Landon Donovan (pictured) has scored five goals in 12 all-time FIFA World Cup games for the United States. (Photo: Mexpsort)
STANFORD, California -- Landon Donovan, the United States' all-time leading scorer, finds himself in the unlikely position of fighting for a World Cup spot.
A three-time Cup veteran, the 32-year-old once was considered to be a lock to represent his country in Brazil next month, but even he admitted that being a selection on head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's 23-man roster is not automatic.
"I have to prove that," he stressed. "And I have to earn that.”
Barring a substandard training camp, Donovan is expected to be named to the team.
“For me personally, I liken it to 2002,” said Donovan. “In 2006 and 2010, I knew, for the most part, unless I was awful, that I was going to make the team. 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.”
Since taking a self-imposed sabbatical after the 2012 Major League Soccer season, Donovan missed a good portion of the CONCACAF qualifying campaign for Brazil 2014. He worked his way back onto the team with an excellent performance in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
As a 20-year-old, Donovan was one of the key members of a surprising American side that reached the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan. After an unspectacular display at Germany 2006, he rebounded with a stellar performance in South Africa four years ago, netting a memorable stoppage-time goal in a 1-0 win over Algeria that boosted the U.S. to a group title.
While he has yet to score in seven games this season with the LA Galaxy, Donovan – who has 57 goals in 156 international matches -- is hopeful of going to Brazil.
"I am very confident in my abilities and I feel like I am deserving to be a part of the squad," expressed Donovan. "I have enjoyed it a lot. This brings the best out of everyone because every day guys are fighting for a chance to be part of the World Cup. You never know when you will get that chance again, so it has made it very challenging, but a lot of fun."
Klinsmann must cut seven players by the FIFA roster deadline on June 2.
"You can really make the case for any of the guys here to make the squad,” Donovan said. “So there are going to be some difficult decisions for the coaches.”