Landon Donovan may be entering new phase with U.S. World Cup team

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Landon Donovan on Wednesday spent the first 59 minutes of the U.S. national team's friendly against Mexico on the bench, a place he’s not accustomed to being for that long.

But it’s a place Donovan, the leading scorer in U.S. team history, says he’s willing to get used to if that helps the team and Coach Juergen Klinsmann in this summer’s World Cup.

“Whatever the team needs,” he said following a 2-2 draw with Mexico in the final game before the U.S. team convenes for its World Cup training camp next month. “I’m fine with whatever. I like being part of the team. And if on a certain day Juergen wants me to start, that’s great. If on other days he sees other options and he wants to take advantage of that, I’m happy to come off the bench.

“I’m in a different phase of my career, so I can handle that.”

The U.S. team is also entering a different phase as it steps up preparation for this summer’s tournament in Brazil. Wednesday, however, was something of a mixed bag in that regard.

Klinsmann said he saw some things he liked, such as first-half goals from Michael Bradley and Chris Wondolowski. But there were also things he said he didn’t like, such as second-half goals from Rafa Marquez and Alan Pulido, who took advantage of defensive breakdowns to earn Mexico the draw.

“I think we learned a lot from tonight,” Klinsmann said. “We understand that a game goes at least 90 minutes. Maybe in a World Cup it goes 120 minutes. And we don’t have those 90 minutes yet.

“We have maybe 55, 60 maximum on that level. It’s not enough. So that means we have a lot of homework to do.”

Oh, and there was one other thing that Klinsmann said he discovered: Julian Green, who went in alongside Donovan early in the second half, just may be worth a spot on the U.S. team this summer -- maybe even Donovan’s spot.

“You saw in some moments what this kid is capable of doing,” Klinsmann said. “How he goes in the box and draws two guys. Obviously he was nervous too. He plays his first cap in front of 60,000 against Mexico. But the team welcomed him with open arms.

“You understand within 10 minutes if he’s a good player or not. Julian is a very good player. So we are happy to have him playing for us. It was a good start for him.”

As for Donovan, he didn’t start Wednesday because he looked sluggish in training and complained of a sore knee. Should he find himself as a permanent part-time player this summer after more than a decade leading the U.S. team, his spot could go to Green, a German American who didn’t become eligible to play for the U.S. until last week.

The 18-year-old is currently playing for Bayern Munich II in the fourth tier of German soccer, but he ranks third in the league with 15 goals in 23 games and Klinsmann has hinted that Green will get strong consideration for one of 23 spots on the U.S. team for the World Cup in Brazil.

“He’s a good player,” captain Clint Dempsey said. “In a tough game he was able to get some good touches.”


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