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Landon Donovan talks World Cup, Klinsmann and more

Landon Donovan

Photo by David Bernal/


As Landon Donovan moves closer to playing in his fourth World Cup, the U.S. Men’s National Team star has done plenty of reflecting on how much has changed since he first took the field in the 2002 World Cup.

In a wide-ranging interview with, Donovan discussed being ready for a new role with the USMNT, his relationship with Jurgen Klinsmann, and much more.

Among the more intriguing responses from Donovan was about how he and Klinsmann get along:

“I think we’ve developed a really good relationship and I think we’re very honest with each other,” Donovan told Goal USA. “A few weeks ago against Mexico, he was able to communicate in a good way what he saw and what was going on. I don’t think that would happen if you hadn’t built some trust over the years. The important thing for him and I is to continue to communicate and trust each other.

“I’m in a different place than I was years ago,” Donovan said. “I can’t always train the same way, but I do know how to play when it’s time to play. It’s making sure that we see things the same way. (Klinsmann) has been very adamant that if you don’t train well and you’re not playing well, then you’re not going to play. That was understandable for that Mexico game.

“I think we’ve continued to progress in that way and I think we clearly both have the same goal in mind, which is to help this team get as far as possible. Whatever role I can assume to help that, I’m happy to do.”

Give the rest of the interview a read, and be sure to check out some excerpts from the Donovan interview after the jump:

On the influx of American stars joining him in MLS, like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley

I love it, I think it’s great. For a long time I’ve been a big fan of this league and I’ve really enjoyed helping it grow, and to see guys come in and want to help continue that is great. I hope it continues. I absolutely think the way forward for our league is to have the best players playing here. Whether it’s American or otherwise. This is a huge start. You want kids going to games and seeing those guys, as opposed to turning on their TV and seeing them somewhere overseas.

There’s a much greater connection when Johnny in Toronto can go watch a Toronto FC game and walk by and Michael Bradley shakes his hand after the game than just turning on the TV. I think it’s great. I’m glad the league and the teams have made the financial commitment to do that. The league is much more profitable than it’s been in the past and they’re willing to reinvest into the game, and I think that bodes well for everyone.

On whether coaching or TV work might be next for him after he’s done playing

I think both of those would be fun. I think doing TV would be very enjoyable. I think coaching would be much more beneficial to others. I feel like I have a lot of opportunities to do things in life that I’m passionate about, and I’ll be excited when that day comes.

Donovan on facing Ghana in the World Cup again

Ghana is a very good team. They beat a very good Egypt team in their playoff to get to the World Cup. They have very good experienced players all around the field who know how to play in World Cups. They’re certainly a team that could beat us and we’re certainly a team that can beat them. Really, whoever plays better on the day has the better chance of winning.


  1. Landon is saving himself for the world cup. He is on half pedal right now and will switch gears once the start of the world cup. He will be a monster in brazil just wait and see.

  2. “I’m in a different place than I was years ago,” Donovan said. “I can’t always train the same way, but I do know how to play when it’s time to play. It’s making sure that we see things the same way. (Klinsmann) has been very adamant that if you don’t train well and you’re not playing well, then you’re not going to play. That was understandable for that Mexico game.

    LD translation: I know what I’m doing Klinsi. I’ve been doing it since the ’02 WC, so get off my back and let me do my thing. It doesn’t matter how I play with LA, because I’m saving my bones for the WC. You can sit me for the Mexico game which didn’t mean anything, but I’d better be starting come WC time because I’m still the best!!

  3. Get pissed off Landon! Klinsmann wants you to fight not my down. The US needs you in hungry mode to advance out if this group.

  4. I hope Donovan writes a book sometime after he retires. He is always forthright in his interviews. He’s been the face of US soccer for so long and it has grown tremendously while he has been a player. I’m sure he has more than a few stories to tell.

    • Good call. Would like to see that happen. The way that dude is, he will probably give it a few years first. Hopefully he can find good partner (perhaps somebody from outside of sports journalism for perspective) to help write it with him and capture his thought process.

  5. Regarding the topic of this one, I don’t see how Donovan can go from what we saw against Mexico to what we remember he once was in just a couple months – not at his age. I’d love to be wrong, but I’m guessing he’s on the irreversible slide down. I think he goes to Brazil, but would be surprised if he started any of the three group games.

    • i guess you didn’t read the part about him having a bad knee either smh?? Once his knee heals up, which it seems to be now, he’ll do what he needs to do! Its unthinkable that so many people want to still see him fail after all he’s done! He shouldn’t have to prove anything to anyone at this point but I get the sense that he will have to!

  6. Still can’t stand the uniform. Saw them in a store the other day; can’t decide if they look worse there or on TV. In person really drives home the fact that the colors aren’t even remotely like the red and blue on the flag – but even if they were, it wouldn’t matter. (I do have to give Nike credit for one thing – they at least didn’t screw up the white.)

    This is our away kit, right? It’s bad enough that FIFA would do US Soccer a huge favor by directing the tournament committee to have the U.S. be the home team for each of our three group games. That would save some embarrassment.

