2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™

2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™

11 June - 11 July

2010 FIFA World Cup™

Donovan: The making of a captain

It is hard to believe that Landon Donovan is only 25. David Beckham's playmaking partner with LA Galaxy has, after all, earned 97 caps for the USA, played in two FIFA World Cups, won three MLS and three CONCACAF Gold Cup titles, has twice been named American player of the year and recently found the time to break the long-standing US goalscoring record.

The historic moment came in minute 48 of a 19 January friendly win over Sweden in Los Angeles when the California native's measured spot kick came to rest in the back of the net, rendering Eric Wynalda's previous mark of 34 a thing of the past.

The obvious heir to Claudio Reyna as new US captain found to time to chat to FIFA.com about his new record, his new role on and off the pitch and his hopes as South Africa 2010 beckons.

FIFA.com: A lot of players like to play it cool and say that individual records don't matter. What does breaking the US record mean to you? Landon Donovan: In the overall scheme of things it is not that big a deal - we need to focus on big games and building our team. But for me, personally, it's something I'm really proud of and I know down the road it's something I am going to smile over and remember with great fondness.

I noticed after you scored the penalty, bringing your tally to 35, you immediately grabbed the ball and brought it over the touchline.
I just wanted to have it, to keep it. I want a visual reminder of that moment that I can keep in my house. I'm not going to let it go or sell it off or anything (laughs).

Have you had a chance to talk to Eric Wynalda, the man whose record you broke?
I actually ran into him at a charity game shortly after scoring the goal and he came up and told me 'congratulations' and shook my hand. You know Eric, though, he's a bit of a character and has a lot of opinions and it's hard to know what he's thinking. I wouldn't be surprised if was cursing me behind my back (laughs).

*Of your 35 for the States, can you pick out a favourite goal? * I would have said it was my first World Cup goal against Poland but we we're losing 3-0 at the time [in the first round of Korea/Japan 2002] so I couldn't really celebrate it properly. I have to say that my favourite is the goal against Mexico in the second round [of Korea/Japan]. I don't think I'll forget too many of my goals, but I am positive that I will never ever forget that one. Scoring in a win over Mexico in the World Cup is a big deal.

You wore the captain's armband against Sweden and it seems that you have been thrust into a leadership role. How do you feel about that?
My role has certainly changed a little with some of the older guys like Claudio [Reyna] and Brian [McBride] gone and [Bob] Bradley as coach. He expects a lot from me and puts a lot of pressure on me. I like it though, I don't mind it one bit.

*There are a lot of talented youngsters coming through the US ranks now like Danny Szetela, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. Do you think they look to you as an example? * It took a little while to realise that was the case, but I think it is, yeah. I can remember back to some of the established guys in the national team when I was coming up as a teenager and their example meant a lot to me. I need to play that role for these new guys.

*It seems your position on the field has changed a bit too, with you dropping back into a more withdrawn, almost midfield role. * That's true. Bob [Bradley] has me playing a little farther back. Even so, the things expected of me, like helping to create goals and move the ball around, are still the same. It's not a huge change.

With recent wins over Switzerland, South Africa and now Sweden, do you think the team is hitting the right kind of form ahead of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers this summer?
These last three results were great ones for us. We didn't play all that pretty in any one of them but we didn't struggle to scratch out the win either. We controlled the games and we played well enough.
Sweden was a tough team to play against and we were a little rusty with it being the first game of the New Year. But we handled them well.

And what about the qualifiers for South Africa 2010? You will play either Barbados or Dominica in a home/away series.
It hardly seems fair sometimes that we have to play against one of the so-called lesser teams to just get into the qualifying groups. Ourselves, and Mexico too, have proven our status in recent campaigns and we still have to go over this really tricky hurdle.

But really, you should win.
You can't take that for granted. Soccer games don't always go like you expect, or like is predicted. Anything can happen. You can hit the crossbar eight times and they can play the game of their lives and you can find yourself out before anything has even started.

That's interesting. How do you approach a game that everyone thinks you should win easily?
You need to keep a sense of urgency all the time. You need to go out with the mindset of scoring as many goals as early as you can. The longer it stays scoreless, the greater their confidence grows.

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