Donovan and Bradley play it cagey about Bayern Munich
It took Landon Donovan a little longer than usual to join his U.S. teammates for Wednesday night's World Cup qualifier against Mexico in Columbus, Ohio. He didn't get here until Monday night.
But Donovan wasn't complaining. If he has to make the trip from Germany every time the U.S. plays, that would just fine with him.
The Galaxy midfielder is on loan to Bundesliga champion Bayern Munich and, just as Galaxy midfielder David Beckham would like to stay in Italy with AC Milan, so Donovan would like to stay in Germany.
He was asked about that possibility several times Tuesday evening, and ducked it adroitly each time.
"Let's talk about Mexico today," he said.
But has being with Bayern instead of in the U.S. training camp changed his preparedness in any way?
"I've always been ready for this game," he said. "I'm excited for it tomorrow, and in the future I'll always be excited for it no matter where I am. So it doesn't really change anything except that I traveled a little farther to get here."
Bob Bradley, the U.S. coach, was equally unwilling to get into the whole Donovan-to-Bayern debate, but still managed to provide an insightful answer, after a bit of thought so as not to step on any toes.
Does it make any difference from the national team coach's standpoint whether Donovan is playing for Bayern Munich or in Major League Soccer?
"The main point for Landon is that he is excited about new challenges," Bradley said. "I think that's a great thing to see in a player. So when you're the national team coach and you have players who are looking for new challenges and looking to move up in their careers, then I think that's a good sign.
"When and where that happens is not 100 percent controllable. But nonetheless the simple fact that he has this mentality right now I think is great."
Has Donovan returned with more spark, more impetus to do even better?
"I think [back to] some of the conversations that we've had in the past about the environment that we're trying to create," Bradley replied. "You go there for a period of time and now when you come back, maybe you can pick up on those conversations a little farther down the road because certain things now are more apparent."
So, translated from Princeton-speak, what that means is that Bradley is trying to create a more intense, more professional, more competitive environment for the national team and it is only when players such as Donovan go to top-flight European clubs and see at first hand how things are done there that they can understand, appreciate and support efforts to follow suit in the U.S., on both the club and national team levels.
And the bottom line?
Beckham still wants to be in Italy, but a deal is a week or more away. Donovan still wants to be in Germany, but it will be up to Bayern Coach Juergen Klinsmann to decide whether to make the Galaxy a formal offer.
Of more immediate import is the U.S.-Mexico game (4 p.m., ESPN2 and Univision; see latimes.com/sports/soccer for match previews).
"I've always loved playing against Mexico," Donovan said.
--Grahame L. Jones