Landon Donovan steps into leadership role
The days are flipping off the calendar. On Monday afternoon, the U.S. men's national team landed in Johannesburg, South Africa, 12 days in advance of its World Cup-opening match against England on June 12.
The days are flipping off the calendar.
On Monday afternoon, the U.S. men's national team landed in Johannesburg, South Africa, 12 days in advance of its World Cup-opening match against England on June 12.
On June 5, the U.S. team plays Australia in a final exhibition match. The 2010 FIFA World Cup runs from June 11 to July 11.
The United States' 23-man squad left for South Africa on Sunday, less than 24 hours after its 2-1 send-off victory over Turkey at Lincoln Financial Field.
That match, witnessed by more than 55,000, included a shaky first half, after which the Americans trailed by 1-0, and a solid second half.
The improved second half for the United States included a shift: midfielder Landon Donovan moved from the left side to the right. From there, Donovan went from nonexistent in the first half to the second half's main distributor: He assisted on both goals.
Considering that Donovan's 2006 FIFA World Cup was a disappointment, Saturday's strong send-off match could be viewed as an indication that Donovan, often criticized for his failure to assert himself, is ready for this summer's main event.
"When you watch top players around the world play tough games, it's rare that a player from start to finish is just involved the entire time," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said after Saturday's match. "The game over 90 minutes evolves in different ways. That early phase of the game is so much about establishing things and playing through the period of time where the space is tight . . . and knowing over time things will start to open up.
"Landon is smart and experienced, and he's not going to use up all his energy in the first half. He's going to read the game and see things and then know at the right time how to push. And that speaks to his intelligence as a player."
Bradley pointed out that Donovan played on both sides of midfield during last summer's Confederation Cup, a tournament in which the U.S. team finished second to powerhouse Brazil.
After Saturday's match, Donovan explained that he felt teammate Clint Dempsey, who started on the right side, might be more effective against Turkey's speedier left-side defender.
"At halftime, I told [Bradley] I would have a better matchup on the right side," Donovan said. "The guy on the left was quicker, but I thought Clint could do a better job against him. It doesn't always work out, but it did this time."
In South Africa, the U.S. team is concentrating less on fitness - the emphasis in mid-May - and more on fine-tuning the intricate parts of the game.
"We accomplished everything we wanted [before their departure], and [for] the first couple of days we need to get over that travel," Bradley said. "And then you have the chance to continue to look at some little details, sharpen up in little ways."