Michelle Kaufman: Landon Donovan’s leadership missing as U.S. prepares for World Cup qualifiers

Will Landon Donovan ever rejoin the U.S. national team? Will he play in the Brazil World Cup next summer? That remains to be seen. It looks like he won’t be on the team anytime in the near future, and that’s a shame, because he has been such a good leader on and off the field.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann on Thursday named his 29-man roster for training camp leading up to five upcoming matches, and Donovan was left off the list, as was former U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra.

Donovan, the 31-year-old midfielder and all-time leading U.S. scorer, has not played for the national team since a game at Mexico last August. He took a four-month sabbatical after the end of the Major League Soccer season, and has missed seven World Cup qualifiers and two friendlies.

Donovan returned to the Los Angeles Galaxy lineup last month, but has not done enough to earn a spot on the U.S. squad in Klinsmann’s estimation.

“I think Landon is catching up,” Klinsmann said. “We’re all excited that he has decided to continue to play. That was the first major answer that we needed to get, and now he’s just working himself back into shape and back into a playing rhythm. He will get sharper and more confident with every game he’s going to play now. So we’ll watch that, we’ll monitor that and we’ll decide then when to bring him back into our picture.

“It’s not going to be for these upcoming games, but maybe later on we’ll definitely expect him back in the team.”

Donovan, who played in the past three World Cups, told Reuters: “I’m disappointed but I’ll keep going and I’ll keep working hard and I hope that I get the chance. I would love to be in Brazil next year [for the World Cup] but I can’t completely control that. My job is to make it as difficult as possible for the coach to leave me out.”

He told he needed the break because he wasn’t enjoying the sport the way he once did.

“I did not want to feel like I was playing out of obligation,” he said. “I wanted to feel like I was playing because I still enjoyed it.

“I want to be back with the national team, whether it is playing five minutes in qualifiers or the Gold Cup. I want to be back there, and if at the end of the day I give everything I have and don’t get back there, so be it. But if I do and I earn it back and deserve it, it will feel really, really good.”

Bocanegra turns 34 this week and has not been in the U.S. team picture for a few months. He didn’t play the February match at Honduras and was not invited for two March qualifiers. He went a few months without much playing time at Racing Santander in Spain’s second division.

“He knows that if anything happens to one of those center backs that he’ll get called in right away,” Klinsmann said, “but I think we are blessed with our center back position.”

Right back Steve Cherundolo, who returned to the Hannover lineup in April after sitting four months with a knee injury, was also left off the roster. Timmy Chandler is out with a torn knee ligament.

One older player who did make the cut was three-time World Cup veteran DaMarcus Beasley, who turns 31 this week. The players will gather in Cleveland next Sunday and the United States plays Belgium in a friendly May 29. They then play Germany on June 2 in Washington.

The two friendly matches serve as warmups for three World Cup qualifiers: The United States goes to Kingston to play Jamaica on June 7, then is back home to face Panama on June 11 in Seattle and Honduras on June 18 in Salt Lake City.

The United States is in third place in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying with a 1-1-1 record, behind Panama and Costa Rica. Honduras is fourth. Mexico (0-0-3) is fifth and Jamaica (0-1-2) is sixth. The top three advance and the fourth plays New Zealand in a two-game playoff for the final spot.

The full roster: Goalkeepers — Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Tim Howard (Everton), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake); Defenders — DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Omar Gonzalez (L.A. Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Parkhurst (Augsburg); Midfielders — Michael Bradley (Roma), Joe Corona (Tijuana), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Maurice Edu (Bursaspor), Stuart Holden (Bolton), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Brek Shea (Stoke City), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City); Forwards — Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Tottenham), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC).


Upcoming matches:

Germany and Ecuador play a friendly at 2:30 p.m. May 29 at FAU Stadium. Tickets are available through the school box office. Germany will be without 15 regulars because of club commitments.

Spain plays Haiti on June 8 at Sun Life Stadium in a friendly that will serve as the Spanish national team’s preparation for the Confederations Cup in Brazil that month. Spain will have its full “A” roster. Tickets start at $29. Go to or, or call (305) 943-8000.

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