CHICAGO — With Landon Donovan back in the fold, the U.S. resumes World Cup qualifying next week with its deepest team yet.
Donovan was among 23 players selected Thursday by coach Jurgen Klinsmann for upcoming qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico. Klinsmann snubbed the Americans’ career scoring leader for the last round of qualifiers, saying Donovan needed to work his way back onto the team following his offseason sabbatical.
But Donovan redeemed himself — and then some — with his play in last month’s Gold Cup, scoring five goals as the Americans won the title. He has continued his dazzling play with four goals in three games for the Los Angeles Galaxy, which on Wednesday rewarded him with a new, long-term contract.
“He got himself back into the team during the Gold Cup,” Klinsmann said. “He did a wonderful job there.”
While it’s hard to imagine a starting lineup without Donovan when the Americans resume qualifying at Costa Rica on Sept. 6, Klinsmann now has multiple options at almost every position. He used two almost completely different rosters for the last round of qualifiers and the Gold Cup, and the Americans responded with a record 12 straight wins.
It is the longest streak in the world currently, and three shy of the record set by Spain in 2009.
The winning streak, and the depth behind it, has given the Americans a swagger normally reserved for European and South American teams.
“We have a lot of respect for Costa Rica. (We) can expect a really very, very intense game, high-energy game,” Klinsmann said. “But I think we have the quality and the mindset to be confident enough to say, ‘We’re going to go there for three points.’
“This is what we’re trying to build,” Klinsmann added. “More and more, this belief is getting bigger. It’s growing throughout the entire group. We’ve got a deeper roster now than ever before. Hopefully, we can take that mindset down to San Jose and win there for first time ever in World Cup qualifying.”
In addition to Donovan, Klinsmann selected 11 players who were part of the Gold Cup winning squad: DaMarcus Beasley, Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Matt Besler, Edgar Castillo, Mix Diskerud, Omar Gonzalez, Eddie Johnson, Michael Orozco and Nick Rimando. He passed over Joe Corona and Sacha Kljestan, who were part of the squad for a come-from-behind victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina earlier this month.
“It was not easy to make those decisions,” Klinsmann said.
After playing at Costa Rica, the Americans return home to face archrival Mexico on Sept. 10 in Columbus, Ohio. The U.S. is atop the qualifying group from North and Central America and the Caribbean region, leading Costa Rica by two points with Mexico five points back.
The top three teams advance to next year’s World Cup in Brazil, with the fourth-place team going to a playoff with New Zealand, the Oceania winner.
“If we’re able to get three points in San Jose next Friday, we’re almost there. We’re almost in Brazil,” Klinsmann said. “I don’t want players to think, even for one second, about Mexico in Columbus. I want them to tune in to Costa Rica and give everything they have.”
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake);
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City) John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Michael Orozco (Puebla);
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Roma), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City);
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC).