STANFORD -- What happened in the past stays in the past.

Landon Donovan has compiled arguably the greatest resume in U.S. soccer history, but getting him to reflect on it is like scoring a table at State Bird Provisions on a Saturday night.

Won't happen. Not even with a pretty please sprinkled on top.

"I am in the moment," the Los Angeles Galaxy star said this week at U.S. training camp. "One day I'll have time for that. We'll sit down and reminisce one day, huh?"

He had a twinkle in his eye. After all, Donovan, 32, knows exactly how big an imprint he has had in selling his sport to a late-to-the-party soccer nation.

Landon Donovan kicks the ball during the first day of training camp for U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team at Stanford, Calif., on Wednesday, May 14,
Landon Donovan kicks the ball during the first day of training camp for U.S. Men's National Soccer Team at Stanford, Calif., on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. First day of training camp for U.S. soccer team (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group) ( Josie Lepe )

As he prepares for his last appearance on the mammoth World Cup stage, Donovan didn't have to search far at the Stanford training camp to find tangible proof of his influence. A Donovan jersey has hung in the dormitory of senior defender Austin Meyer throughout his four years at Stanford.

Then the unthinkable occurred last weekend. Meyer got to mark his idol in a scrimmage in a moment he described as surreal.

The 5-foot-8-inch Donovan gets all of that as he tries to become the first American to play in four World Cups, a distinction fullback DaMarcus Beasley also is working to earn.


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Donovan is America's all-time leading scorer with 57 goals in 156 games. He is eight matches shy of tying Cobi Jones for the most national team appearances in history. Donovan also has scored a U.S. record five goals during the World Cup: against Poland and Mexico in 2002, and against Slovenia, Algeria and Ghana in 2010.

"When you are checking the boxes he is the best goal scorer we've ever seen," said Bruce Arena, who coaches Donovan with the Galaxy and also coached him in the 2002 and '06 World Cups. "But there is a lot more to his game."

Donovan doesn't want to hear about it. His sole intention is proving to U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann that he is worthy of the reputation. Donovan could pass a big test Tuesday when the United States plays Azerbaijan in an exhibition at Candlestick Park.

Perhaps the pressing questions in the past year about his commitment, problems with Klinsmann and a lingering knee issue led to self-effacing answers about not being guaranteed a spot on the 23-player roster that must be named by June 2.

Donovan compared the feeling to 2002 when he wasn't sure if he'd make the team that eventually reached the quarterfinals.

"In 2006 and 2010 I knew for the most part, unless I was awful, that I was going to make the team," he said.

Left to right: DeAndre Yedlin, Chris Wondolowski and Landon Donovan, running drills during their first day of training camp for U.S. Men’s National
Left to right: DeAndre Yedlin, Chris Wondolowski and Landon Donovan, running drills during their first day of training camp for U.S. Men's National Soccer Team at Stanford, Calif., on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. First day of training camp for U.S. soccer team (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group) ( Josie Lepe )

Arena -- and many others -- weren't buying it.

"Landon said those things because it is a politically correct answer," Arena said. "Landon knows he is good enough to be on that team. He's just out to prove it."

Arena wasn't finished.

"If there are 23 better players than Landon, then we have a chance to win the World Cup," he said.

Alas, the United States' cupboard is not stocked with players of Donovan's caliber.

A soccer prodigy out of Redlands, he has appeared with U.S. national teams since 1998. Donovan also helped turned the Earthquakes into a Major League Soccer power from 2001-2004.

San Jose fans were so upset over his eventual departure to the rival Galaxy they have yet to forgive him. But Donovan is used to engendering such emotions in soccer fans.

For years, he was the subject of debate about shunning clubs in Europe to stay in California. Donovan has played in a handful of games in Germany and the English Premiership. But since 2005, the forward/winger has remained true to the Galaxy.

Frank Yallop, who coached Donovan in San Jose and Los Angeles, backs those decisions.

"He's such a strong-minded person and does what he feels is right," said Yallop, who now coaches the Chicago Fire. "He is happy with where he lives, where he plays. He gets a lot of flack and I think it is unjust."

The flack turned up a notch at the beginning of World Cup qualifying last year when an exhausted Donovan stepped away from the game for a three-month hiatus.

It led to tension between the player and Klinsmann, something Donovan downplays.

"Jurgen hasn't wavered from Day 1 in the way he coaches the team," Donovan said of the man who won a World Cup with Germany in 1990. "He knows what it takes to be a world champion. None of us know that."

Donovan does know his place in American soccer is secure no matter what happens next month against Ghana, Germany and Portugal in tough Group G. He might not say it, but a sense of nostalgia is seeping out as he readies to samba over to Brazil.

"Now I'm actually getting to enjoy it," Donovan acknowledged.

Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.