    • George Washington just spat out his rocket pop at your cavalier dismissal of our new battle gear. So what if perhaps we repurposed some throwaway designs and unwanted leftovers that the French had discarded? We’ve been doing that periodically ever since we brought the Statue of Liberty in from the curb and stuck on the front porch. It is a fine tradition that includes the Louisiana Purchase, radioactivity, and David Regis.

      Certainly the popsicle suits have not been everybody’s first choice, But I think we just need to embrace this thing in the classic American style and run with it– no use complaining about something that can’t be changed right?. Better to accept defeat early and find ways to make it work for you (once again borrowing from France) . For example, maybe ditch the team bus to shuttle us from the hotels for the “away” games in Brazil instead charter a couple of ice cream trucks. Intimidating? You bet. And a piece of cake to drive compared to that pesky helicopter JK has been stuck with. And you could double-down on your stunned adversaries by insisting on the national anthem being played on calliopie in a prerecorded loop, which persists throughout the entire game with occasional interludes of “Pop Goes the Weasel”. Gooch staring people down while holding a popsicle also has some potential somewhere.

      Ok so the idea needs work.

  7. Just to add to my previous comment: You’re prepared to accept *ANY* role this summer? YOU SHOULD BE THE #10 SHIRT. GO OUT AND TAKE IT!

    • Donovan is the best all around USA player ever but he is not a #10 and never has been.

      You are asking him to be something he is not.

      He has all the skills and the talent but the traditional #10 role, a practically extinct creature in modern football, once you get past the skill, is mainly a mindset and Landon has never had that mindset.

      And I’m not sure there has ever been an international level American #10; the closest being JOB and Tab Ramos.

      • Agree. Actually,, I had always planned on deploying him as a False 10, as soon I figured out what that means,

      • At guess at a superficial level, when you think of traditional #10s, Pele, Platini, Maradona, who created for others and were goal threats themselves, he’s pretty much the closest to that of any American player.

    • Yea I think this gets at the heart of Klinsmann’s frustration with LD. We all know, and none more than JK, that Donovan is still our most dangerous attacking weapon. He may not have quite the blazing speed of years past, but when he plays hungry he is still our best. But getting a mentally focused Donovan has become very difficult over the last couple of years, and JK has seemingly tried just about everything. I hope LD is right and he can switch gears when it comes time to play Ghana. I also wonder if JK is thinking about giving up on the 4-2-3-1 and going 4-4-2 with Dempsey and Donovan up top.

      • No chance. The difference between a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1 you swap a striker for a holding midfielder, something tells me we’ll need the latter a bit more given our difficult group. 4-4-2 is archaic, whoever plays it gets overtaken in the midfield where games are won and lost.

  8. Does Landon *EVER* come across ‘hungry’ or get a fire in his belly over anything? Just curious. He’s lucky that he’s always gotten to be involved in things that he’s passionate about? He’s the most talented attacking outfield player we’ve ever had, and despite giving us some great moments, I wonder if he feels that he’s lived up to his potential in his career? I guess what’s most important at the end of the day is how he views himself, but to me he’ll always be the guy that said the day before the 2010 Ghana match, that he didn’t feel the World Cup was a failure EVEN if they were to lost to Ghana again, in the round of 16 the next day. To me, he’ll always be the guy that ran around flapping his arms like a chicken at 2-0 up in The Gold Cup Final, firing up our opponent and all their fans with 70 minutes left to play.

    God forbid he should ever come out and say, “This is probably my last World Cup, and if I don’t start, it’ll be because someone deserved the job more than me even though I was at my very best.”

    I for one hope that if Landon is not prepared to be at his best, that Klinsmann leaves him home. Sorry Landon- you were an amazing talent and I want to root for you and see you succeed SO BAD… But I really want to see you at your very best- mentally and physically. You can get there… But will you?

  9. how will they promote the NT before the tourney start?

    will Donovan be on Letterman or Jimmy Fallon?
    will Jozy go on Tavis Smiley? I mean seriously market our boys. Put them on the cover of stuff. Have them sign sponshorship deals immediately

    • Why can’t Donovan go on Tavis Smiley and Jozy go on Fallon & Letterman?

      Think about your statement. The optics are glaring.

      That being said, I agree that all of our stars, even in buddy groups, should go on a major promotional tour. Fallon, Kimmel, Letterman, Ellen, GMA, Today, Michael & Kelly, The View…ALL of them. They’re all our best ambassadors, and they can do so much to help the cause.

      • Jozy can’t get games right now. If Klinsmann applies his logic for not playing players who aren’t performing to Jozy, not sure he even makes the world cup squad at this point.

      • I hope Jozy gets back to last year’s form, but if he doesn’t, I like the idea of Deuce taking his place. He plays better closer to goal. MB90 as the player in the hole as others have suggested, with LD and Zusi interchanging on the wings, and FJ at LB for DMB. Please no Omar at CB. Besler and Cameron, and Parky on right to complete back 4. JJ and one of Beckerman or Edu as the double pivot. A combination of 3 strong central midfielders will give us the steel and skill we need to have some of the ball against the teams in our group. MB90 is honing the offensive side of his game, and looks like he’ll be confident playing there come WC time. On the other hand, Deuce is no #10. Most of the time when he’s coming deep to receive the ball, we’re playing bad. MB90 has the passing ability and calmness on the ball to set up LD, Zusi and Deuce in the final 3rd. Could also see Ale B coming in for either LD or Zusi at some point, if not starting for 1 of them.

