ussoccer.com: First of all, describe how it feels to be back?
Landon Donovan: “I am very excited to be back. It’s been a long year or so since I have been in. It’s exciting to be part of the team again. I am in a little bit of a different place than I was before. Jurgen has created an environment where you are really competing consistently to part of this team. And now I am very much on the outside looking in, and I’ve got to make my way back in. I look forward to it.”
ussoccer.com: It’s a very different circumstance than any time in your National Team career. What is the experience like, as you put it, being on the
outside looking in?
LD: “If I was younger, it would bring some pressure or some stress. But now, for me, it’s just an opportunity and I want to do well. I want the team to succeed here and that part for me is the most important. If I do my best and it’s not enough, then so be it. I am going to put my best foot forward. I am going to go for it, and I want to be a good leader on the team, help the team, use my experience and hopefully at the end of the month we’re lifting a trophy together and everyone has done well.”
ussoccer.com: How best do you describe your role with this group ahead of the Gold Cup?
LD: “We don’t have too many guys with too much experience at this level, so it’s a relatively young group, a relatively inexperienced group. When the games start coming and they start meaning a little more, that’s when us older guys can help and calm guys down and help everyone realize there’s a very manageable way to do things and you don’t have to be too stressed or high-strung and we can enjoy this experience. For me, this experience has always been a good one at the Gold Cup. If we come together and be a team and enjoy it, then we will be successful.”
ussoccer.com: How important is the friendly against Guatemala ahead of the Gold Cup?
LD: “The Guatemala game is very important because we have not played together. A few of the guys have been in camp with the qualifiers, but a lot of guys who are here have not played with the other guys. It’s sort of an underestimated part in all of this and it’s important. No matter how talented people are, you can’t just throw them together and have it be a team. So you need time to work on things. We’ve had some training so that helps and we’ve got a game that means something in front of a good crowd, so that will help us iron out some kinks and be ready for Gold Cup when it starts.”
ussoccer.com: Where are you in regards to your own form? How close are you to being “back”?
LD: “I am a lot closer to where I’d like to be. Part of getting older means you don’t have as much explosiveness; you’re not as dynamic as you once were, and that’s all part of it and that’s part of evolving in general. But as far as the soccer part of it goes, I am pretty close. I am excited about this opportunity to take it up a level and see how I do and how I can perform against competition that is going to be difficult. I am ready for it and know it’s going to be an exciting month.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve had a lot of experience in the Gold Cup [he is the USA’s leader in appearances in the tournament.]. What does this tournament mean
LD: “For me one of the beauties of the Gold Cup is going to places we never get to. Portland, Salt Lake, Hartford, Baltimore, and here in San Diego are places we don’t get too often, so it’s fun to go out and see people really excited to see us and have us come to their town.”
ussoccer.com: You are here with three other guys from the inaugural class of the U-17 Residency Program from 1999. What’s it like coming full circle
with DaMarcus Beasley, Kyle Beckerman, and Oguchi Onyewu?
LD: “The first day we walked in to this camp, Beas, Kyle, Gooch and I were together and we just all started looking around and we were like we’re all back [laughs]. We’ve all taken interesting paths to be in the national team, out of the national team and back in. We’ve had different club situations, and here we are 31-years-old and 15 years later from the U-17s and we all find ourselves back here, so I think we’re all excited about that. We’ve all had something inside of us that has driven us and we’ve all found ways to be successful and we’re looking forward to bringing that to this Gold Cup.”