The 2014 FIFA World Cup could be Landon Donovan‘s international swan song.
Bruce Arena, Donovan’s head coach at club level (L.A. Galaxy), told the Washington Post that Donovan might retire from the U.S. men’s national team after the 2014 World Cup.
“He is getting better, he is feeling better, and he is positioned to end his international career in the right way — in Brazil for the World Cup — and finish out his club career near his home,” Arena said. “He moved it along the way he envisioned.”
Donovan is a legendary figure with the U.S. national team. He has scored more goals than anyone in team history, with 57 in 153 games, and also has the most assists with 57. He has played a leading role in three World Cups (2002, 2006 and 2010) — two of which saw the U.S. advance to the knockout rounds. His goal against Algeria in 2010 is one of the iconic moments in U.S. soccer history.
Earlier this year, Donovan took a three-month sabbatical from game. He returned to the Galaxy in March, saying he had rediscovered his joy and hunger for the game, and his performances have largely reflected a refreshed attitude. He returned to international soccer In July and powered the U.S. to victory in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Donovan missed most of the current World Cup qualifying cycle because of burnout and fitness issues, but he returned to the Americans’ “A” squad for a pair of World Cup qualifiers in early September. He announced his comeback to the top of the American game by scoring the second goal in the U.S.’s 2-0 win over Mexico.
A fit and motivated Donovan is a safe bet to make the U.S. World Cup squad. It’s likely that he will play 10-15 more national team games before the end of next year’s tournament. He will be 32 after the World Cup — an age at which many players end their international careers. He signed a long-term contract extension with the Galaxy in late August.
Arena knows Donovan as a player and as a man better than most people. Arena gave Donovan his international debut in 1999 and was his national team coach until 2006. Arena took charge of Donovan’s Galaxy in 2009, and the two have worked together ever since. Given Arena’s comments, it’s likely that Donovan will spend the final years of his playing career with his energy focused on taking the Galaxy and Major League Soccer to the next level. This would leave the U.S. national team’s fortunes at the feet of a younger generation of players.
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