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Donovan disappointed by near-misses

ULSAN, South Korea (AP) -- The final whistle somehow caught Landon Donovan by surprise. He didn't want to leave the field, knowing how close he had come to leading the U.S. soccer team to the World Cup semifinals.

The 20-year-old striker had the best of the Americans' numerous scoring opportunities in their 1-0 loss to Germany on Friday. He should get another shot at the World Cup in four years, but that's a long time to think about the what-ifs.

"It's not like it was a game where we didn't have the ball, didn't have chances, where they just dominated us," a dejected Donovan said. "It was in our hands, and it just didn't work out."

It could have been different had Donovan been a little luckier on two great chances within the first half hour.

Donovan had the best U.S. scoring chance in the 17th minute, putting the ball through defender Thomas Linke's legs and sending a low shot that Oliver Kahn, one of the world's top goalies, deflected wide with his fingertips.

"When I hit it, I thought it was in," Donovan said. "His hand came out of nowhere."

In the 30th minute, Donovan came close again. He had two Germans on his trail as he raced upfield. He paused -- perhaps too long _ and shot. Kahn tipped it wide again.

The speedy Donovan got the attention of the soccer world by scoring two goals in the first four World Cup games with the U.S. team, which had its best showing in 72 years by getting to the quarterfinals.

Donovan made it onto the cover of Sports Illustrated this week. But his talent was first noticed when he was still a teen-ager.

He signed with Germany's Bayer Leverkusen in February 1999 when he was 16 and in high school in Redlands, Calif. After not getting into a game during two seasons with the club, Donovan was allowed by the German team to join Major League Soccer before the 2001 season, and he has flourished with the San Jose Earthquakes.

Donovan said he might return to Bayer Leverkusen, but that was trying not to think about it while at the World Cup.

"Sure I'd be interested to go back if it's the right situation," he said.

And what is the right situation? "A place where I'm happy, where I have a chance to play."

The long four-year wait until the next Cup may have hung heavy on Donovan on Friday. But despite the pain of missed chances, he was wise enough to see how much he'd learned.

"I definitely grew up a lot," he said. "I feel like nothing can faze me now. There's no pressure I can't handle now, no feelings I can't deal with."

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