Donovan stresses "massive opportunity" for US

Man of the moment thrilled with result, but not satisfied yet

IRENE,
South Africa – It’s been a difficult journey for Landon Donovan, as he
explained Wednesday night while tearing up after the US’ victory over Algeria.

And
he’s not about to let it go.

Donovan
says he has never been more prepared for a tournament than for this World Cup,
and the US star is keenly aware that the planets may be aligning ahead of the
team’s Round of 16 match against Ghana.

“It’s
not a failure if we don’t win Saturday,” Donovan told reporters at US base camp
on Thursday. “But there’s such a massive opportunity to do something so much
more special. And I really want to emphasize that to everybody and make sure we
understand that.”

The
US is ravenously following this World Cup like never before, thanks to ESPN’s massive
promotion and the Americans’ flair for the dramatic so far in the tournament.
Donovan’s decisive goal against Algeria was celebrated from coast to coast, and
has been fodder for non-traditional media outlets from The Colbert Report to TMZ.com.

Donovan
said he’s aware of the sensation back home, and also of the path opening up
ahead of the Americans to add to the drama. Should the US defeat Ghana, they
will reach the quarterfinals for the second time since 2002, the furthest they
have advanced in a modern World Cup. That would set up a clash between the
winner of Uruguay and South Korea in the semifinals, which would be an epic
achievement.

“We’ve
always said [our goal was to] get out of our group and we’d go from there,”
Donovan continued. “Now we feel like we can compete and beat any team in the
world. Saturday happens to be Ghana; we’re going to throw everything we can at
them.”

To
a degree, Donovan thinks the pressure is off the US now that they have advanced
to the knockout rounds. And the goal becomes far simpler, he said.

“It’s
one game,” he explained. “You lose and you go home. There’s no ramifications of
other games, other results, anything else – you just worry about Saturday’s
game.”

And
from there, Donovan continued, “Every game is like a final. I just can’t
emphasize enough how big this opportunity is, and we need to take advantage of
it.”

MLSsoccer.com managing editor Jonah Freedman is in South Africa all this month.