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Retired once again, Donovan sees bright future for USMNT

From a leap off a Taco truck to television commentary to promoting MLS expansion in his new Southern California digs, U.S. Soccer’s all time leader in goals and assists is soaking in the different avenues of retirement – with stout views on the present and future of the game.

“Sometimes in life, you do things and you don’t really know why you’re doing it,” Landon Donovan said Wednesday on SiriusXM FC’s, The Coaching Academy. “I was just kind of living the moment.”

The “moment” was caught on video and subsequently, the feet-first dive into a crowd of American Outlaws on the eve of the U.S. Men’s National Team’s match against Honduras, was seen by millions on social media.

“I was thinking about the week ahead for the U.S. team and how vital it was,” said Donovan. “It was time to take some risks and do something different and that was kind of the mood I had all week. If the U.S. had a poor week in qualifying we could have very well could have said, ‘we’re not going to Russia in two years’. So when I got up on the truck it just kind of came, and I said ‘why not, do something stupid and have fun’.”

The USMNT seized the attacking risks and were rewarded with a 6-0 home thrashing of Honduras followed by a 1-1 draw in Panama City.  Donovan served as an analyst on the first match for FS1 and could not contain his delight with the updated product.

“We’re seeing what the U.S. National Team can be,” said Donovan. “Bruce (Arena) has done a great job of getting back to the basics and letting our guys do what they do best in comfortable positions and now you see the results.”

Donovan, who amassed 12 goals and 21 assists in 40 qualifiers, emphasized the distinction between the current talent level and being the best.

“I’ve said this many times and not everyone agrees with me – I think we have the most talented group of players we’ve ever had but it doesn’t mean the best players we’ve ever had,” he said. “Our best team, in my opinion, was in 2002. We genuinely played as a team. We had a bunch of players who were playing at a high level for MLS and throughout Europe. But there was very little ego that got in the way.

“When our guys play like they played this week, then you can start making the case that this is the best team we’ve ever had.”

On a pair of fateful November nights in Columbus, Ohio and San Jose, Costa Rica, the USMNT did not resemble a team with an abundance of talent or commitment. The losses to Mexico and the Ticos led to the demise of Jurgen Klinsmann and the re-emergence of Arena to manage the program.

While Klinsmann was notorious for his desire to play a psychological match with his players, Donovan says that Arena takes an alternate approach.

“We spoke to Geoff Cameron last week before the Honduras game and he told us that he really didn’t want to play right back,” Donovan said. “But he said Bruce called him two weeks before while he was at Stoke (City) to tell him he might have to play right back because of the injury to Deandre (Yedlin). And when Geoff got into camp he worked on it every day so that he was comfortable being there.”

“It’s just an example of how important communication is,” said Donovan. “Rather than just throwing a guy in or telling him the day before the game.”

In September of 2015, Klinsmann alerted Alejandro Bedoya before a friendly against Brazil that he would get the start at holding midfield behind Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones. Bedoya had never trained nor competed in that role.

“Every coach is different and every player is different,” said Donovan. “Some players thrive on sort of being on the edge of their seat, not knowing what is coming next. But in my experience most players do best when they know their role and can practice it.”

“I think it’s the hardest part of professional sports – in the end, you forget we are human beings,” added Donovan. “I forget when I watch other sports. LeBron may have a bad game but I don’t know what’s going on with LeBron at home. Did one of his teammates get in a fight with an assistant the day before a game? Nobody ever knows but it all plays in how you perform on the field.”

Notable in his execution is Christian Pulisic, a regular in the starting XI at Borussia Dortmund (five goals in 30 appearances) and in the midst of nearly every positive attacking sequence for the USMNT in the two qualifying matches.

“Christian going to Dortmund at 17 has helped make him the player that he is – he wouldn’t have progressed the same way had he been in the states,” said Donovan. “At 16, I made the decision of go to (Bayern) Leverkusen. If I had stayed in America, I never would have received the training experience that I got at Leverkusen. Twice a week, they would spend an hour of training – just me – working on my finishing. Still, it would be foolish, false and ignorant to say that everything Christian learned came from Dortmund.”

Pulisic was stationed with the U-17’s at the IMG Academy but claims to have developed his initial passion as a seven-year old in England playing with his classmates every day after school.

“That’s exactly why I fell in love with the game,” added Donovan. “We didn’t have all the games on television and distractions so we just went outside and played all day. No coaches, no structure, no fitness, no tactics.”

