Black Monday in NFL:

Rested and rejuvenated, Landon Donovan hopes to return to the U.S. national team mix

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MLS Preview: LA Galaxy - Real Salt Lake
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MLS Preview: LA Galaxy - Real Salt Lake

WASHINGTON – The Galaxy have welcomed Landon Donovan back with open arms. He now hopes the U.S. national team will do the same.

Donovan rejoined his Galaxy teammates in the nation's capital in time to visit the White House on Tuesday, in a ceremony honoring the team's second-straight MLS title. He addressed the media Thursday, the first time he's done so since returning from his self-imposed hiatus from soccer.

“I definitely needed a break,” Donovan said. “I was fortunate to have a lot of people both personally and professionally that also understood that. Now I’m excited to be back and to move forward and enjoy playing.”

Having last played a competitive match in December's MLS Cup triumph over Houston, Donovan eschewed call-ups to the national team and the beginning of the Galaxy's season to take a break from soccer. He was spotted traveling in Cambodia, but said the best part of his time away came closer to home.

“My favorite part was being home with my family. For 15 years I haven’t spent more than two weeks at a time with my family so it was really nice to do that,” Donovan said.

With Donovan away, the U.S. national team experienced mixed results, falling in Honduras before bouncing back with a win against Costa Rica and a massive away draw at Mexico. Though he wasn't playing, Donovan was certainly an interested spectator.

“It was fantastic,” he said of the Mexico result. “Having been a part of many of those games both home and away, I don’t think you can overstate the significance of that result. I’m real proud of those guys, and I thought Jurgen [Klinsmann] was fantastic, the guys were fantastic and it was a really good result.”

After being the face of American soccer for a decade, Donovan was very open about feeling burned out throughout the course of the 2012 season, even floating the idea of retiring. Back with his teammates, however, the time away seemed to be just what the 31-year-old needed.

“This week was pretty difficult watching the U.S. in those games when you want to be a part of it. I’m glad that that feeling is back, it’s what I wanted,” he said, adding that watching the Galaxy's opening MLS game against Chicago gave him the “itch” to play again.

Moving forward, Donovan would not put a specific timetable on his return for the Galaxy. He did say he was initially targeting the team's April 6 match against Montreal before it was moved to accommodate the team's CONCACAF Champions League semifinal against Monterrey.

LA hosts Monterrey on April 3 in the first leg before traveling to Mexico for the return leg on April 10. Galaxy fans will be hoping to see their star back for at least the second game, as the two-time defending CCL champions will certainly be formidable opposition.

Donovan is also back available for selection to the national team, though he knows he'll have to fight for his place.

“I realize I have a long way to go both on the field and off the field to work my way back into the national team, and that’s my goal,” he said. “If that’s something that presents itself, it’s something I want to do. I miss being a part of that and I want to represent my country again.”

If he returns to his usual form, there's no doubt the Yanks could do with his talent back on the pitch. Though they did earn four points against Costa Rica and Mexico, they only managed one shot on target in those two matches.

“It could be great for the national team,” Galaxy and U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez said of Donovan's potential return. “He's just another option to threaten teams behind. He brings a lot of speed and teams respect him. Teams respect who he is. He's also a great leader so having him back would be great for everyone.”

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