CHICAGO – Burned out and exhausted from more than a decade as the standard-bearer for U.S. soccer, Landon Donovan needed a break.

For four months last winter, soccer was the last concern for the Americans’ career scoring leader. He spent time with family and friends, making up for all those holidays and get-togethers he missed over the years. He traveled.

And somewhere along the way, he rediscovered his love for the sport he had been so desperate to escape.

The rejuvenated Donovan is a big reason the United States is in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final Sunday, when it will face Panama. He has five goals in five matches, tied for a tournament high, and seven assists. The U.S. team leads the tournament with 19 goals.

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“I’ve enjoyed myself tremendously,” the 31-year-old Donovan said Saturday. “I’ve enjoyed helping with the younger guys. I’ve enjoyed being a part of a team that really doesn’t have ego, that’s really excited about this opportunity. It’s been really fun to be a part of, and I’ve enjoyed it a lot.”

In Donovan’s first match back with the national team after an 11-month absence, he scored twice in an exhibition against Guatemala.