LANDON DONOVAN Q&A: A Chat With the Breakout Star of This Year's World Cup
He's a star for the San Jose Earthquakes in Major League Soccer, he helped propel the United States to its best showing in recent history in this year's World Cup, and he's on the cover of FIFA Soccer 2003.
Oh yeah -- he's only 20 years old.
Landon Donovan has done more in the last year of his soccer career than most players do in a lifetime. Only 18 months ago, he was known only as an up-and-coming forward that could end up being one of the best U.S.-born players ever. Now, he's recognized as a force in American soccer, both in MLS and on the national team, and he's one of the players that the U.S. squad will turn to as they look to expand upon their success in the World Cup.
No stranger to video games, Donovan felt right at home when he visited the EA SPORTS offices to film some television spots. We sat down and talked with him about his still-burgeoning career, his World Cup experience, and more.
EA SPORTS: How do you rate the popularity of soccer in the United States following the success of the U.S. team in this yearís World Cup?
Landon Donovan: Itís grown tremendously. After the World Cup in '94, that was a good step for usÖ there were a lot of people in the stadiums, but it wore off. 1998 was a step back. But leading up to the World Cup, and the World Cup this year, was huge for us, and weíll see what happens.
EA SPORTS: Do you think that Major League Soccer can succeed in the future based on the interest generated from this World Cup?
Landon Donovan: Theyíre going to finance [MLS] at least another five years, which is great. I think when there are stadiums built in each city -- or there is a stadium that we own, that we can control, that we can control the revenues and have concerts and other things -- thatís going to be the biggest stepping-stone for us to say "weíre a league, we have twenty thousand fans coming and thereís ticket demand."
Landon Donovan: Itís hard, you know. They get excited about the World Cup, because itís the U.S. and thereís a lot of pride. As far as the league goes, itís hard because people just arenít as aware of the league as weíd like them to be. I think if we keep performing, not only at the World Cup but at the Olympics, and we keep doing well, sooner or later theyíll start coming out.
EA SPORTS: Do you think youíll stay in MLS? Do you feel bound to it, in a way, or do you want to move to Europe?
Landon Donovan: Iím loyal. Itís been great for me -- itís the single best thing thatís ever happened to my soccer career, playing here. I donít know if Iíll stay forever, but I wouldnít mind. Weíll see.
EA SPORTS: Did you get a sense of how excited people in America were over you guys while you were in Korea?
Landon Donovan: Not really. I got a lot of emails, and various people saying "you guys are the talk of everything right now, youíre all over the news, youíre all over the media," but we had no idea. We just expect what weíre used to. But when I got back, I kinda realized, and it was like "wow!"
EA SPORTS: How difficult was the loss to Germany for you guys?
Landon Donovan: It was bitter, because some of the other games I donít think we necessarily played very well, and we ended up winning. That game, I thought we played really well -- I think it was our best game of the tournament -- and you lose.
EA SPORTS: There were a lot of young players on the U.S. World Cup squad. At what level do you see yourself reach in four years, at the 2006 World Cup in Germany?
Landon Donovan: Theoretically, itís scary -- in a good way. We have so many good players. Who knows? Iím hoping for the bestÖ and I think now with the experience behind us, that weíve done well and won games and have succeeded in the World Cup, we can impose that on the younger players next time around. We should be good.
EA SPORTS: Whatís it like being on the cover of FIFA Soccer 2003?
Landon Donovan: Once things started happening [in my career], my friends would always say "when are you gonna be in the game?" because we played constantly Ė Iíve played FIFA my whole life. Now that Iím going to be on the cover, itís gonna be nuts. Itís so cool.
EA SPORTS: How does FIFA Soccer 2003 stack up to the previous versions of FIFA that youíve played?
Landon Donovan: Itís great. As always, itís more and more real. There are just little things that are different, that are a lot better and more realistic. For instance, in the past, whenever you made a pass, it always found someone. Now, if you donít put it right on their foot, it will just go out of bounds. In the past it would just go to the nearest player. Thatís just one instance, but there are a lot of cool things theyíve done to make it realistic.
EA SPORTS: How did the World Cup change your life?
Landon Donovan: Not tremendously, which is probably good, because you want to be secure and grounded and not be affected by it too much. It just let me know personally that I could succeed at that level, and I think that was good for me.
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