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USMNT Notes: Donovan ready for any role, players sing praises of Brazil trip

Landon Donovan

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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.”


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.”


  1. With all the lineup speculation, who here wants to play with one striker and one advanced midfielder, vs two strikers, with one playing slightly behind the other, vs two strikers up front? I know that the 4-2-3-1 is the new crazy, but from what I remember we have looked awful with it. It gives us good width but we can’t seem to score with it.

  2. All of you guys doing your lineups…you know that you don’t have to have the same formation for attacking and defending, right? That you can go forward with one formation and track back with another?

    This is pertinent because the US under Klinsmann has been *defending* as a flat 4-4-2 for quite a while–in every Hex game that I can recall, for instance–but has used varying *different* attacking formations, and maybe the hot-stove-ing would benefit from all this…

    • so you’d prefer everyone posting lineups for every scenario the team could face? come on man, be realistic. you can look at someone’s lineup and then think about how people would move throughout a game. then say if you agree or not based on how you see that lineup working throughout a game.

      • No, but critiquing a formation that looks good for attacking but doesn’t have enough width in defending means not that it’s a bad formation (necessarily) but that you have to think it actually complex ways about whether the players can get back to their defensive roles when caught in possession.

        Also, for real, it’s not every situation. The team goes forward as one type of unit and back as another. C’mon now.

      • I still think are being a little ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, some lineups are cringe worthy, but still. You are basically asking people to write their lineup out in the offensive and defensive shape. It’s nitpicky, IMO.

  3. “I’m not in a place in my life right now…”

    …some variation of this is pretty much the opening to every Landon Donovan quote over the past 10 years.

  4. my lineup would be:


      • yeah, i’m taking a leap and saying Chandler keeps up his form and his speed becomes too hard to ignore given our World Cup opponents. maybe we see Chandler at LB with Cameron at RB. moving Johnson up and LD to the right. hard to say, but i do agree it’s probably more realistic to include Cameron into a lineup.

    • bryan: so you’re convinced that Jones/Bradley is the best CDM pairing? I’m not asking about “in their prime,” but rather how they actually can be expected/predicted to play.

      • “convinced” is a strong word, especially since Bradley and Jones aren’t playing currently. but yeah, i think they give us the best chance if they are both on their game.

      • Absolutely, you as well. I’m curious to see how Williams develops. Playing well for Reading. He could be that pure CDM that pairs well with Bradley one day.

      • Hard-pressed? Nah. We’ve seen a better pairing: Bradley+Cameron—and I’d bet Bradley+Kljestache could be better too.

        As noted in my question, this isn’t about who’s the best “when they’re on,” it’s about what we can *expect* from a duo. We know that Jones can be awesome, but we also know that he can take away from Bradley. Jones may be a better CDM than the others ( debateable, but I’ll agree to that for sake of argument) but Bradley is one of the most essential pieces of the squad. I’d pair him with a slightly lesser CDM if it meant I’dget the very most out of Bradley.

    • I agree. This was similar to my earlier lineup and I think it is the best one. Just for fun, what about this as an alternative since we have better midfielders than defenders: Would this have any strengths? Or would our weak defenders get too outnumbered?

      ————————— Dempsey————————————
      ——Zusi————— Donovan—————Bedoya————
      F. Johnson————Cameron————Chandler————

      • This isn’t FIFA. You don’t play 3 at the back with 2 of them being fullbacks. That’s a recipe for disaster.

      • I think that a 3-5-2 depends more on a really threatening attack than a really solid defense. The attack has to keep the other side pinned back. I don’t think are forwards are menacing enough nor do our midfielders maintain good enough possession.

  5. Bedoya, might be playing decently in France, but I think he’s not even considered for cam. It’s one of our deepest positions and I’ve never been blown away with his passes or distribution. MB90 still has a lock on running the offense.

    • I don’t know, honestly. Have you seen him play with Nantes? Not to be condescending, because I honestly think a lot of people haven’t seen his games, but when he’s played “in the hole”, he’s been quite sharp. Additionally, the responsibility for linking play would be shared with MB90. I think it’s better than having just 1 man quarterbacking the attack. See Argentina in 2006 WC, Riquelme.

      • In addition, MB90 is not a CAM, and in this role, Ale B is not either. This is a 4-3-3, not a 4-1-2-1-2. His role is different here, highlighting his work rate and abilities on both sides of the ball.

    • Agreed, Bedoya is playing well right now by all accounts (I’ll admit, I haven’t actually seen him play for his club). But I think he is best suited as right or left Mid depth. Bring him in if either Donovan or Zusi are hurting or out of form following the Ghana game.

