Landon Donovan's long-waited return to the United States team will come at next month's Gold Cup. Grant Wahl learned that Donovan will be named to the team for the tournament, giving the U.S.' all-time leading scorer an opportunity to impress Jurgen Klinsmann and work his way into the full team when it reconvenes in August for a friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Donovan hasn't been included in a U.S. team since taking a sabbatical from soccer after last MLS season. He said he was burnt out and needed to recharge his mind and body. That meant no matches for the Galaxy or the U.S. and while he did return on March 30 for LA, when he also made himself available to the national team again, Klinsmann has yet to call him in.
When Donovan plays for the U.S. at the Gold Cup, it will be his first appearance for the Americans in nearly a year. He last played for the U.S. in their win over Mexico at the Azteca in a friendly on August 15, 2012.
The U.S. hasn't slumped without the former face of the team either. In fact, they have played better than ever, peaking this month when they took nine points from three World Cup qualifiers to move to the top of the Hex.
Whereas the team used to have a clear hierarchy with Donovan, Carlos Bocanegra and Tim Howard leading the way, it has become more even under Klinsmann. The quiet Clint Dempsey has been given the captaincy and Donovan and Bocanegra have not been called into the team, making it more of an egalitarian team.
Once the undoubted best player on the U.S., Donovan isn't as good as he once was. He isn't going to take over a match anymore and he can't carry the team, while the emergence of Graham Zusi and the play of Fabian Johnson, Eddie Johnson and Herculez Gomez on the wings have lessened his importance, but he is still a very good player and certainly one of the Americans' best 23.
Donovan can be a major boost to the U.S., but the question isn't whether he can play. It is whether he can take a lesser role and fit in with this new team Klinsmann has put together. He is no longer the face of the team, nor does he loom large over the less-accomplished players on the team because Klinsmann has set the team up so nobody does.
This is a new U.S. team. It's up to Donovan to show that he's a new player, too, and can fit in with Klinsmann's squad. The Gold Cup will be his chance.