Landon Donovan has been viewed as an American hero, clutch performer and major contributor for the United States men's national team. But for one brief moment in time, Donovan admits he rooted against his own country.
The same man who notched crucial goals for the Stars and Stripes on the World Cup stage admitted to hoping his team would falter—only slightly—in a warm-up game against Azerbaijan, per Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times.
"I'll be completely honest, watching them play Azerbaijan, inside, part of me was thinking, 'I hope the game doesn't go very well today,'" Donovan said. "In my heart of hearts, I thought, if we get a 1-0 win and the team doesn't perform well, that would feel good."
These emotions came pouring out of Donovan shortly after head coach Jurgen Klinsmann cut him from the national team. Considering his resume with the team, including his status as the highest-scoring American in World Cup history and the fact he has starred for Team USA so many times in the past, it was an emotional time for the former U.S. captain.
During his time with the national team, Donovan has scored 57 international goals since 2000, five of which came during the World Cup. He also won the Best Young Player Award in 2002 at the age of 20 and is the only player in U.S. history to score 50 goals and notch 50 assists on the international stage.
Did Klinsmann make the right decision with Donovan?
Though he initially was miffed about being left off the squad, Donovan told Plaschke that he quickly changed his feelings about the situation.
"Then the next day I woke up and said to myself, that's a really crappy way to feel," Donovan said. "That's a bad way to live your life, it doesn't help me, it doesn't help the team, it doesn't help the energy that the team needs."
While Donovan was clearly upset and angry by the decision at the time, he has since gotten over it and has made it clear he's moving forward with a more positive mindset. As for the Americans, they advanced out of the "Group of Death" with a 1-1-1 record and play Belgium on Tuesday in the knockout round.
Though it might have looked like a controversial move at the time to leave Donovan off the roster, Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports provides his thoughts in hindsight:
As Plaschke points out, the range of emotions Donovan experienced is normal and something we can all relate to.
"Admit it, who among us hasn't felt that way after being spurned by someone?" Plaschke wrote. "We say we wish them the best, but, deep down, don't we sometimes hope for the worst?"
After Klinsmann felt Donovan couldn't help the team and built the roster without him, the legendary scorer wanted that notion to be proven wrong.
Since the cut, however, Donovan has transformed that negativity into positive energy, making a name for himself in the broadcasting field. Still a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy, the 32-year-old has been providing analysis as a part of ESPN's coverage team and looks the part of a future broadcaster.
The USA is once again the underdog in its match against Belgium. But equipped with the striking abilities of Clint Dempsey and the possible return of Jozy Altidore, the Americans are hoping to advance to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time since 2002.
And from the sound of things, Donovan will be cheering them on the whole way.
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