MIAMI – When the United States takes the field today in Honduras for the start of the final round of World Cup qualifying, Landon Donovan will be missing.
The 30-year-old midfielder, a veteran of three World Cups and the American career leader in goals and assists, is taking a break from soccer following the Los Angeles Galaxy’s second straight Major League Soccer title.
“Landon felt like he needed some time to figure out what was next for him, how to go forward. We all support that, but at the same time, life goes on here,” fellow midfielder Michael Bradley said. “We’re excited about the guys here and we’re confident in the group we have.”
The Americans practiced in Florida on Monday before traveling to San Pedro Sula for the match. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann maintained Donovan’s absence creates opportunity for others.
“We have plenty of options,” Klinsmann said. “We have 24 players in the camp, so plenty of options obviously for the coaches. And all of them are ready, all of them are hungry, all of them want to show a good game. So, I’m very positive about that challenge.”
Donovan appeared in all 10 final-round matches in 2009 and all seven in 2005 through the clincher. He missed the last four games of last year’s semifinal round.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said last month he expects Donovan to return to the team at some point this year but wouldn’t identify a timetable.
Graham Zusi might get a chance to replace Donovan on a flank. The 26-year-old Sporting Kansas City midfielder trained with England’s West Ham during the winter.
“Landon has been such a mainstay in this team. That position has been locked up for quite some time now,” Zusi said. “Any chance that he’s not here is a chance for someone else to come in.”
Much of the starting lineup appears set for the 28th-ranked Americans. Timmy Chandler is set to make his international debut as right back in place of injured Steve Cherundolo. Chandler, a German-American, would be tied to the U.S. team once he plays.
The Americans, seeking their seventh straight World Cup berth, play three of their first four qualifiers on the road. They host Costa Rica on March 22 at Commerce City, Colo., then play at Mexico four days later and at Jamaica on June 7.