It isn't exactly a surprise, but Landon Donovan's first inclusion in the U.S. World Cup qualifying squad since June 2012 is still an important development that required Donovan to say and do all the right things during July's Gold Cup championship run.
After taking a self-imposed sabbatical from soccer for three months earlier this year, the U.S.'s all-time leading scorer had to earn his way back onto the national team with coach Jurgen Klinsmann, and that finally happened on Thursday when Klinsmann released his roster for upcoming World Cup qualifiers at Costa Rica (on Sept. 6) and against Mexico (on Sept. 10).
Now that Donovan is officially back on the bus, he should provide a boost for a U.S. team that has won a program-record 12 straight games going back to June's 4-3 friendly win over Germany. Where on the field is Donovan likely to play? Klinsmann might have listed him as a forward, but I still think the most likely scenario involves Donovan playing on the right or left side of the midfield -- on the left if Graham Zusi is fit enough, and on the right if Zusi isn't.
Donovan's return isn't the only news on Klinsmann's roster. After making his U.S. debut in a 4-3 friendly win against Bosnia this month, German-American defender John Brooks, 20, has a chance to become cap-tied permanently to the U.S. if he plays in either one of the qualifiers. That would be a coup for Klinsmann and the U.S., considering Brooks was wanted recently by Germany's Under-21 team and turned down the chance.
Another promising recent debutant, 22-year-old forward Aron Jóhannsson, is also on this squad, though he is already cap-tied to the U.S. after filing a one-time switch with FIFA from Iceland.
Who got snubbed? There aren't any huge omissions here. Sacha Kljestan isn't part of the group, nor are Clarence Goodson, Michael Parkhurst, Joe Corona and José Torres. But tough calls are to be expected for a team that has shown some quality depth recently.
My expected starting lineup:
Tim Howard; Brad Evans, Omar González, Matt Besler, DaMarcus Beasley; Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones; Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Fabian Johnson; Jozy Altidore.
STRAUS: Donovan's deal proves what we knew all along -- he belongs in L.A.
STRAUS: Landon Donovan opens up about his decision to remain in L.A.