Less than a year after taking a self-imposed three-month sabbatical to deal with soccer burnout, the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan may find himself working overtime if he hopes to secure a key spot on the U.S. team for next summer’s World Cup.
National team coach Juergen Klinsmann said this week that players who compete in Major League Soccer need to stay active in the MLS off-season, which begins after December’s MLS Cup final. And he’s urging the likes of Donovan, Seattle’s Clint Dempsey and Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi to play on loan in Europe during their vacation.
“If you get a chance to go on loan to Europe, do it,” Klinsmann said. “Compete there with good players overseas. It is very crucial for us that the players understand that everything they do now, today, has an influence on Brazil 2014. They can’t take it easy.
“We wish that all of them can make it to the final and win the MLS Cup but it’s only going to happen to a few of them. So everybody who is maybe out earlier needs to have a plan in place to bridge that off-season period.”
Klinsmann said players who don’t go on loan will need to attend a mandatory January training camp, which will be split between Southern California and Sao Paulo, Brazil. But he made it clear his preference for the team’s top stars is playing, not practicing.
“If a player has the option -- maybe in the case of guys like Clint Dempsey or Landon Donovan or Graham Zusi -- go to Europe and get a European experience in and compete with the guys overseas,” he said. “This is our preference.”
Donovan twice played on loan with Everton of the English Premier League, most recently in 2012, while Dempsey played for Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur of the EPL before returning to MLS and Seattle last August.
Zusi has never played in Europe.