Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By MARC SERBER
As the U.S. Men’s National Team prepares to face South Korea at a sold-out StubHub center in Carson, Calif., Landon Donovan told the media he does not need to be the star of this summer’s World Cup.
With a deep bench this time around, Donovan had already made a claim that Group G is the Group of Death because the U.S. is in it. This is the kind of bullishness we have seen in Donovan’s play but haven’t always heard from the rather soft-spoken star.
Despite the confidence, Donovan showed his maturity when asked if he felt he was in direct competition with Graham Zusi for a spot on the right side of midfield.
“No, I don’t see it that way,” Donovan responded.
Instead the 31-year-old says his experience in multiple positions means he can help the squad in different ways. More intriguingly, however, Donovan said he does not need to be the leading light of the Stars and Stripes down in Brazil.
“I’m not in a place in my life now where I need to have this crazy burning desire to start and score and do everything. I want the team to do well, I want the team to succeed. I want to be a part of it of course. We all have ego. We all get enjoyment out of doing those things, but I want to help this team do well and help U.S. soccer make another big step.”
The three-time World Cup veteran also spoke about the excitement of the upcoming tournament in Brazil, the depth of this U.S. squad and how the game has grown across the country.
“You want to be peaking at the right time,” Donovan said about going into a World Cup year. “So this (the January Camp) is good for everybody to get a sense of what the expectations are, of what Jurgen (Klinsmann) and the coaching staff want, but the reality is we are going to get judged based on how we do Saturday, how we do in March, and how we do during the regular season.”
The LA Galaxy striker also spoke about how nurturing talent at younger ages is starting to bear fruit at the top levels, stating that kids today have more options than players did when he was growing up.
“(During my teenage years) it was to either sign with a pro team at 16 or 17 if you wanted that or you go to college,” Donovan said. “All those teams you were signing with were overseas. Now we have really good academies in the States where kids don’t have to feel they need to go overseas.”
Donovan says he sees it with the LA Galaxy where the top youth players get a chance to train with the first team on a daily basis.
To the most decorated striker in U.S. history, this is the way forward.
“We said for a long time, it’s fine to compete in the World Cups and the Confederations Cups and the Gold Cups and that kind of stuff but the way we get better is by our young kids getting better and now we have the opportunity to develop that here.”
PLAYERS CALL BRAZIL TRIP A VALUABLE EXPERIENCE
Having returned from their two-week trip to Brazil for training camp and a tour of the country ahead of this summer’s World Cup, the sentiment was a positive one about just what that trip meant for the U.S. team.
“Logistically for the staff, and for us, we got to see what it would be like traveling from the hotel to the stadium,” Gonzalez responded when asked what the U.S. got out of its trip to Brazil. “What the hotels would be like, the training grounds and things like that. Jurgen got to see the other facilities. We just stayed in Sao Paulo the entire time but he got to see every site where we are going to play.
“For the players we got to get a taste of what the food is going to be like, what the beds we’re sleeping in are going to be like, and the training grounds, so I think it was a success. We got a little taste of it and everyone is getting excited.”
Having the time to travel and train in Brazil is a luxury that only the U.S. and the countries that featured in last year’s Confederations Cup could enjoy. Any logistical hiccups can be fixed now instead of during the World Cup.
With the temperatures relatively high in Sao Paulo, the U.S. team was able to get a feel for the conditions it may very well face during its matches in the Northern part of the country.
“The trip down to Brazil was one that we’ll be able to look back on this summer and be extremely happy and privileged that we we’re able to get down there,” midfielder Graham Zusi said. “Just those little things we may not have thought of before and coming back and using those little experiences to our advantage.”
“The weather, the food, the accommodations, just being able to see it beforehand is going to help us a lot.”