The American public has a love-hate relationship with soccer, so it was fitting that the U.S. national team's recent run at the World Cup was both exhilarating and maddening. Though they had a tendency to surrender early goals, the squad's scrappy resilience earned them new fans — and impressive TV ratings. "I thought we played pretty well for the most part," midfielder Landon Donovan says of his team, which lost a frustrating game to Ghana in the Round of 16. "We had some moments where we let ourselves down by making mistakes, but I thought our attitude, our effort and certainly our passion to keep going were fantastic." Donovan was Mr. Fantastic, netting three goals, including critical scores against Slovenia and Algeria.
Now back in the Major League Soccer trenches for the Los Angeles Galaxy, Donovan is enjoying his status as America's golden boy of the sport. He made a whirlwind media tour on the way home from South Africa, hitting Letterman and Regis & Kelly before stepping back into his Galaxy uniform. "I've been with this team for a long time now, which makes it pretty easy to step right back in," Donovan told TV Guide Magazine the day after his first game back, when he played the full 90 minutes in a 3-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders.
The league's reigning MVP will be at Wednesday's ESPY Awards (9/8c, ESPN), where he is nominated for Best Moment and Performance Under Pressure (both for his last-minute goal against Algeria) and Best MLS Player. And next week he suits up for the MLS All-Star Game (Wednesday, July 28, 8:30/7:30c, ESPN2), the 10th time in his career that he's been so honored. "I love the format," he says of the match, which, since 2005 has pitted the All-Stars against a big European team. And there are none bigger than this year's opponent, English super club Manchester United.
Speaking of England, there is speculation that Donovan will soon transfer to a Premier League team. (He had a successful stint at Everton this winter during the MLS off-season.) Another rumor circling the 28-year-old is that he is being pursued for Dancing With the Stars. "I haven't heard anything concrete," he claims, adding, "I don't turn anything down without thinking about it first." And if nothing else, he admits, "I would just like to learn how to dance properly."