As he enjoys some of the best form of his career, Donovan eager to help USMNT reach new heights

Landon Donovan

By IVES GALARCEP

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica– Landon Donovan has played in 151 games for the U.S. Men’s National Team, so he can be forgiven for not always remembering them all, even ones he has scored in. So when he was asked about the U.S. team’s last visit to Costa Rica, Donovan started speaking about the match as if he hadn’t played in, and scored in that forgettable 3-1 Costa Rica triumph on June 3, 2009.

“Oh, THAT game,” Donovan replied when reminded of his participation, and goal in the U.S. team’s seventh straight, and most recent, defeat here. “I never felt like we were in the game, which is crazy for our national team to say, but they were all over us from the beginning and they never let down.

“It was frustrating, and at that point we were in a difficult spot. They put us in a hole and it was a tough night,” Donovan added. “If you were going to draw up a picture of what an away qualifier in Costa Rica was going to look like, that was sort of it.”

Donovan sees a far different outcome playing out tonight in Estadio Nacional, with a confident U.S. team poised to attack the ‘Ticos” in a way American teams have not attacked before when on the road in qualifying. The Los Angeles Galaxy star should be a key part of that attack, and he feels he is heading into this month’s World Cup qualifiers playing the best soccer of his career.

“If I had to evaluate I’d say this is the best I’ve ever played because the energy I had when I was 20 is pretty close to being matched now, but I have the experience of all the years,” Donovan said. “Everything has really slowed down for me now. I see everything very clearly on the field. Everything sort of makes sense. Not every play is perfect, but I feel like every time I get the ball I have a real chance to impact the game, and it’s a great feeling.”

Donovan is one of several American players riding good form into tonight’s match. A trend that has helped produce a 12-match winning streak for the U.S., and helped give the Americans a real belief that they can deliver their first win here in World Cup qualifying history.

“It’s not cocky, but it’s very confident that we’re going to do well (tonight),” Donovan said. “it’s going to look different than any other qualifier has ever looked here for the U.S.

“I think we go into it with that attitude,” Donovan said. “If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out, but we’re going to go in with the mentality and the attitude that we want to win this game.”

It is almost hard to believe that just three months ago Donovan’s place with the national team appeared to be in question after Jurgen Klinsmann declined to call up up for World Cup qualifiers in June. His triumphant return in July’s Gold Cup, when he won tournament MVP on the way to helping the Americans lift another CONCACAF title, re-established Donovan as an indispensable part of the team, and one who will be a key to the team’s fortunes going forward.

“He’s a guy that if we want to play more than three games at a World Cup, we need Landon,” U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley said. “Whether that’s as a starter, as a reserve, who knows? The same holds true for any of us. But if we’re going to be a team that goes to Brazil next year and has a real chance at making a good run at things, we need him around.”

Donovan will be facing a Costa Rica side he enjoyed success against in the Gold Cup. His pin-point assist in the dying seconds of regulation helped set up a Brek Shea winner in a 1-0 victory over the Ticos. It was a match that saw Costa Rica bunker defensively while the Americans attacked in waves.

That sort of match is unlikely to play out on Friday.

“We played them in the Gold Cup and we just went and went and went for 90 minutes and we finally broke them down,” Donovan said. “My guess is they’re not going to play that way at home in front of their crowd. If they do they’ll probably get booed off the pitch.

“If that’s the type of game they want to play I think we’re comfortable playing that, opening the game up and going for it.”

The team Donovan will help lead out against Costa Rica will be one with a wealth of attacking options. A team he believes is the deepest U.S. team he has ever played on.

“Yeah, unquestioned,” Donovan said when asked about the current U.S. team’s status as deepest ever. “When you see a bunch of guys that don’t get called in that absolutely deserve to be here too it tells you that the team is very deep. There’s a lot of guy that can make a case that they should be here that aren’t.

“It’s tough and it’s going to be that way all the way through Brazil next year, assuming we qualify. I think that’s a good thing,” Donovan said. “That’s how the best national teams in the world operate and that’s how we want to be if we’re going to get to where we want to go.”