Despite the obvious qualities of Pulisic, it is uncertain whether he would have been inserted as a regular in MLS at the age of 16 or 17.

“One of the biggest problems here is we don’t play our kids,” said Donovan. “It was really eye-opening at the Homegrown game the last two years.”

Donovan coached and helped select the rosters for the Homegrown games featuring the top young players in MLS and their academies.

“Some of these kids came in and they were better than the guy playing his position on the first team,” said Donovan. “What I realized is that coaches are worried about Saturday’s result.

“If you have a teenager who has the potential to be a nine out of 10 but right now they’re a six out of 10 compared to a 28 year-old who is a seven out of 10 but has no potential to get any better, the coach is going to play the 28-year old because they want to get the result,” he said. “We need a mechanism to incentivize to play kids at a younger age so they can play in 10 or 12 games in a row. You’re not going to find out about them throwing them into a game sporadically.”

For now, Donovan is spending less time considering the development angle while he endeavors to bring an MLS franchise to San Diego after joining a private ownership group. He’s out in the community every day.

“That’s what I spend my days doing and really enjoying it,” he said.

In search of more taco trucks.


  1. old school is not likely to change. you just to learn how to decode his comments. if he says that you are a troll, that simply means that he disagrees with you. his talent for spin and personal attack against people is noteworthy.

    if our former captain and all time scoring leader is a troll then i also would like to be a troll. i guess Michael Jordan was a basketball troll and Tiger woods was a golf troll.

  2. so many posters here with hurt feelings because it turned out they hitched their wagons to a numskull named Klinsman, while many other posters here who actually understand wtf is going on with the game of soccer tried to tell them what a numskull he was, and got shouted down by volume posters’ Group Think for their troubles.
    LD takes shots at Klinsman and so what, that SOB deserves it and deserved to be run out of town after promising the world, demanding all the power, and then delivering an 0-2 balance in WC qualifying for the WC he was hired to go kick ass in

  3. I agree that Cameron at RB was a bad example from Donovan, since Cameron has played a ton there over the years. Klinsmann was actually reluctant to play Cameron at RB at first, because he wanted him to break in at CB for his club so he would be better prepared to play CB for the US.

    Arena joked that he likes Villafana because he’s actually a left back, but then the first thing Arena did when he took over was to start playing Zusi at right back. If that’s not playing somebody out of their natural position, I don’t know what is. We certainly could have used actual right back Timmy Chandler against Panama.

    In all the instances where Klinsmann was said to have played someone out of position, if we take away the cases where the player’s club manager has also played that player at the same position, the only one I can think of is Bedoya at DM (during a friendly). Any others that I’m forgetting?

    • Zusi played some RB at the end of last year and one of those games was against the galaxy, Bruce said as much at the January camp and also said he was impressed with his play there last season. Zusi has also been playing strictly RB this season for Kansas City, all of that information is out there! Now, is Zusi a international quality RB, I’d have to say no, but saying that he’s playing out of position is just false!

      • Thanks for the background on Zusi at RB in MLS. So this one falls into the group of the USMNT coach not being the only one to try it, just like most of Klinsmann’s experiments.

    • Williams as a winger and Jones at CB. Don’t think jones has ever played as a CB at the club level. Oh and torres as a LB in a WCQ.

      • I’m pretty sure Jones played CB sometimes it Shalke. You may be right about Williams and Torres. I didn’t remember those games.

    • My subtle point was that if you are going to complain about players playing out of position, you should know what their regular position is. Especially someone as prominent as Cameron. The fact that Donovan didn’t seem to know that indicates to me that his remarks can be taken with a grain of salt.

    • So what is it exactly about Donovan’s comments that make him a troll?? The term “troll” is used rather loosely on this website and it feels like some of us aren’t using it appropriately. A lot of people don’t like LD, for whatever reason, so I get that he will be targeted regardless of what he does, but the need to feed your agenda with these trumped up allegations is silly! I think he’s more qualified to talk about the state of the program than anyone else and because he is saying there is a difference in the approach between the two managers is not trolling!

      • Unbiased opinion here. I have no hate for JK or Don – Ovan. I think Donovan holds a grudge against JK for his own personal reasons and a few that were public. He, whenever possible will take subtle little jabs if you want to call them that. Is that considered trolling? I don’t know we should ask Rob.

