By Michael Lewis
CHICAGO -- It turned out to be a golden moment for Landon Donovan in more ways than one.
Not only was he a member of the United States team that captured its fifth CONCACAF Gold Cup crown on Sunday, he also earned Golden Ball honors as the competition’s most outstanding player.
His performance in the six-game tournament was very likely good enough for him to be brought back onto the 23-man roster for World Cup Qualifying when the CONCACAF hexagonal resumes in September.
U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann indicated as much after the 31-year-old midfielder-forward helped the Americans to a 1-0 victory over Panama in the final at Soldier Field.
"It's absolutely normal that it's a high probability that he joins us for the September games," Klinsmann said. "It's absolutely no discussion."
Klinsmann stressed, however, that Donovan needs to maintain his high level of play.
"He has to prove himself every day and going forward every day," he noted. "He has that. He takes this challenge. He deserves every compliment from everybody here about this tournament, about being MVP of the tournament, scoring all the goals, making a difference and giving all that energy to the group."
Donovan finished the competition tied for the scoring lead (five goals) with teammate Chris Wondolowski and Panama's Gabriel Torres. Moreover, he was the fulcrum of the American attack, accruing a tournament-best seven assists.
"I've enjoyed it tremendously," enthused Donovan. "Just having fun, it's up there. I'm really proud to be a part of what we've been to. As I get older, the things that matter to me are winning. And when you look around and see young kids holding the trophy in there, and experiencing something for the first time, it makes me really happy."
Donovan took a self-imposed three-month sabbatical from soccer this past winter to recharge his batteries. It has worked out perfectly.
"I'm enjoying being a part of it, I really am," he said. "I wasn't in a place to contribute then. So it feels good to come back and contribute."
Sometimes contributions can come in unusual ways.
As it turned out, Sunday's game was the first match in which Donovan did not score, although he did play an important role on the winning goal by Brek Shea in the 68th minute.
As Alejandro Bedoya’s right-wing feed came to him, Donovan kicked and missed, moving Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo out of position. The ball came to Brek Shea, who only had to touch it into the net.
"Alejandro cut into his left foot," Donovan said. "It rolled in front of me. I took a mighty swing at it and missed, but it was enough to throw the goalie off and it was a tap in for Brek.