Arena expects much of Donovan at finals
Though he is only 24, Landon Donovan is considered a revered and valuable veteran by the United States football team.
Donovan was less than two years into his international career when he scored twice in the 2002 finals where he was one of only three team members to appear in every minute of the Americans' tournament as they made a surprise run to the quarter-finals.
His speed, adroit touch and ability to play in midfield or forward turned him into a precious commodity for a neophyte yet fearless midfield corps of DaMarcus Beasley, Pablo Mastroeni and John O'Brien.
"Landon's a very intelligent guy," U.S. coach Bruce Arena told Reuters. "He's a player with unlimited potential.
"Some have said that he's taken a bit of pressure off himself by choosing to play at home in Major League Soccer. It is played at a different pace to Europe but at the end of the day you still get an excellent player."
At 17, Donovan became the youngest U.S. player to sign with a European team when he joined Germany's Bayer Leverkusen.
He failed to break into the first team and was loaned to U.S. club San Jose where he won two Major League Soccer (MLS) titles before rejoining Leverkusen in early 2005 in what was to be a short-lived return.
After only nine first-team games, including a pair of Champions League fixtures, he was released by the club and joined the Los Angeles Galaxy whom he helped to win a league title last year.
Some observers said Donovan was soft and not up to the challenges of playing in Europe. Others said he just wanted to be the big fish in the relatively small pond of MLS.
Donovan has shrugged it all off, saying that he played best where he was happy.
While Arena says Donovan lack consistency, he is also one of his biggest supporters and expects him to be a primary contributor at the FIFA World Cup.
Depending on team selection and fitness, Donovan is expected to partner Fulham's Brian McBride in attack but he could also drop into a central or flanking midfield role.
Donovan scored on his international debut, a 2-0 win against arch-rivals Mexico in 2000, and has 25 goals in 78 appearances.
"His versatility really speaks for the quality of player that he is," said Arena.
"He's very much committed to the team being successful.
He's a tremendous player and personality and one day he'll be the full-time team captain."