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Landon Donovan: U.S. missing out on Olympics would be ‘a failure’

Landon Donovan USMNT 21

Landon Donovan had his chance to represent the U.S. in the Olympics, and the former U.S. Men’s National Team star says it is of the utmost importance that the current group of U-23 talent gets that experience as well.

Speaking to the Salt Lake Tribune, Donovan said that failure to qualify for the upcoming tournament would prove to be a major blow to the U.S. program. The U.S. U-23s are set to take on Colombia in a home-and-home series on March 25 and 29 to determine a spot in this summer’s competition.

“At this point in our history, any tournament we don’t qualify for is a failure,” Donovan said. “We should be, in this region, we should either be the best or very close to the best team in the region, so it’s important for us. It’s important for us to continue qualifying for these events. We have to.”

Donovan says that his earliest childhood dream was to represent his country at the Olympics. The former USMNT forward says fulfilling that dream was “the ultimate”, as he helped the U.S. to the bronze medal match at the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Australia. Four years after that, however, Donovan and his age group failed to qualify for the 2004 Olympics, falling to Mexico in dramatic fashion.

Now 12 years later, the current crop of young talent faces a difficult task given the hurdles that come with playing for a non-senior team.

“The difficult part with an Olympic team is you don’t get a lot of time together,” Donovan said. “There could be a few guys who don’t get released playing for their club teams. It’s very tricky. We’re at a point now in our development, though, where guys should understand how to gel quickly. They’ve had qualifying together.

“I hope they get to Rio,” Donovan added. “Aside from just being successful in qualifying, the Olympic experience is unlike anything you’ll ever go through in your life. I hope for those guys, they get that opportunity.”

Donovan went on to say that the current concerns permeating throughout U.S. soccer circles are just part of a phase. The Olympic team has played itself into a bit of a hole, while the senior team’s 2015 struggles have been analyzed and critiqued plenty ahead of a busy 2016.

Still, Donovan, who worked with several members of the U-23 roster ahead of the U-20 World Cup, has belief that there is plenty of success to be had this World Cup cycle, starting with the upcoming Olympic qualifiers against Colombia.

“We have the players that are capable,” Donovan said. “I get upset when people say, ‘We just don’t have the quality or we don’t have the right players.’ We don’t have Brazil’s quality, we don’t have Spain’s quality, we don’t have Germany’s quality, but we’re good enough to do well in a World Cup. Now it’s just doing it. Again, this is the same conversation.

“Long-term, it’s not about winning a World Cup, it’s about really competing every time we go into a tournament. Brazil doesn’t win every time, but they go in every time saying, ‘We’ve got a chance.’ Germany does the same. That’s what we’ve got to get to, but that’s a different conversation that goes back to development and doing things the right way. I think we’ll get there.”

What do you think of Donovan’s comments? Agree with his assessments?

Share your thoughts below.


    • I think that’s his point, and it would certainly set the youth program back. If you look at our youth teams and the results they’ve gotten in tournaments in the last 3-4 years it hasn’t been good enough(even the u20 result against Serbia) and it makes you wonder where the issues lie. The US probably has 5x the money that other federations have and put intonyouth development and yet we are consistently wetting the bed in domestic and global competitions. With the amount of talent we have amongst our players ages 17-23 there is no reason we shouldn’t be qualifying for this years Olympic Games or the ones thereafter.

      • Not sure if you are saying the US should expect to finish in the top 4 of youth tournaments or that losing to Serbia is bad. I don’t have any idea how much countries spend on youth development, but I would doubt European or S. American teams spend 5x less. The US also has the factor of size hurting it in youth development, coaches and scouts in smaller size area countries have a much easier time evaluating talent and getting that talent together to train and improve. Finally, these youth tournaments are much harder to qualify for because they have fewer spots available. Imagine if after this round of qualifying the 6 remaining CONCACAF teams went to a single elimination bracket instead of the hex. The US and Mexico might find qualifying tougher then too.

    • Yup. USA did not medal. They finished 4th. They lost to Chile in the Bronze Medal match. Mistakes like these are so annoying because now there are a bunch of people that read this article and will be misinformed.

      “Hey bruh. Did you know Landon Donovan has a Bronze medal from the Olympics?”

      “Really? Sweet.”

