JACKSONVILLE — Apparently, the desire still burns in Landon Donovan.
Days after wondering publicly how much longer he will have the hunger to play at an elite level, Donovan scored his first international hat trick in five years, leading the Americans over Scotland 5-1 in an exhibition game Saturday night.
As the Americans began a stretch of five games in 18 days, Donovan returned to the U.S. national team following an eight-month absence.
"I don't want to be mistaken for not caring," Donovan said. "I care, and I like being a part of this team. I'm a professional, and I know how to do my job. I've been doing this a long time."
Donovan beat goalkeeper Allan McGregor on the rebound of his initial shot in the third minute, then added goals in the 60th from a Jermaine Jones layback and in the 65th off a Michael Bradley pass. Donovan raised his career total to 49 goals with his third international hat trick and made an American record 125th international start, one more than the previous mark set by defender Jeff Agoos from 1988-03.
"Tonight was one of those nights when most things went right," Donovan said. "While most goals fell to me, a lot of people did a lot of things right to make that happen."
Donovan scored four goals against Cuba in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July 2003 and had three against El Salvador in a March 2007 exhibition.
The U.S. had won three consecutive games by a score of 1-0, including a victory at Italy, but entered talking of generating offensive firepower as the Americans prepare for World Cup qualifying.
"Now, we have Landon back and he gave us the goals," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "We can't complain tonight."
The Americans open qualifying for the 2014 World Cup on June 8 against Antigua and Barbuda at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
On the sixth anniversary of his national team debut, Bradley scored on a spectacular 30-yard, right-footed half-volley in the 11th minute. Jones got his second international goal in the 70th off an assist from Donovan, who had skipped eight national team matches in a row because of injuries and commitments to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
"Obviously, we were very pleased," Klinsmann said. "I think we set the tone and kept the rhythm through the entire game. Obviously, as a coach it was fun to watch."
Scotland scored in the 15th minute when American defender Geoff Cameron chested Kenny Miller's header past Tim Howard for an own goal.
The U.S. has won five straight following an 0-4-1 start under Klinsmann, who replaced Bob Bradley after the 4-2 loss to Mexico in last year's Gold Cup final.
Forward Terrence Boyd got his first start for the U.S., which used an attacking 4-3-3 formation. Midfielder Joe Corona entered in the second half for his national team debut. Fabian Johnson was at left back, a position he played for Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga, paired with Steve Cherundolo on the right.
"Tonight, you saw many elements of what we're always talking about, what we're trying step-by-step to develop," Klinsmann said. "It's a fast-paced game. All those elements I think we saw a lot today. It's obviously a lot more difficult to play that way against Brazil or Italy, but the players they understand more and more what we're trying to achieve. Today, it was really fun to watch."
Clint Dempsey — who has not played together with Donovan under Klinsmann — missed the match while recovering from a groin strain. Jozy Altidore also missed the game because AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands refused to let him report until Monday.
Before a crowd of 44,438 — the largest to see the national team in Florida — the Americans wore new home jerseys with red-and-white horizontal stripes and silver numbers that were hard to read from a distance. Names were restored to players' jerseys for the first time since Klinsmann took over.
"It was really a fun night to be a part of," Donovan said.
Preparing for the start of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, the U.S. plays Brazil on Wednesday at Landover, Md., and Canada next Saturday at Toronto.
The U.S. won by four goals for the first time since beating Grenada 4-0 in the 2009 Gold Cup and the Americans scored five for the first time since routing Cuba 6-1 in a World Cup qualifier in 2008. The U.S. had not scored five goals against a European opponent since beating Norway 5-0 in 2006.
"It went well," Klinsmann said. "What we want to do is take the approach of pushing ourselves from game to game and not think about what we just did. We just want to think about what's next and what's next is Brazil. That's another challenge and another learning curve for us."
Scotland lost by four goals for the first time since a 4-0 defeat at Norway in a World Cup qualifier on Aug. 12, 2009.
The Scots, who failed to qualify for the European Championship, are now off until an Aug. 15 exhibition against Australia in Edinburgh. They then open qualifying at home against Serbia on Sept. 8.
"We'll take it on the chin and be much better next time out," Scotland coach Craig Levein said. "They're extremely disappointed, as you can imagine. It's not something we haven't experienced before, but losing with five goals is disappointing."