Concacaf Football - Donovan targets return to US national team

United States forward Landon Donovan, returning to football after a three-month break from the game, said on Thursday he hopes to be back with the national team for June's World Cup qualifiers.

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Landon Donovan (Reuters)

Donovan announced last December that he needed a break from the game, saying he had lost his passion and enjoyment for the sport, raising the question as to whether he would play at next year's World Cup finals in Brazil should the U.S. qualify.

But after returning to training with his Major League Soccer club L.A. Galaxy, Donovan said he was aiming to get back with the U.S. team in time for three qualifiers in June.

"It has to be my goal," Donovan, the United States' all-time leading scorer, told reporters during a conference call.

"I'd absolutely love to be a part of the national team again going forward and I am itching to represent my country again and to be a part of it, but I also understand very clearly that some decisions I have made are going to make that a difficult task."

Without Donovan, the U.S. lost to Honduras in February and then beat Costa Rica in Denver last week before a 0-0 draw with Mexico at the Azteca Stadium on Tuesday.

Donovan said he had frequent conversations with national team coach Juergen Klinsmann about his break and future plans.

"The one thing we have always had is that if we have an issue with one another we say it - we call each other and text, we get in touch and meet face to face and let each other know how we feel," he said.

"Juergen has been very respectful of all of this, through the process, I very much appreciate that and also, I very clearly understand that no coach really wants to hear what I had to say or what I did in the last few months."

Donovan, who has had two loan spells with Everton and one with Bayern Munich in the US off-season, said he was not looking beyond this season but said his national team future would come down to his performances at club level with the Galaxy.

"Now it is my job to make it so that I can play with the national team again and I have to make them want to include me again and that is solely on me," said Donovan.

"It has nothing to do with anyone else except me. That is something I understood very clearly when I made the decision to take some time off and I am very motivated to do that."

Donovan helped the Galaxy to their second straight MLS Cup title last December before beginning a break from the game and he said it was not just a lack of passion that concerned him.

"I was mentally and physically exhausted - I needed a break and I don't use the word 'need' lightly," said Donovan.

"Unfortunately in this society and probably many other societies we have a sort of stigma that being in a difficult mental place is not acceptable and we should pull ourselves up by the boot-straps and fight through it.

"It is a little peculiar to me this idea that if someone is physically hurt we are OK with them taking the time they need to come back but if someone is in a difficult place mentally we are not OK with allowing them to take the time they need to come back.

"Hopefully there are at least a few people out in the world that can relate to this."

The U.S. have friendlies against Belgium and Germany as warm-ups for a June 7 qualifier against Jamaica in Kingston, a June 11 game versus Panama in Seattle and a June 18 game against Honduras in Utah.

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