MIAMI — Landon Donovan is rested and ready for the United States’ return to World Cup qualifying.
The USA’s career-leading goal scorer didn’t play in the first six matches of the CONCACAF final qualifying phase. When he returned, he looked as good as he ever has.
“I feel like a youngster,” Donovan said Monday. “Mentally, I can do things I couldn’t do in the past.”
The 31-year-old Donovan scored five goals and created others to help lead the U.S. to the Gold Cup title.
“It’s great to see Landon back in this group,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “That gives us as coaches another option and a very good option.”
“I want to be a part of the team going forward,” Donovan said. “I want to be part of the team that has a chance to ... eventually play in a World Cup and this is the next step for me. I am very excited to be here and I want to try to contribute.”
Friday’s game at National Stadium in San Jose will be the second of the teams’ home-and-home qualifying set. Clint Dempsey’s goal gave the United States a 1-0 win in the first game played under an intense snow storm March 22 in Commerce City, Colo.
Costa Rica appealed for a replay of that game but was denied. Now the United States has to go into a hostile environment with a 12-game winning streak on the line.
“In my opinion, playing in Costa Rica, specifically at Saprissa, it’s the hardest place to play in CONCACAF,” Donovan said. “We get a little bit of a break in that we’re playing in the national stadium. It looks like the weather will be very bearable. Those factors come into play when you play there.”
The United States currently leads the final qualifying group for North America, Central America and the Caribbean with 13 points. The U.S., which has never won a qualifier at Costa Rica, plays Mexico four days later in Columbus, Ohio.
Wins in both games could all but secure qualification for the US.
“We know that’s a possibility – clearly other results have to go our way, too,” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “But I think the most important thing is if we can get three points … we’re going to feel very good.”