[WORLD CUP COUNTDOWN] Most observers consider Landon Donovan a lock to make his fourth straight World Cup team. But in his first session with the media since entering training camp at Stanford University, the LA Galaxy star cautioned that he doesn't consider himself an automatic pick.
“You can really make the case for any of the guys here to make the squad,” he said on Monday. “So there are going to be some difficult decisions for the coaches.”
Donovan made his first World Cup appearance in 2002 as a 20-year-old with just one season of playing time under his belt with the San Jose Earthquakes. He started every game in 2002, 2006 and 2012 and holds the U.S. record for most World Cup appearances (12) and most goals (five).
He likened his situation to 2002.
“In 2006 and 2010, I knew for the most part, unless I was awful, that I was going to make the team," he said. "This time it’s more similar to ’02, when I wasn’t sure. In that way, it’s as competitive for me as it’s been in a long time.”
Coach Jurgen Klinsmannhas said it is wrong to assume Donovan is an automatic choice.
“The media thinks he is untouchable, that he has to be in Brazil, has to be in the starting lineup," Klinsmann said in Segment 1 of the ESPN documentary Inside the U.S. National Team: March to Brazil. “But that’s not how it works. I have to make decisions based on what I see today.”
A year ago, Donovan, just back from a self-imposed sabbatical, was not part of Klinsmann's parts for qualifying, He finally returned for the 2013 Gold Cup, where he helped the USA win the title, and scored the insurance goal in the 2-0 win over Mexico that clinched a berth in the 2014 World Cup finals.
But Klinsmann later pulled Donovan at the half of the qualifier against Jamaica and didn't start him in the April friendly against Mexico. The U.S. coach has since said he only views Donovan as a forward.
Donovan, who has been bothered by a knee problem that was cited as the reason for his poor showing in practice before the USA-Mexico friendly, admitted during the Inside the U.S. National Team documentary that "there are times Jurgen has justifiably taken me out of games, and I understand."
Still, he thinks he is deserving of going to Brazil.
"But I have to prove that," he cautioned Monday. "And I have to earn that.”