  6. A lot of interesting potential variables to consider, including which players will be in best form Cup time (we know Klinsi has no problem shaking things up), and which formation best suites our players. I agree with a few on here who say they’d like to see Deuce on the left and LD in the hole, with Zusi or Bedoya on the right and AJ or Jozy up top. However, consider this:


    ———————Ale B———————-


    IMO, this puts our best ball handlers and players with the highest work rates in the center of the park, takes away defensive responsibilities from LD and Deuce and gives the whole front 3 free roles. As Ale B is playing at a high level, prefers to play in the middle, has a strong defensive side to his game, and in addition is highly rated by Klinsi, this could be quite interesting. Not saying it will happen, but IMHO, puts our best “in-form” players in places which optimize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

    • Leaves your flanks woefully undefended. Have fun against all three teams in our group that love to terrorize their opponents from wide positions.

      • Hhmmm, possibly, but I honestly don’t see it that way. We still have FJ and Cam, 2 solid 1-on-1 defenders, plus MB90, JJ and even Ale B helping out where necessary. The only difference I see is that JJ wouldn’t be able to bomb forward with reckless abandon, and Ale would help MB90 a bit more with the linking play to the front 3.

    • In his prime, LD was a good defender from the wing position, meaning he tracked back to cover the opposing winger when needed. That is a completely different animal than playing LB and constantly defending against some of the best strikers in the world, covering tall physical attackers on set pieces, etc.

      I don’t think there’s much choice but to play F. Johnson as left back. Beasley is the backup, and has done surprisingly well there in qualifying. Or you play a Parkhurst or another RB there. Pretty big drop-off after FJ.

      • Yup, would like to see FJ – Besler – Gonzo/Cameron – Chandler as the back line. Love Beas’s enthusiam and kudos to Evans for bossing RB against Concacaf, but those two cannot be our starting fullbacks in the WC. Ghana/Portugal/Germany is not Jamaica/Honduras/Panama.

    • no point. with Johnson, Chandler, Lichaj, Castillo, and Yedlin available, I don’t see the point in using LD (or Beasley, for that matter) at fullback.

    • As much as I hate the kind of thinking that you can just move a guy into a fullback role and expect him to perform at a high level… Donovan could do it. He has the vision and smarts.

      That said, he is still the best player on the team. Bradley is the most important, but Donovan is stll the best

    • If you were to play Donovan on the left, wing makes far more sense to me. This would shore up the defense by moving Fab J back to left back, and also ensure that either Zusi or Bedoya are on the pitch.

    • Defending as a midfielder is very different from defending as a fullback. Sure, some principles are the same, but there are major differences that have to be learned and practiced: timing of tackles, the way to pressure attackers, the need to coordinate with CBs, etc.

      Donovan could do it…if he had a few months to learn it.

  7. Here is my preferred starting 11. Only question is around Gonzo and Goodson swapping starting positions.
    Jozy, Dempsey, Donovan, Zusi, Bradley, Jones, F. Johnson, Besler, Gonzo, Cameron, and Howard.

    • ——————–Jozy/ AJ——————————————–
      ————————Dempsey/ E. Johnson———————
      Zusi/ Shea———————-Donovan/ Zusi/ Bedoya——
      ————————-Cameron/ Jones—————————
      F. Johnson——-Besler———-Gonzo————Beasley

      Jozy over AJ. At this point, I think the experience of Jozy wins out. If we were in a different group, then, maybe AJ.
      Eddie Johnson as a change of pace/ switch to a 4-4-2 can’t be overlooked. He’s ability to be ruthless inside the box is just too great at this point – regardless of what his reputation is coming out of Seattle.
      Cameron over Jones at central defense. Distribution is better and, again, in the group of death, we can’t afford Jones getting multiple stupid yellow cards like he has a likelihood of doing every time he steps on the pitch. I think Jones would be a good addition if we get the lead in any game for a substitution into a 4-2-3-1 scenario (Cameron and Jones in the mid-defense, Bradley being pushed up, leaving Jozy as a hold-up artist until they substitute for Johnson).
      With Cameron manning the defensive midfielder role, this leaves RB open and I see no reason why Beasley can’t do well in that role as he did in the Gold Cup. He does well for his club there (while not flashy, he has the work rate of a horse and doesn’t allow mistakes to screw up his entire game if he makes one).

      • 1. EJ does not play that position. he doesn’t like to play there. it’s either up top or out wide. and frankly, IMO, he shouldn’t ever play out wide.
        2. Zusi will never play LM. He didn’t play there ONCE in all of qualifying despite FJ being out. Shea, not there yet.
        3. Cameron should be playing the position he plays regularly at because he is obviously in form. he has his timing for RB figured out. don’t F that up.
        4. Beasley at RB is pretty hilarious and i’m not sure why anyone would prefer him there. Cameron, Chandler, Lichaj, and Yedlin are all much better options.

      • bryan: I think that Zusi played LM for the USMNT v Jamaica—where he subbed in for LD at the half and scored the opening goal.

