get enjoyment out of doing those things. But I want to help this team do well and I want to help U.S. Soccer make another big step."

Less than five months before its opener in Brazil, this World Cup team is shaping up as the deepest and most talented of the four Donovan has played for. And with only Saturday's game and a March friendly in Ukraine left on the U.S. national team's calendar before the World Cup roster is chosen in May, the competition is growing keener.

"There's always guys fighting for spots, which is good," Donovan said. "And I guess as far as preparation, you want to be peaking at the right time.

"But the reality is we're going to get judged and picked based on how we do we Saturday, potentially how we do in March and how do we do with our teams during the season."

Said Klinsmann: "There is competition now in every position. And that's what we coaches love."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: @kbaxter11

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