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Team USA gets in on the act with media blitz

By Kelly Whiteside, USA TODAY

For 30 days, the U.S. soccer team was in South Korea, mostly oblivious to the excitement building back home during its run to the World Cup quarterfinals. That all changed Tuesday, when seven players, along with coach Bruce Arena, spent the day on a whirlwind media tour in New York. The blitz actually began Monday afternoon when a group of players taped CBS' Late Show With David Letterman. The highlights: Landon Donovan got the coveted seat on the couch next to Dave, and Clint Mathis kicked a ball across Broadway. "I never kicked a ball almost a mile long," Mathis said.

"This is sweet," Donovan said, when he learned that actor Will Smith also was a guest. He shook Smith's hand, but "I should have gotten an autograph for my sister."

Then the group headed to CNN to be interviewed by Connie Chung on her debut show. "What a sweet lady," Donovan gushed.

Tuesday started with a 6:15 a.m. trip to NBC's Today show and an interview with Katie Couric. "Katie is a total cutie. I got to score a goal on her," Donovan said of the mock scrimmage.

An amusing moment: Couric, a University of Virginia graduate, asked Arena, a longtime coach at Virginia, about his success with the Cavaliers in the '70s, making Arena feel much older than his 50 years. (Arena arrived at Virginia in 1978 and his string of NCAA titles came in the '90s.)

"I think I had you in one of my phys ed classes," Arena joked.

"I probably flunked," Couric said.

There was an appearance on CBS' Early Show, then a stint on Liv e With Regis and Kelly. "Aren't they cute?" Kelly asked Regis.

"Great thighs," Regis responded.

Donovan's critique: "Kelly is totally hot, totally a babe. I know she's married, though."

After a trip to the ESPN Zone to tape a piece for ESPN, Donovan went to MTV's studio in Times Square to appear on Total Request Live. The other guest was singer Enrique Iglesias. Clearly, Donovan, who's 20, was in his element here.

For everyone under 20, an explanation: TRL is a daily afternoon countdown show hosted by Carson Daly and held in a studio full of screaming girls. After videos by P.O.D. and B2K and other groups those over 20 have never heard of, Daly introduced "America's newest heartthrob."

Truth is, Donovan could pass for a member of the hit boy band of the moment.

The screaming girls chanted, "U-S-A! U-S-A!" when Donovan appeared. After a brief interview, Daly asked Donovan to juggle a ball during the playing of Eminem's new video, Without Me. Truly a U.S. soccer first. With help from cameraman who retrieved the errant juggles, Donovan succeeded.

Tuesday's blitz ended when Donovan appeared on NBC's Last Call with Daly, then Donovan boarded a flight to Los Angeles for spots today on CBS' The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn and Fox's Best Damn Sports Show Period .

Though all of this has been fun, Donovan sees a purpose, too. "It's cool to see soccer represented all over," Donovan said, mentioning that morning show viewers, late night fans and the MTV crowd may not be the soccer demographic.

Thursday, it's back to work for Donovan. His team, the San Jose Earthquakes, plays Saturday.

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