        Either way, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at LM or RM in Brazil. He can play either side and so can LD. That can be a nightmare for defenders if Zusi and LD decide to switch sides throughout the match.

      • in June, Zusi started at RM with FJ at LM. the game in KC in October Zusi did not start, Bedoya was at RM and LD at LM. but yes, he did come in for LD and finished the game out at LM. but JK hasn’t shown he sees Zusi as a LM. not with LD, Johnson, Castillo, and Beasley available.

        i think Zusi will stay at RM, battling with Bedoya and LD.

      • IndyEleven – I like your lineup, I would say its a good guess to what we will see in Brazil, baring any injuries.
        thoughts: I’d put Cameron on the back line because I trust him more against the top strikers in the WC group stage. But i’m open to moving him up into a withdrawn central defensive mid. Jones is a big risk and now that he is moving to a new club he may start to drop in JK’s eyes. The role of def Mid will be one to watch in upcoming friendlies.

      • I agree that is an awful lineup. Unless they are injured, Jones is starting as a DMF with Bradley side by side no question. Here is a more realistic lineup:

        F. Johnson——-Besler———Cameron————Chandler

        Beasley – LB
        AJ – ST
        EJ – ST
        Shea – LM
        Gonzalez – CB
        Guzan – GK
        Bedoya – CAM

  8. I don’t think Donovan and Zusi are directly competing for one spot. I’d like to see both starting so we can maximize their strengths. Donovan is the best leader and most experience, and knows how to finish in big games. While Zusi is our best crosser and has the highest box to box work rate on the squad. We need them both starting.

    • which is why i think a lot of people, like myself, believe Fabian with start at LB in Brazil. that way LD is on the left, Zusi on the right.

  9. As much as it pains me to say it, I think Geoff Cameron would be our best choice at right back. Let’s face it, he plays this position at a high level week in and week out. He’s not the prototypical wingback speedster. But he is good in the air, with positioning and is good with the ball at his feet. I think Cameron > Evans at this point in time.

    • I don’t even think you should feel bad about supporting Cameron at rb. He defends far better than Evans. The Evans experiment was done in hopes that as a natural winger, he could distribute well out of the back and be a threat coming forward. But generally he hasn’t added this dimension. Cameron is no better at contributing to the offense, but at least he won’t soil himself when Ronaldo takes the pitch.

      • I think this idea that Cameron doesn’t contribute to the offense comes from folks who haven’t been watching Stoke play. In their last match against Sunderland he might have been their most dangerous player, certainly after Jozy subbed out and the momentum shifted to Stoke. Drew a foul just outside the box, another sequence he one-touched a pass out of the air directly to Arnautovic’s feet in the box.

        It’s worth streaming a Stoke match, their no great shakes, but Cameron is worth a watch.

      • This. Against Sunderland Cameron was possibly Stoke’s best player. If JK keeps him on the bench and starts Brad Evans at RB I will be throwing things.

      • Absolutely. He isn’t super fast, but he’s been getting up the wing and taking players on every game for Stoke. His service into the box has been fantastic as well.

  10. I think it is unlikely that Donovan will play under the striker if Dempsey is healthy. The USMNT needs wingers right now. Both Landon Donovan and Aron Jóhannsson need to be flexible and learn multiple positions. One of the problems I saw in games this summer with Donovan is that when he was a winger, he gravitated too much toward the middle. This would be acceptable if the USMNT has a guy like Cherundolo or Fabian Johnson who can come up from the fullback position and get deep into the offensive corners of the field, but I think that won’t happen much in the World Cup.

    I think Cherundolo only has a 5% chance of making the team. Klinsmann can’t waste a roster spot on a 35 year old player with knee problems when a guy like Geoff Cameron is younger and more durable. In fact, it’s unlikely Klinsmann will have anyone on the World Cup team whom he thinks is unable to play a full 90 minutes. Klinsmann can’t be wasting substitutions during the World Cup because someone has a chronic injury or is unfit in any way.

  11. Donovan and the other right mid will both see plenty of the field. I think Donvan’s speed and experience have him starting the first game, but he has a box-to-box, up tempo style that is hard to sustain multiple games in a row. Considering the alternatives aren’t too much of a step down, I expect he’ll probably start on the bench for a game.

    The real question is, whether Zusi is still sitting above Bedoya? Zusi plays a better ball into the box, but Bedoya’s work rate and recent form in France make a strong case.

    • I’m going to opine that from what I have seen , Zusi gets the nod based on when the two have been in form, Zusi is slightly better on the ball, but they are really close

  12. Personally I’d like to see Donovan play under the striker as he did during the Gold Cup and move Dempsey to the left. I just think this plays more to everyone’s strength. It gets Donovan more involved on the ball and allows Dempsey to make those far post runs we’ve seen him score so many times. I also think Donovan is a little more likely to make a final pass then Dempsey. I’d at least like to see them try it.