      • to clarify, I only see the jabs being towards JK not the USMNT. I think he has the right to give honest assessment and criticism of the team.

  4. Cameron wasn’t a good example. Somebody should tell Donovan that Cameron has played probably two thirds of his games at Stoke at RB.

  5. Didn’t jurgen say the same thing about playing young players in the MLS and people gave him a hard time

    • Yes im sure some people did but most didn’t. I hope you aren’t trying to make it seem like a majority. These are two topics that the majority of people probably agree on (young players in MLS need more opportunities and European development for young players is better than MLS right now).

  6. Donovan borderline trolls any time he talks about the national team, but that’s to be expected. However, I was really interested to hear his thoughts on MLS, and it’s lack-of playing youth.

    MLS will continue to make greater strides, but the league will dramatically improve when the coaching improves. As we slowly filter out the pay-for-play system and it’s rigid players it’s produced, I’d love to see us filter out these amateur managers who are cut from the same cloth and hold back progress.

    Ironically, his former boss has a strong history of implementing what he deems is wrong with the league. Further proving his troll-like-nature.

    • “Trolling” is subjective. Basically people that are and were big Klinsmann fans like you take anything perceived as negative towards Klinsmann said by Donovan as trolling. People like me that soured on Klinsmann long ago will take Donovan’s comments as things that make perfect sense.

      From what I have seen the people that all of a sudden now dislike Donovan are the staunch Klinsmann fans. I’m sure you will say that the people that dislike Klinsmann the most are the ones that are Donovan fans and are still mad Klinsmann left him off the world cup. Everyone brings bias into it even though everyone likes to pretend like they aren’t biased.

      Donovan made some great MLS related points. He also basically agreed with Klinsmann that it’s better to go to Europe early on for a young player.

      • “Trolling” is subjective.

        Groundbreaking insight.

        As for the rest of your post, I didn’t see a single person mention Klinsmann. Before starting your usual odd psychoanalysis of people who disagree with you, you might want to delve into your own cranial cavity for the origin of referencing someone and inserting someone into a conversation that didn’t exist.

        Everyone brings bias into it even though everyone likes to pretend like they aren’t biased.

        More groundbreaking insight. In related news, water is wet.

      • Didn’t jurgen say the same thing about playing young players in the MLS and people gave him a hard time

        I suppose someone did reference him after all, but the facts remain: Donovan didn’t, and I didn’t and yet you brought him up for no apparent reason when addressing me as the basis of your post.

        I gather you blame Klinsmann for everything negative, as your posts reflect, but he’s not to blame for people labeling Donovan a troll or simply not liking him. I suppose it’s because you haven’t been around SBI long enough, but people have been criticizing Donovan for many years before Klinsmann entered the picture.

        Perhaps if you put down the Dr. Phil books and stopped Googling “Where’s Klinsmann today?” you might have noticed. Most of us knew water was wet already.

      • OS – Donovan was obviously referring to Klinsmann and Arena in his comments about how different managers approach communication and putting players within or outside of their “comfort zones.” Don’t be so obtuse.

      • Old School you try too hard man. Don Lamb nailed it and said what I would have responded. In the article, Donovan is clearly comparing Klinsmann and Arena. You act like you are new to SBI and don’t have a history of comments. I have been on SBI a long time and I know your history of comments along with everyone else’s and therefore I know exactly why you are calling Donovan a “troll” in response to this article. You leave pretty much the same type of comment every time there is an article where Donovan says something about Klinsmann. So go ahead with your Dr. Phil comments and play dumb but we both know I am right on this one. Deny it if you want. I wasn’t trying to say anything groundbreaking, just pointing out that Donovan is not trolling at all, you just perceive it that way.

        On another note, learn what trolling actually is. You (and some others) seem to think that someone is trolling simply because they said something you disagree with, or because they criticized someone. Nope. Trolling is specifically when a person tries to purposely cause controversy and discord by purposely starting arguments and trying to piss someone off by saying inflammatory or mocking things, with the intent of provoking an emotional response for the person’s own amusement. Show me when and where Donovan has done that.

      • Yea, you’re the king of only one thing, UCLA: piggy backing off other comments to help make your own arguments. Routinely do it in every thread and I get a kick out of it each time.

    • wow. commenting on your comment before anyone else. being condescending to those who respond. me thinks i know who the real troll is.


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