PRINCETON - As he sat in the cold drizzle, sipping Gatorade to soothe a scratchy throat, U.S. soccer's main man, midfielder Landon Donovan, sounded more like a philosopher than a speedy on-field playmaker.
Or maybe he sounded like a little bit of both.
After finishing his first training session of pre-World Cup camp, which opened Monday at Princeton University and continues until Sunday, Donovan spoke for 30 minutes, covering topics the same way he covers the field - thoroughly.
Donovan, 28, is only weeks from making the third World Cup appearance of his career; the 2010 FIFA World Cup, to be played in South Africa, runs from June 11 to July 11.
The U.S. team, part of Group C, opens competition June 12 against England.
Four years ago, Donovan entered his second World Cup with sky-high expectations, but he performed poorly, his U.S. team failing to advance from group play.
"I don't think back any longer," Donovan said of that performance. "I thought back for a while, and now I focus on the present. That lesson has been well learned and won't be duplicated."
Donovan said opportunities such as 2006 are rare, and he squandered it, but this summer offers another opportunity.
"I'm more real than I was," Donovan said. "I'm more centered. Those things give you confidence, but also ease that whatever comes you're going to be OK with. In the past, I thought I had it figured out, and I'm sure in the future I'll look back at this time and say I didn't have it quite figured out yet. But I'm in a much better place right now than I was in the past."
He continued: "I am who I am as a player now. I'm not going to learn how to shoot the ball better in the next few years. The biggest improvement that I've made has been mentally."
For that, Donovan thanked his ex-wife, actress Bianca Kajlich, along with coaches, family, therapy, and "spending a lot of time looking at myself in an honest way."
"When you combine all that," Donovan said, "you don't have much choice but to learn about yourself, whether you like it or not."
Donovan, who plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer and is coming off a successful loan to Everton of the English Premier League, said he wasn't ready for a leadership role in 2006 - but he is now.
"There's more responsibility," Donovan said of this World Cup. "In my opinion, there's also greater opportunity; I enjoy the challenge of that now. In 2006, I think, that became burdensome, because I wasn't ready for it. Now I'm ready for it. And I'm really excited for it."