Galaxy playmaker Landon Donovan has flat out sounded depressed lately when he has spoken candidly about a lack of motivation and enjoyment from playing soccer.
And now U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann wants to know where his head is at.
That’s something I asked Donovan last weekend, with the MLS playoffs looming.
“You my shrink?” Donovan asked me rhetorically to much laughter from fellow journalists.
But it isn’t funny when the U.S. appears on the verge of prematurely losing the best outfield player it has ever produced.
Here’s more from the Associated Press: NEW YORK (AP) — Landon Donovan isn’t sure he wants to play at the 2014 World Cup, a stance that prompted U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann to say he intends to speak with the longtime American star.
The 30-year-old Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder, a veteran of three World Cups, has been sidelined by a string of injuries this year and has appeared in just eight of 20 national team games since Klinsmann became coach.
“If I’m not enjoying playing any more, the World Cup is the last thing on my mind,” Donovan said in an interview with ESPN released this week. “I need to make sure that I’m enjoying playing every day. If I’m not enjoying it, none of that stuff really matters. And your body’s going to tell you it’s time to take a break and that’s what my body has done this year, there’s no question.”
Donovan said he can picture himself not playing at the World Cup.
He has an American-record 49 goals in 144 international appearances, but his injury layoffs have given him doubts.
“When you’re not part of the team all the time, you can start to question your value and your worth there,” he said. “I’m human. I think about those things, and I wonder that from time to time — am I capable and/or do they still want me around?”
Speaking during a conference call Thursday, Klinsmann said Donovan is wanted by the national team, which starts the 10-game final round of World Cup qualifying in February.
“I find it really courageous of him to talk openly about what’s going through his mind,” Klinsmann said, adding: “He’s always in our plans, absolutely.”
Klinsmann seems to be giving Donovan plenty of time to make up his mind.
“It’s really down to him, himself, what he wants to further achieve in his career, what he wants to do,” the coach said. “Whatever he decides to do will be very respected by us.”
Donovan’s availability for the next U.S. game, a Nov. 14 exhibition at Russia, depends on how far the defending champion Galaxy progress in the Major League Soccer playoffs.
His absence has created a void in the American attack.
“When one player is not there, there is a chance for another player to step in and make a case for a spot,” Klinsmann said. “We’ll all be curious to see how it continues.”
Donovan has been sidelined this year by bronchitis, a hamstring injury and a knee injury. The U.S. is 3-2-3 with Donovan under Klinsmann and 8-4-0 without him.
“It’s probably affected my relationship with everybody on that team,” Donovan said of the absences. “When you’re a guy who’s never been hurt for the most part and then all of a sudden you have all these injuries, I think people start to question it — maybe he’s faking it, or maybe he’s not really hurt or maybe he doesn’t want to come in.
“That’s really frustrating and candidly it’s pretty hurtful because I’ve spent more time on a soccer field than anybody in the history of this program. I’ve played in games I shouldn’t be playing in for health reasons or otherwise. I feel like I’ve given a lot to this program, and when you get the sense that people think you’re not genuine, then that can hurt you.”
Klinsmann thought Donovan had the wrong impression, and intends to invite him to lunch or dinner.
“I don’t know if he has a feeling that maybe some players didn’t buy in or whatever. I didn’t see that,” Klinsmann said. “If it’s Landon’s thought, then he can obviously talk about it. It’s no problem.”
Donovan is not interested in a loan to Everton, where he played in early 2010 and early 2012.
“I’m no good to any team if I’m playing half-hearted or if I’m playing at 80 percent physically,” Donovan said. “I can go through the motions and do an OK job, but I don’t want to be doing an OK job. I want to be making an impact.”
NOTES: Klinsmann hasn’t spoken with Jozy Altidore since dropping the forward from his roster for World Cup qualifiers last month and said he hasn’t decided whether to include him for the Russia game. … The draw for the final round of World Cup qualifying will take place Tuesday. … Klinsmann hasn’t decided whether to have a January training camp. He may reduce the size or push it into late January, ahead of the next qualifier.