    • IMO Donovan operates better when he has room to use his speed, especially down the flanks. I agree Dempsey sometimes opts for bad shots and forced dribbles rather than the extra pass, but a little greed is good in the box, and Dempsey (when in form) has a pretty good quick turn and shot.
      But considering Dempsey’s form this year, I think AJ is a strong contender for the deep striker. He might be the best finisher on the squad.

      • Perhaps but we’ve really only seen him a few times as a winger on the national team in the last 2 years. The first half against Guatemala, where he didn’t do much. Against Mexico where he was alright and Jamaica where he was pretty invisible before coming out at half. I guess I’d just like to see more of it.

    • everyone’s strength? LD is better at the flank where he can used his speed, Dempsey has no speed to play the flank and if you think him cutting in all the time is best for the team, I can guaranteed you that opponents are going to lick their chops knowing the left flank is wide open for them.

      • I just remember against Guatemala, they tried Donovan at right wing for the first half and he did pretty much did nothing. Then once he was moved forward everything clicked and he couldn’t be stopped through out the Gold Cup. Perhaps he can still play that wide role but its just been a long time since we’ve seen much of it.

      • While Donovan was playing up top in the gold cup, he was not playing recessed. The reason he was successful was his ability to dribble at pace, into space and stretch defenses.

        I think the deep forward role is better occupied by a pure distributer. Somebody who can pull the strings with deft passes. Donovan is pretty good at this but it’s not his forte. Mixx seems to be that kind of player, but he’s not starting material yet. I hope we get to see him run the offense in the SK game.

      • Why don’t the posters here have any memory? Dempsey played 90% of the time at Fulham on the left wing. I think his best position is as a withdrawn forward, but to say he can’t play left wing after 5 years in the EPL doing just that, is ridiculous.

    • I agree. As much as I would like to think that we are going to play toe-to-toe with the teams in our group, I think we will be chasing the ball a lot more than we have possession. The Ghana match might be a little more even, but against Germany and Portugal, we will not dominate possession. This will force us to play the counter – which is not a bad thing as we have done this well in the past. Donovan is our most dangerous player on the counter and having him central will get him more involved in the counter attack. I can see him maybe play on the flanks against Ghana; however, I think that he will be CAM in the Germany and Portugal matches.

      • Good thought. Most likely the US will have more possession and be looking to create in the Ghana game (Ghana will easily, easily accept counter opportunities with its speed and the strength of Gyan).

        Against Portugal and Germany, most likely though the US will have to defend and counter, and LD is one of the best at running the speed counter. I could even see LD and Shea as a substitute coming in to grab a late goal against those teams.

        Portugal, especially if they lose against Germany, will come out looking to press the game, knowing that POR needs a result. Klinsy could play a nice rope-a-dope here and grab a counter as Portugal gets frustrated.

      • Though he wasn’t exactly a typical flank player for Fulham – in their system he was allowed to do what he does best: cut in and make plays from around the top of the 18. Depending on who is on the other flank and who is behind him at fullback, Dempsey on the wing for the US may or may not work. I love Clint, but he has a very particular and limited set of skills, so you have to put him in the right system for him to succeed. Clint mostly played as a 2nd striker at Spurs, and he was actually pretty solid in that role, scoring a bunch of goals out of nowhere (which is something he is good at), but he did badly anytime he was given any midfield role with Spurs as Spurs depend on their midfielders (other than, to an extent, Dembele) to contribute to intricate linkup passing sequences, and Clint is not good at this.

      • I agree with all that. But figured I would point out he has excelled there before. I, personally, would start LD out wide with Dempsey in the hole.

    • Agree. When Donovan has more freedom, he creates more. And is the best finisher on the team. Donovan also deserves to be Captain. If Dempsey doesn’t find his form, will Klinsy have the balsa to leave him off the roster? He’s looked terrible of late. End of the season for Seattle and at Fulham. Donovan is consistently brilliant. He’s earned it. Do you guys agree?

      • I don’t think that Dempsey is off of the roster in any circumstance unless injury. I do agree that JK might have a decision to make on Clint if Donovan is played as the CAM in the 4-3-2-1. As others have noted there are positives and negatives on Clint at LM. I would not rule out Clint actually playing striker in that formation as well – although there are some issues with that. I would disagree though with Clint looking terrible at Fulham. The one match that I saw, he played OK. Not the Clint of old, but better than what I saw in Seattle last year.

    • I agree. I actually think it should be Dempsey in competition with Donovan for the second stirker/in the hole spot. Right not, I’d start Jozy/Donovan with Zusi and F. Johnson on the wings. I love Dempsey, but unless his form picks up considerably, I don’t think he is our best option to start, but certainly a super sub.


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