For the fourth time in his illustrious career, Landon Donovan is going to the FIFA World Cup™. The veteran midfielder played a key role in the USA’s 2-0 victory over CONCACAF arch-rivals Mexico on Tuesday night, creating the Americans’ first goal and scoring the second one from close range.
Donovan, who took a self-imposed sabbatical from football last winter to deal with some personal issues, returned to the national fold in the CONCACAF Gold Cup with flying colours this summer and to the USA’s qualifying campaign last Friday in their 3-1 loss in San Jose, Costa Rica.
After the 31-year-old Donovan and his teammates handed El Tri their fourth consecutive 2-0 loss at Columbus Crew Stadium, they remained in the locker-room to watch the end of Honduras’ 2-2 home draw with Panama. That result clinched a seventh consecutive FIFA World Cup berth for Jurgen Klinsmann’s Americans, and FIFA.com was on hand to share the moment.
You’ve beaten Mexico and you’re into the FIFA World Cup again. Can you describe your emotions?
Landon Donovan: Most of all, I feel proud. I guess this team just keeps doing it over and over. I've only been a part of it [this qualifying campaign] for a short time now. Obviously, the bulk of the credit goes to the guys who have put in so much work. But it’s really fun to be a part of it. This certainly never gets old.
What was it like in the locker-room watching Honduras and Panama on TV before knowing that you’d qualified?
A little nervy. The assumption was that regardless of what happens we're going to qualify, but you want it to be finalised. We saw Panama score [an equaliser] at the end, and got a little nervous. But once they blew the final whistle, then everyone was just excited to be going to Brazil.
How have the last couple of games been for you?
It's been really fun to be a part of this team and see the growth of it. There's are so many guys who can step in and do a good job. We were missing a handful of guys [four were out suspended and Michael Bradley missed through injured] and we didn't miss a beat. I'm real proud about it, really excited for the guys who hadn't had a chance to qualify for a World Cup and haven't had a chance to go to a World Cup. It's nice to be a part of it.
There have been four 2-0 wins against Mexico in qualifying at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. You've been a part of three of them. What is it about the ground?
You could see it when we came in the stadium. It was rocking already. That was a real atmosphere. That's what we face when we go play away on the road. And it’s nice that other teams have to face it when they come here. We enjoy playing in front of a crowd like that. They certainly boosted us against Mexico and it was great to do it in front of them.
Does the game hold a special meaning for you?
Yeah, these games are always fun. I remember the game in 2001' in Foxboro [outside Boston], when Joe-Max [Moore] scored the penalty and we qualified. I remember the game in Honduras well when we qualified [in 2009]. These games are fun to be part of. There's no guarantee that you will get this again. I hope everyone appreciates it and enjoys it.
The US scored first. As a team, did you sense something change in the Mexicans in their response?
Absolutely. They looked relatively timid and shy throughout. I've never seen a Mexico team look that way. When we scored a goal, it was pretty clear that we were either going to get a second or a third or it was going to end 1-0. It was nice to be able to beat them.
Was there a moment in the last year that you doubted you were going to experience a moment like this again?
Yeah, there was. But I firmly believe that life happens the way it's supposed to and I'm meant to be here right now. So I'm glad to be a part of it.
What do you think of the job Jurgen [Klinsmann] has done? What has been the key to his success? His first year the team struggled as he was figuring things out.
I think any time you have a new coach there's a learning curve, no question. I think the best thing he has done is creating lots competition. So every time you step on the field, you have to perform or you're not going to step on the field the next time. It's not in a pressure way. It's in an accountability way. If you do not do well and not perform, you might not play the next game. So it's been good for everybody to feel that.