Landon Donovan said finishing fourth at his only Olympics “will forever haunt me” and that “it would make a great story” if his 2000 Olympic teammate Tim Howard makes the Rio Olympic team.
Earlier this week, Donovan reflected on his lone Olympic appearance as an 18-year-old with blond hair in Sydney. He was the youngest member of the U.S. team that finished fourth, losing to Spain and Chile in medal matches.
“My fondest [Olympic] memory is knowing that we had a chance to win a medal,” Donovan said. “It will forever haunt me. I’m a massive sports fan in general. I always watched the Olympics growing up. So to have an Olympic medal would have been cool.”
Donovan said he “many times” thought about and hoped he could return to the Olympics.
In 2004, he and the U.S. lost to Mexico in a winner-goes-to-Athens qualifying game.
In 2008, he could have been named as an over-age Olympic player but was left off the team because the U.S. senior team needed him for a 2010 World Cup qualifier that took place during the Beijing Games.
In 2012, the U.S. under-23 team failed to qualify for the London Games.
For Rio, the U.S. under-23s will play Colombia later this month in a home-and-home series to determine the final team to qualify for the 16-team Olympic soccer tournament.
While the retired Donovan has no more chances to play in the Olympics, one of his Sydney 2000 teammates could be an intriguing over-age option for Rio 2016 if the U.S. beats Colombia.
That’s goalie Tim Howard.
“I think it would make a great story,” Donovan said. “Obviously, the coach, Andi Herzog, has to make those decisions, but I think Tim would be a great candidate. What I learned in that  experience was having people through the spine of your team that are experienced, over-age players helped me — Brad Friedel, Jeff Agoos, Frankie Hejduk. Those three, just their experience and leadership helped a lot. So Tim would be a valuable asset.”
In 2000, Howard helped the U.S. under-23 team qualify for the Sydney Olympics. He was the No. 2 goalie on the U-23 team and was named along with the No. 1 goalie, Adin Brown, to the U.S. Olympic team one month before the Games.
Two weeks before the Sydney Games, Brown was taken off the Olympic team due to injury, leaving Howard and a to-be-named replacement as the U.S. goalies for Sydney.
The following day, the replacement was named — longtime U.S. men’s national team goalie and 1992 Olympian Brad Friedel.
Friedel was one of a maximum three over-age players on the U.S. roster. An over-age spot opened up for Friedel with midfielder Chris Armas suffering a knee injury one day after he was named to the original Olympic team with Agoos and Hejduk as the over-age players.
Friedel played every minute of the 2000 Olympics, relegating Howard to the bench.
“That’s the unfortunate part of the way the Olympics are set up in soccer, is you have people who qualify, but you might not make the Olympic team, or, if you do make the team, you might be on the bench if someone else comes in,” Donovan said.
Howard’s potential Olympic return (and playing debut) in Rio in August is complicated by his club and national team statuses.
A February report said Howard would join the MLS’ Colorado Rapids this season from his longtime English club Everton. The move has not been announced.
The Olympics fall in the middle of the MLS season, as opposed to the English Premier League season, which starts Aug. 13. The Olympic men’s soccer schedule runs from Aug. 4-20.
Professional soccer clubs do not have to release players to play in the Olympics.
Howard could also be named to the U.S. team for Copa America Centenario in June, a tournament that clubs are required to release players for.
However, Howard may not play much or at all in that tournament as he’s in a battle for the No. 1 U.S. spot with Brad Guzan.
Last September, Herzog said a goalie could be one of his Olympic over-age players.
“First we have to qualify and then I have to see which player could help me most and if I have a position where I need leaders,” Herzog said, according to ProSoccerTalk. “Maybe an attacking leader, defensive leader or a goalkeeper. I didn’t make any thoughts about this right now.”