The U.S.'s all-time leading World Cup scorer was famously left off manager Jurgen Klinsmann's roster for the World Cup setting off a firestorm of reaction across the country with many feeling that Donovan should have been included.
"I'll be completely honest, watching them play Azerbaijan, inside, part of me was thinking, I hope the game doesn't go very well today," said Donovan in an interview with the L.A. Times. "In my heart of hearts, I thought, if we get a 1-0 win and the team doesn't perform well, that would feel good."
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Donovan, who is working for ESPN as a soccer analyst during the World Cup, said he woke the next day -- after goals from Mix Diskerud and Aron Johansonn gave the U.S. an easy 2-0 win -- with a complete change of heart and felt "crappy" for not being fully supportive of his country and teammates.
"That's a bad way to live your life," said Donovan. "It doesn't help me, it doesn't help the team, it doesn't help the energy that the team needs."
The U.S. advanced out of the "Group of Death" ahead of Portugal and Ghana at this year's World Cup without Donovan and despite an injury to Jozy Altidore in the team's first match against the Ghanaians. Germany won the group. The U.S. face Belgium in the Round of 16 on Tuesday (4 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Donovan has returned to business as usual with his MLS team, the L.A. Galaxy, scoring three goals in his last three games and breaking the record for career goals in the MLS. But he admits those first days after he found out he wouldn't be going to Brazil were hard.
"I was sad, angry, upset, disappointed, some low days, not fun days," he said. "As athletes, we all have egos, we all think we can help, and when you're not given that chance, it's hard to watch.
"Life isn't perfect, of course, but we all know it's how you react to things that counts. I did not want to let this define me."