      • Jozy is a better player than he was in 2009, and he handled the 2009 Confederations Cup pretty well (not to mention the 2010 WC). In that tourney, we had dempsey, jozy MB and donovan on the field at the saw time. Add Zusi to the mix and you are in business.

      • I agree, it’s a formidable attack, and I’d love to have all of these boys on the pitch at the same time… But how is this accomplished? If it’s a 4-2-3-1, somebody has to play in the hole behind Jozy. If it’s Deuce, for me that is now a 4-4-1-1, as he is an off-striker, like LD sometimes is. MB90 is showing how useful he can be as a provider, and I feel he should occupy that space behind the lone striker. Clint can play on the left wing, where he is effective at cutting in, and FJ can overlap. This puts either LD or Zusi to the right wing providing width, as whether Cam or Parky is RB, they will be a more stay at home type. Unless it is Evans, in which case, God help us.

        With the 4-3-3, same issues apply. Maybe you can put Zusi with MB90 and JJ as the midfield 3, and then have Deuce, Jozy and LD. I think someone else on here already mentioned this as a possibility. Klinsi said in his last USSOCCER interview that we would need to be able to play all types of formations, including 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2 diamond, and the 4-3-3. Looks like the 4-3-3 is the only formation which gets all of these players on the pitch together in their best positions.

      • great post, thanks. the flexibility in systems, if we can play them, is a plus, the versatility of the players allowing for the possibility

      • Really? Leave the 2013 USMNT player of the year and #6 all time US goalscorer of all time OFF THE PLANE? You lost all credibility with that statement.

      • OK pal, bummed I’ve lost all credibility with you. The original statement said that if Klinsmann applies his logic he’ll have a tough decision to make. My personal opinion? I’d bring him but he wouldn’t start.

      • …it’s not like klinsmann hasn’t brought in players not getting minutes before… he brings Brek “Bench” Shea every chance he gets and Jozy is wayy more deserving than Shea…he also brought in Julian Green (I know, I know it was a recruiting job) who is not getting any first team minutes as well. It’s not like Altidore is sitting at home right now, he knows there is a world cup in 54 days, I’m sure he is working hard.

  10. I respect you sir but retire after Brazil. Let the young guys fight and earn their spot. Don’t be a Keller or a Beckham. Retire at your peak. Not when you have lost it 3 years ago and cost the team something important

    with that being said, why didn’t you transfer to Everton permanently and become a star in the PL?

    • “I respect you sir….”

      That phrase is in conrtradiction everything you wrote after it.

      It’s like people who say ” No offense but…” and then proceed to get very offensive.

    • Disagree with all of what you said. Play as long as and for whoever you want.

      The need for the National team never ends with Gold Cups, Olympics, Qualifiers, Copa Americas (?!), and others. Until he is overpassed by someone or doesnt have it anymore keep playing

    • Do you mean peak of career? Because it is likely that we will go 3 and out, which most people would not consider a peak at all

    • it’s probably really easy for a guy that is making minimum wage to tell someone else that is making millions of dollars playing a game to retire at their peak lol.

  11. The next two months will be full of words words words…
    Interviews, articles, opinion pieces, podcasts, reader polls, TV documentaries, and SBI posters….
    Hopefully he comes into camp with the eye of the tiger..
    We have no room for error, we need him and all our leaders laser focused and hungry

  12. I think really at the heart of this is a question that was avoided for a long time, in how do you get Dempsey and Donovan on the field at the same time. Neither are really wide options at this point and seem to be best with the freedom and space underneath the striker. So maybe the puzzle just doesn’t fit together with both players. Donovan coming off the bench and going all out for 30 minutes sounds pretty good to me.

    • For me Landon does more on the field than Clint – plays defense, builds the attack, links well with others. Clint is capable of the spectacular but too often disappears when playing with the US. For me there is no way you don’t start Landon and you obviously can’t sit your captain. I’d play Clint up front and play Donavan wide left but slightly pinched in, in 4-2-3-1. You are getting width down that side from Fabian Johnson at left back, Donavan tucks in to combine with Bradley as a #10, Zusi wide right in front of 2 holding players in Beckerman and Jones (one discipline but slow, one more athletic but less disciplined). Don’t know who plays right back or alongside Besler in the middle.

      • Agree with you, though maybe start Edu in place of Beckerman.
        Have Beasley sub in for Donovan to address attacks down our left later in the game. Beasley brings speed, tenacity and experience to help lock down the game.

      • it’s not that i disagree with either you or cody, but i think it’s pretty obvious that klinsmann sees fabian as our starting LW, with beasley as our LB.

        i would love for that to change, but i can’t see it happening at this point.

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