I remember when I first brought Landon into National Team camp in October of 2000. What made me think he was ready to be there were his youth and his attacking qualities: speed, endurance, and his confidence in taking on players and being aggressive. He was a breath of fresh air in a U.S. player pool that lacked a lot of quality at the attacking end of the field. Landon and DaMarcus Beasley, as they were coming through in that period of time, were a breath of fresh air and clearly players we had to take a look at.
At that stage of his career, Landon was a real good kid off the field; he managed himself well. I’ve said this many times, but my first impression of Landon in 1997 wasn’t a good one. However, once I got to know him, he was obviously a good kid. He was a confident kid and a confident player and he demonstrated that on and off the field, but he was very respectful of the older players and knew where he fit in on the team.
A few things still stick out in my mind from Landon’s performance at the 2002 World Cup. He was a truly outstanding player; wherever we played him, he made us better. At times we paired him with Brian McBride, at times he played in the midfield, but I think what I’ll always remember is that we witnessed a young man becoming a star and it was exciting to see. He is probably one of the first Americans that you could really see a big future ahead for him.
When I put Landon in for the first game against Portugal, I remember pulling aside him and DaMarcus – I hate to pair them together, but for me during that period of time they were fairly similar in a lot of ways having come up through the U-17 program in Bradenton. I just told them, ‘Guys, you’re starting tomorrow against Portugal.’ They didn’t blink an eye and got on with the business. I’m sure as they walked away they were a little nervous, but these were guys who were really confident in their experiences and successes internationally. With the U-17s they were confident they could play with anybody, so they were raring to go and they demonstrated in that opening game that they belonged on the field.
I’ve said before that being so young they didn’t know any better, so the stakes didn’t faze them. There’s no question they had a confidence and brashness that made some of the veteran players, who you have to remember had a lot of scar tissue built up from the 1998 World Cup, take note. We entered 2002 with memories of September 11 and the 1998 World Cup, which put a lot of mental stress on the players, but Landon saw through some of that, so he and DaMarcus gave our team a real boost.
When we played Mexico in the Round of 16, Landon scored a great goal. It’s been 12 years since then, but I recall how we got the ball to John O’Brien who picked out Eddie Lewis. If there was anyone who could cross the ball in front of goal, it was Eddie Lewis, and if there’s anyone who could get on the end of a cross, it was Landon. Landon’s run out of the midfield on that play was spectacular. I think he ran probably 40 yards and outran most of the Mexican team to score a goal that sealed the game for our team. It was one of the great counterattack goals we had and obviously a huge goal in the competition.
It was exciting to see him emerge out of that World Cup, having had that kind of success and go on to cap off a wonderful career in MLS and with the U.S. National Team. The 2002 World Cup was his stage where he showed the world he was a quality player.
After his performance at that World Cup I knew he had the potential to be a great player. I didn’t know where he’d end up and could not have dreamed that he’d base a large majority of his career in the United States, but that’s what he wanted to do. Now 12 years later we look back and see all he’s accomplished: he’s scored the most goals in the history of MLS, he’ll probably end up having the most assists in league history, he’s done the same with the National Team, and he’s been to three World Cups. He’s accomplished everything an American player at this point in time can accomplish.
Now he feels it’s the right time for him to step away, so I’m real happy for Landon and real proud to have been associated with him all these years. We honor him as a great player and a great person.
Ever wondered what a day in the life of a U.S. Women’s National Team player is like? We followed WNT goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris to get an inside look at a day inside WNT training camp, a day that included a weight session and on-field practice.
After a grabbing a quick coffee, the busy day starts early for Harris and the WNT, as they are headed to a weight lifting, the first of two trainings sessions that day.
“The bus ride is always total shenanigans with the people I sit around with. Usually that group is Allie Long, Megan Rapinoe and Ali Krieger. It’s just fun and good vibes heading into our workout.”
First stop of the day: weightlifting. The WNT usually spends about 90 minutes at the gym, and each player has a specialized workout sheet that is tailored to their needs.
“At lifting I usually spend time on my shoulders and continue to strengthen my back; things I need as goalkeeper. Every day I hit the ground, so I have to make sure my arms are strong. Shoulder strength and shoulder stability are key to make sure my arms are moving well and to prevent any injuries.”
As the team exits the gym, several fans await them by the bus and most players, including Harris, stop to sign a few autographs and pose for a few selfies.
“It’s always just really cool to stop and have a chat with the younger generation after or before training sessions. They’re just awesome.”
“Our van leaves the hotel about 45 minutes before the field players whenever we go to the training. I always have a pre-training and pre-game routine of taping my fingers and hands. It’s a personal preference and to be honest, I’ve always done it. Being at training earlier helps us get some good stretching in, stay focused and it allows us to nail down techniques and work individually and collectively as a small group before we jump in with everyone else.”
For afternoon training, Harris, along with Alyssa Naeher and Jane Campbell, as well as goalkeeper coach Graeme Abel, all pile into a team van and head to training earlier than the field players to spend some time working on their technique and specific areas before the rest of the team arrives.
“Alyssa and I have very good communication and no one has a better view or can critique one another better than each other. If we see something we tell each other and help each other out.”
After training, the players all cool down, chat with each other, hydrate and reflect on the session they just completed.
“We tend to immediately grab our protein shakes. We talk about the day, what we saw on the field, what we can fix, what wasn’t good, what was good and we just overall critique the game in every way we can to become better.”
“Once we’re back in the hotel, it’s all about treatment. Like true professionals, we must take care of our bodies and be responsible to get the treatment we need. Our bodies take a beating from all the impact at training so we take care of it to do it all over again the day after.”