After a 0-0 tie with Canada in the U.S. 2006 opener, Landon Donovan sharply criticized the performance of many players, including his own. He has much better reviews of the 5-0 thumping of Norway last Sunday at Home Depot Center.
Interview by Ridge Mahoney in Carson, Calif.
SOCCER AMERICA: Was this result as good as it looked or as the scoreline would indicate?
LANDON DONOVAN: You win 5-0, and you play extremely well, and it's like, 'OK.' But to win 5-0 and dominate everywhere, [we] kept the ball, moved the ball well, got dangerous chances, defended well, got the ball back right away when it turned over. Everywhere, we played well and that's a nice feeling. ... I was extremely impressed with how everyone came back this week.
SA: How severely did that tension about a pending World Cup affect the team against Canada?
LD: There were a lot of guys who were too excited, too nervous because you know what's at stake. This week we got a lot better in training on the ball, a lot more comfortable on the ball. We got over that hump of being out of it for so long, so guys played relaxed. And that's how you have to play, you have to play happy and relaxed and have fun. You saw that [against Norway].
SA: The U.S. played with three in midfield and three forwards against Canada, with you ostensibly on the right side. Against Norway in a 4-4-2 with you supporting the two forwards and Kerry Zavagnin behind you, everything clicked right way. Why such a drastic difference?
LD: This [Home Depot Center] is a big field, so the key is keeping the ball and being patient. We have a tendency when we get anywhere near the goal, we try to find that path all the time. We still make mistakes, but the more patient we were, the more patient we were building up, that's where we got our best chances.
I think Bruce [Arena] likes me behind two forwards so I can get the ball to them, get service to them, help build the game when we need it. Last week [against Canada] I was getting the ball too deep. [Against Norway] I tried to stay out of there and let Kerry make the game more. I need to be closer to the forwards so I can do what I'm good at. Instead of me going back and being in an easy position, I was a lot higher and it made it harder for them [Norway] to make decisions.
The back line could play through [Zavagnin]. He was available, he could turn and go the other way, get it back again. We need someone like that. We don't need someone hitting a 30-yard ball forward every time.