Donovan doesn’t see the team’s impressive depth as a threat to his ability to play in a fourth World Cup. What he sees is a strong team with impressive young players he wants to help mentor and lead. After having spent so much time away from the national team between last year and the first part of 2013, Donovan is just happy to be back in the fold, and eager to do his part on a U.S. team that has the makings of a special group.

“I want to help the team get to where it wants to go,” Donovan said. “You want to help all the young guys who have never played in a World Cup. You want them to have that feeling where they’re on the field celebrating because they’ve qualified for a World Cup.

“Hopefully, if things go right, you want to get to Brazil a month or so before the World Cup and experience that with those guys and I want to be a part of that.”

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38 Responses to As he enjoys some of the best form of his career, Donovan eager to help USMNT reach new heights

  1. Brad says:

    It is always good for the US, when Landon in in the mood.

  2. blokhin says:

    hope he starts… if Costa Rica will press and try to control possession, USMNT will need him to attack on the counter effectively. He’s the best player in the pool at delivering a long, well-timed pass to a teammate heading upfield at full speed and has been for a long time now… if JK feels like he has exerted enough punishment on LD over his absence, LD should start. I don’t think that a resonable argument can be made on merit alone that Zusi or Bedoya or anyone else on the wing would bring more positives to the US in their current form than LD

    • Umlaut says:

      Given Donovan’s comments about playing up top, combined with Altidore’s injury, I don’t think a Donovan start necessarily counts out Zusi or Bedoya. Personally I’m hoping it’s Bedoya on the right, with Donovan and Dempsey up top.

  3. utep10elpasotx says:

    Donovan is over rated, why do people think he is good. Dont get me wrong, he is good but not that much and what makes him big, is that he took advantage of the spotlight when America was in look of a soccer personality. He piratically misses goals from left to right and runs with the ball like a kid. Lets face it, he is over rated and we need to move on. With altidore, corona, diskereud, johansson, gil, we can easily move on from donovan and make him win his spot once again. Another thing, many of my soccer friends and i have noticed for years, that donovans goals are “lucky” to go in, since he hits the ball without power and skill and most of time, they are open net or face to face. Remember the world cup goal that made him more famous against algeria, he ran like a deer and almost missed the goal, typical of him.

    • Dave80 says:

      I have some of the same feelings, especially about the near misses. But I also note that good things happen when he is on the field and he has been playing very well. Let’s evaluate his play against the toughest in CONCACAF this week. I have a feeling we’ll have more to go on.

    • Tyler says:

      Please don’t feed the troll

    • Kosh says:

      WOW!…Uhhhm, OoooooK.

      I am one of those guys who was with JK 100% on the way he handled Donovan. But I have no idea which galaxy the Landon you’re describing here comes from. You have either been lied to about which player on the field is LD or you have completely created some form of LD that only you know this well.

      I respect your opinion but I have to seriously disagree with pretty much everything you’ve said here.

      The pool is getting deeper and we have much more quality and choices, as was demonstarted by your list, but LD is the best we’ve produced so far.

    • Dc says:

      you and your “soccer friends” and kinda morons. sorry, dude. that’s the most naive post i have ever read.

    • Jeff says:

      I rarely ever post on this site. But, this is one of the most insanely idiotic non-sensical things I’ve ever read. Landon is the greatest player the U.S. has ever produced. Most of his goals are “lucky” to go in? He has the MOST goals and the MOST assists in U.S. soccer history. Over 50 of both – your comment just makes no sense. Runs with the ball like a kid? Huh? He attacks defenders at pace and unbalances quality defenders. Remember the goal against Brazil (ever heard of them) in the Gold Cup in 2009? He didn’t almost miss the goal against Algeria. He set up the play and instinctively found the ball and scored the biggest goal in U.S. history. Honestly, Donovan haters need to get a life. Did you watch any of the Gold Cup? 5 goals and 7 assists in 5 or 6 games. Have you seen his goals for LA this year? LD makes our team better, any team better, every time he steps on the field.

    • ATX_Colin says:

      Cracks a hell of a drug huh utep. Keep smoking it though it gives you a great imagination.

    • Jeff Fulton says:

      To you, your points are valid. To someone who has watched every game Donovan has played, your points are completely wrong. Sorry.

    • Kevin_H says:

      If Donovan’s goals were luck, he wouldn’t have so many. Unless you truly think it’s some bizarre statistical anomaly.