      • Yeah, there was a second there where I thought “did the USA win a medal and I totally forgot?” Then reality set in.

    • I thought I had just forgotten, but was too lazy to look it up. Bad enough the reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune didn’t get his background right, SBI just repeated it without checking it too. I had to check the wording too, but it does say “helped”, Landon never started although he did sub into most matches and scored one goal.

    • “The former USMNT forward says fulfilling that dream was “the ultimate”, as he helped the U.S. to the bronze medal match at the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Australia.”

      The writer Said Bronze medal match, not bronze medal.

    • I think its the tone, of his comments. He gives expert commentary without coming off like he’s grinding an ax.

  1. Columbia’s roster will be full of professionals mostly from the Columbian league that see regular minutes with their sides full squad. Seems the Columbian league looks to develop young talent instead of buying it from abroad and leaving their youngsters to languish on the bench. Let’s also not forget they beat Brazil 3-0 last February to earn this playoff spot, yes I know Brazil had already qualified as hosts.

  2. I totally agree. We are still generations away from really thinking that we are World Cup contenders but in a smaller tournament with younger players but almost as much global attention, the Olympics and youth WC’s, we should be contenders – like Honduras and Mexico were in the 2012. The lackluster performances in the Olympics (2008) or qualifying (2004, ’12, ’16) are certainly concerning (coaching is what comes to my mind)

    We won’t be favorites vs Colombia and I don’t think US Soccer wants to draw too much attention to the Olympics or youth tournaments right now.. unfortunately.

  3. The u20s are going to make up much of the roster and they are very talented, except for Brooks and yedlin not a whole lot from ages 21 to 23. It seems like the US talent goes in 3 to 4 year cycles, every time the world cup comes around people get excited and want to play but after about a year they get bored. Now hopefully having the gold cup last summer and now copa this summer will keep the kids interested and continue to play.

  4. “At this point in our history, any tournament we don’t qualify for is a failure.”

    Completely agree with this statement.

    I do, however, disagree with him on the talent. There’s still a lot of room for growth on attracting/producing the right kind of athlete, technical ability and flair. We still have too many pay-for-play style players in the program at all levels.

    “Long-term, it’s not about winning a World Cup, it’s about really competing every time we go into a tournament.”

    This is a very Donovan-esque soundbite/statement. The goal should be to win it. Improbable or not I’ve not bought into the passivity prevalent in this mentality. I get it, only 7 or 8 nations have won the World Cup. Maybe it’s the American-bravado or maybe it’s just an attitude but I think we’re already routinely competing in every World Cup now. That shouldn’t be the standard anymore…”at this point in our history”.

    • Donovan says, “Brazil doesn’t win every time, but they go in every time saying, ‘We’ve got a chance’.” Going off of that statement I think what he meant to say with “competing” is that the U.S. be a legitimate contender to win it all. When ever a World Cup comes around no one ever says, “the USMNT is one of the favorites”. Nobody gives us a chance to win. We don’t even expect to win. I’m guessing that is what he was referring to.

      • I can’t answer to speculation and I’m not interested in suddenly assuming he had meant something other than what he said. Donovan gets a lot of justified credit for telling it like it is and being unfiltered. Why should this be any different from the rest of his soundbites and musings on topics?

        Donovan has been a pacifist throughout his career. I have no reason to believe he meant anything other than what he said.

  5. I don’t think there’s any shame in losing to Colombia (as long as it’s reasonably close) but the real failure was not qualifying from the concacaf tournament. That performance against Honduras was really embarrassing. Nothing but the most basic route one tactics – even sticking Miazga up front to win headers because lumping it forward was Herzog’s sole strategy.

    Apparently no Americans born in 1993 or 1994 are any good because our team is very young.

    • Agreed the failure was losing in the CONCACAF tournament on our own soil. Yes, crowds were abysmal, but the matches were on quality pitches and no one was throwing batteries or rolls of coins at them. You forgave the first couple of matches because you thought the team would gel, but by the fourth game against Honduras, we looked like 8 year olds “just knock it ahead to the fast kid and let him see if he can run past everyone.”

    • Yeah- should never have come down to this, particularly being how poor prepared they looked in qualifying and the fact that they missed out in the previous Olympics. This was even repeatedly emphasized by JK- the adverse effect it had on that generations development.


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