Landon Donovan's interview with The Post
By Matt Brooks
I had a chance to sit down with Landon Donovan on Saturday to discuss his reflections on the World Cup experience, his future in MLS and the future of the league.
Here are a few extra quotes that didn't make the story:
On meeting the internal expectations set by the team in South Africa:
"I think we're all still a little disappointed because we felt we could have done better. But I think all in all, we feel pretty proud of what we did. And I think we've been able to gauge how people took to us now that we've been home. But it does none of us any good to bask in that now that it's past us."
On the national team's improvement from 2006:
"The most telling thing for me is something that's not tangible; it's something that we all felt. We've never gone into - at least not in my two World Cups and I can't imagine before that - we've never gone into a tournament thinking 'We should advance. We have a real chance to win this group. We don't fear any of the teams we're playing against.' That's just something you feel, and I've never felt that. That means something is changing, and it means other teams see us that way too, and that's really special."
On what the team learned from its run:
"We know now that we can compete with any of these teams, no question. And it's not a 1 out of 50 times we're going to beat them. Now we have a real chance to win anytime we play these teams. It doesn't mean we're better than England or Spain or Holland or Brazil, but we have a real chance to compete with them.
"What's really impressive about those teams in particular, is the ability to put together performances like that seven times in a row. We realized we put together three pretty good performances in the first round, and actually maybe our best performance, all in all against Ghana. But to have something in you to keep advancing and finding a way to keep winning takes something that only a few teams have. You saw it last time with Italy and this time with Spain and Holland both. It's really difficult and it's a place we need to get to.
"Obviously they have more talented players on their teams, more experience, they've played in higher level games. That's one piece of it. But mentally they're very tough, those teams. And by contrast, we made a couple mistakes against Ghana and got punished for it. We have to learn that if you want to get to the next level that you have to eliminate those kind of mistakes."
On the reaction back home to the win over Algeria:
"What it did is it gave, especially young people, something special in their lives that's going to motivate them to play our sport. We don't know how many people that's going to affect, but we know that we made a lot of fans that day in particular and throughout the tournament. Over the course of time, it's going to prove to be a really important moment in our soccer history."
On his stint with Everton and the level of play in the Premiership:
"The word I use to describe that league is intensity, and it's constant. Every week, every game, every day in training forces you to be at your best. And there's no breaks. Physically, it's very demanding, but it's also a lot of fun. I learned a lot about my experience, about myself. I learned that I was capable of putting together a long number of performances in a row. And I also learned that I may still have a little ways to go to continue that throughout a year. And that's why I gained so much respect for guys like Rooney and Lampard and Gerrard, and these guys who do it 50, 60 times a year, it's incredible."
On U.S. national team players playing overseas vs. playing in MLS:
"If you can go play at Everton, if you can play at Fulham like Clint was, if you can play a little bit at Hull like Jozy was, that's great. If you're in Denmark or Norway or Sweden, you're playing a little bit or you're on the bench, that's not helping you. If you're playing in MLS every week, that's a lot better than playing a minor role on some team in Europe. So if you have the opportunity to actually play games at some of the big leagues in Europe, great. But if not, you're hindering your development by not playing games.
"Our league is damn good. Anybody who comes into this league from afar, it's always the same comment; 'I had no idea how good that league was, I had no idea how good MLS is.' For most guys, the most important thing is playing, and if you're not playing, you're not going to get better."
On the reputation of MLS around the world:
"It's sometimes difficult because you want to have a very clear identity who you are as a league. We all want this league to compete with the other sports in our country. To do that you have to keep young, talented Americans here and you also have to bring in quality players that make the league better. Now what we're seeing is that owners are starting to take more chances on big name players and bringing them in whereas in the past they didn't want to spend the money.
"It's always difficult because we're still a little bit behind as far as salaries go. And if you have an opportunity to go, you can't blame guys for wanting to make more money. So we're still a little bit behind, but we're slowly getting there. It would be a massive boost for our league to get some of (the national team players) back. We talk about it all the time as players, it's not only the Henrys and Blancos and Beckhams and Ljungbergs - it's the guys right underneath that that organically make each team a little bit better on the field. These guys are big stars that help the profile of the league, but the guys just below that actually make the league a lot better. And if we can get more guys wanting to come back here and play and we're able to pay them comparable salaries, it could help our league a lot."
July 19, 2010; 11:35 AM ET
Categories: 2010 World Cup , MLS , U.S. men's national team | Tags: Landon Donovan, MLS, United States men's national soccer team, World Cup 2010
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