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Donovan's change of mind benefits Galaxy quest

Martin Rogers
Yahoo Sports
Donovan's change of mind benefits Galaxy quest
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Landon Donovan (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring in Galaxy's 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake

CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan withdrew from United States international team duty on Monday in order to boost his chances of winning the MLS Cup with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Donovan initially planned to play for the U.S. in a friendly against France in Paris on Friday night, then fly back to California to prepare for the MLS Cup final against the Houston Dynamo on Nov. 20.

When questioned by Yahoo! Sports on Sunday night, following the Galaxy's 3-1 Western Conference final victory over Real Salt Lake, Donovan revealed his intention to fly to France and make himself available for a full 90 minutes of action for coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

However, less than 24 hours later he completed an about-face, contacting Klinsmann personally and requesting to be taken off the 22-man squad. No replacement is expected.

"It is not ideal timing," Donovan said after the victory over RSL, in which he scored the opening goal from the penalty spot. "It is the way it goes. It is part of football. Unfortunately the way our league is set up it doesn't quite coincide with the scheduling but it is all part of it. We are professionals and we get on with it."

Donovan's availability would have been a boost to Klinsmann, who has seen the USA win only one of its first five games under his charge. France is revitalized under coach Laurent Blanc and will go into the game as an overwhelming favorite on home soil.

Klinsmann though, understands the value in keeping Donovan happy and respects the player's desire to win what would be his fourth MLS title, but first since 2005.

"The plan was to have Landon come in for the match against France and then return to the L.A. Galaxy in preparation for MLS Cup," Klinsmann said in a statement released by US Soccer. "But after further discussion Landon expressed his desire to stay in Los Angeles.

"While my preference was to have Landon with us for this important match, I respect his decision. I'm very happy with the progress this team is making and the commitment they have shown in each and every camp. We look forward to the challenge of the next two games."

For Donovan, the desire to clinch another MLS Cup has grown stronger every year. He and the Galaxy were within touching distance in 2009, but Donovan missed a penalty in the final shootout against RSL and the side went down in heartbreaking fashion.

Despite the vast sums of money Galaxy ownership has spent on salaries in the David Beckham era, which began in the summer of 2007, the club has not won it all during that time. With Beckham possibly in his last season in L.A., there is huge pressure on the team to finish the job by beating Houston.

"The way this team is built you are always going to have pressure to win," Donovan said. "It is unlike how it is for any other team in this league. But we put that same pressure on ourselves because we all want to win and be part of something successful.

"We know the expectations and we share them. Second place is not good enough for anyone on this team and our goal now is the same as it was at the start of the season – to win a championship."

Donovan was voted the Galaxy's MVP for the 2011 season and his performances have led to speculation that he will once again be targeted for a loan move to English Premier League side Everton, where he enjoyed a highly impressive stint in 2010.

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