    • Vic says:

      Would I put Donovan up their with the great scorers in the world? No. Would I put Donovan up their with the great play makers in the World? Absolutely. His ability to make the last pass is excellent. He’s proved that for the USMNT and at Everton. If you averaged out his assists per game at Everton over the entire season he would have led the BPL. He also has 5 World Cup Goals which only six active players in the World have that many. His goals haven’t been that great in numbers for the USMNT but they have come in important moments.

      • kmac014 says:

        He has over 50 goals for the US, the most by any American player ever and according to GONATS below he has the highest goal per game ratio in USMNT history. While I agree with you for the other stuff he does in fact have a great number of goals

    • GONATS says:

      By the way, Donovan has the highest goal per game ratio in USMNT history (higher than either Clint Dempsey or Jozy Altidore) and has DOUBLE the assist to game ratio of any US player in history. But, yeah, he is just really lucky. link to ussoccer.com

    • Ken L says:

      All I can say about this post is a quote from Sartre

      “A madman’s ravings are absurd in relation to the situation in which he finds himself, but not in relation to his madness.”

      ― Jean-Paul Sartre

    • Michael says:

      Totay agree, man. LD is SO overrated. Some other things that are overrated:

      * hardness of diamonds
      * height of Everest
      * dryness of Atacama Desert
      * coldness of Antarctica

      So right, dude.

  4. Popps says:

    There’s all this talk about a shift in attitude after Kllinnsmann took over. Do you think that in the locker room, he’ll talk to these guys about actually winning the world cup, rather than just making it as far (or just up to the semis?)

    I think that we might not be at the point of being in contention to win the entire thing, but to even get there, the attitude needs to go beyond going deep into the world cup and actually be at winning it all.

    • zztoppppp says:

      I agree, we may not be ready to win a world cup, but this team could potentially make a run to the quarter or semifinals if they keep playing like they have, but they need to have it in their minds that they are ready to compete with Italy, Germany, Spain and Brazil for the championship. Not to mention that we have beaten two of those teams in the past 18 months.

      If things keep progressing like they are, I could see the USMNT winning a world cup in the next 8-16 years.

    • John says:

      I think perhaps he’ll talk about what it takes to reach that kind of level but no he isn’t saying lets go win the World Cup. Klinsmann wants the players to raise there game day in and day out and if winning a World Cup becomes the product of that then amazing. However today he knows the team is still a long way off. The goal is still to get out of your group then take each game as it comes.

      Winning a World Cup is the hardest accomplishment in all of sports. Lets keep a bit of perspective.

    • dan says:

      My attitude is why even go to the World Cup if you don’t have the attitude to try to win it. It might not be realistic for most teams but that’s that attitude you need, plus it’s a tournament, anything can happen. Just look at Greece years ago

  5. dan says:

    Landon is our best playmaker, scorer, and all around best player by miles. His stats are simply incredible and he will go down as the best US player of all time, until now. As good as the US has been they are 10 times better with LD on the field. He has proven the haters over, and over, and over again wrong and the one thing that makes him play even better, when he is motivated and pissed. The rest of MLS has already learned this lesson

    • Luke says:

      Like you enthusiasm. LD does makes the US team better, I grant you that. But 10 times better? The USMNT was pretty good without LD, minus that Honduras away game and honestly I don’t think having LD in that game would have made a difference.

  6. Rabbit says:

    Best part about this article: Landon saying that he can almost match his energy at age 20.

    If he can maintain that for the next 10 months, we will have an LD that hasn’t declined, and MAY even be at his peak (in terms of overall package, physical and mental).

    This has been one of my biggest concerns — will LD be “past it” at age 32 next summer? If he’s not, and if Dempsey’s still in his prime, Jozy’s still scoring, and MB’s doing his thing, that’s a d@mn strong core to take to Brazil. Stronger and more experienced than 4 years ago, and flanked by a much better supporting cast with the likes of Fabian, J.J. Bacon, Besler, Cameron, etc. (sorry if I left someone out that you love).

  7. Goalscorer24 says:

    Way too much hype. Don’t jinks things. Yes we have played well, but I would not be shocked if we got blasted in Costa Rica. This will be a real test. The team has to come out hungry, and be ready for some rough play!