SAN DIEGO -- Landon Donovan has taken great pains to keep the focus of his national team comeback in the present. Next summer's World Cup, he has continued to insist, will take care of itself.
"I'm going to enjoy today and worry about tomorrow later," he said.
But it looks like the future won't wait. Because with a two-goal performance in the U.S. national team's 6-0 win over Guatemala on Friday, Donovan moved a big step closer toward securing a spot on the roster for Brazil 2014.
"We're happy that Landon picked up his rhythm and is part of the group again," U.S. Coach Juergen Klinsmann said. "Goals certainly help. For any offensive player, that's the best recipe."
For Donovan, the national team's all-time leader in goals and assists, Friday's game was his first for the U.S. in nearly 11 months. It was an absence caused, in part, by Donovan's decision to take a three-month break from the sport just before the final round of World Cup qualifying began.
At first the U.S. sputtered on offense without him. But in June striker Jozy Altidore caught fire, scoring in four consecutive games to carry the U.S. to the top of the regional qualifying standings.
Now with Donovan returning to form, the U.S. should be that much better. Only time -- and Klinsmann -- will show if that's true. For now Donovan remains on the U.S. "B" team for this month's Gold Cup while Altidore is taking a well-deserved break of his own while finalizing his transfer from Dutch club AZ to Sunderland of the English Premier League.
Klinsmann has insisted that Donovan, 31, must earn his way back to a team he has led for nearly a decade -- a challenge Donovan has seemingly embraced.
"For everyone here it’s an opportunity," he said of the Gold Cup, which opens for the U.S. on Tuesday in Portland, Ore., against Belize. "A majority of these guys that are here today, including myself, weren’t a part of the last qualifying. So for us it’s a chance to get back in with the team. And we want to take that seriously.
"The team that was in the qualifiers did a very good job recently and we all want to break in."
Donovan started Friday's friendly on the right wing and was active in the attack from the start. But he really started to click when he moved to the center, changing places with Joe Corona, and late in the first half he narrowly missed scoring a goal when his left-heeled shot went wide of the net.
But during a 17-minute span early in the second half he was unstoppable, scoring twice and setting up a goal by Chris Wondolowski.
In the 54th minute, a savvy move by Donovan deep in the box drew a foul, leading to a penalty kick that Donovan converted to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead.
The former Galaxy captain set up the next score by pulling two defenders toward him as he charged up the middle of the field to the edge of the 18-yard box. That allowed Wondolowski to move into the area alone and when Donovan sent the ball ahead Wondolowski had an easy shot on goal.
A minute later it was Donovan again, making it 4-0 by one-timing a splendid cross from Stuart Holden for his 51st international goal. No other player in the 100-year history of U.S. soccer has more than 34.
Klinsmann then pulled Donovan, welcoming him to the sideline with a big smile and a well-earned pat on the back. And when the U.S. added two more goals in the final six minutes, the Americans had their most one-sided win since an 8-0 victory over Barbados in June 2008.
“It was a great night for us,” Donovan said.
And an even better one for him.
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