In his preparations for the World Cup, LA Galaxy and US star Landon Donovan might enlist the use of a secret weapon.
Clad in a skin-tight orange-and-black jumpsuit, Donovan hailed video game giant Electronic Arts and its new EA Sports 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa video game in a promotional event on Tuesday.
And don’t forget that signature catch phrase: If it’s in the game, it’s in the game.
“Everything I just did is going to be in the game so it doesn’t get much more realistic than that,” Donovan said. “You might think this sounds a little odd but growing up I didn't have soccer on TV and I feel that playing these games helped me learn players, learn about stadiums, learn about teams. Believe it or not, I don't know every player on Slovenia's roster. I don't know every player on Algeria's roster. Playing the game, you learn some things.”
The U.S. will play Slovenia and Algeria in the group stage of the World Cup, on June 18 and 23, respectively, after opening play against England on June 12.
Donovan and US coach Bob Bradley won’t exactly prepare for the games by playing the video game into the wee hours of the morning, but any modicum of information gained is a bonus.
“You might think it's a little odd but if you can learn a few things about some players, maybe looking at different stadiums, maybe learn tendencies… these guys [EA Sports] do all the research,” Donovan said. “They know what they're doing. They follow those players and these teams more than we do up until this point so you can learn a lot.”
Donovan will play his last game with the Galaxy on Saturday before leaving for US training camp to begin his preparations for the World Cup in earnest, video game in hand or not. Donovan and 29 others were part of a roster released on Tuesday from which the final 23-man roster will be formed.
According to Donovan, the most notable roster omission fell to forward Charlie Davies, who reportedly was not medically cleared to attend the US camp by his French club, Sochaux.
“Charlie (Davies) obviously being omitted was not good for him and it was always going to be a difficult situation if he wasn’t in the roster,” Donovan said. “Aside from that, there weren't too many surprises. It was pretty much the core group of guys who have been together for a long time.”
Donovan said the biggest and perhaps only surprises were the inclusion of teammate Edson Buddle and former Galaxy teammate Herculez Gomez.
“Both were not on the radar six months ago and who did a great job and got on the team and I think they deserved it,” he said.
Donovan and Gomez teamed up to lead the Galaxy to U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup titles in 2005, with Gomez enjoying a breakthrough performance. But Gomez saw his numbers dip steadily until a recent stint with Puebla in the Mexican First Division.
“Soccer and life I guess a lot of times are about opportunities. One door closed for him and he could have pouted and felt sorry for himself but instead he went and found a new opportunity,” Donovan said. “Now he finds himself named one of the best 30 players in this country leading up to a World Cup, so I give him a lot of credit.”
The US will play England in Rustenburg in what has been a highly-anticipated match since the two teams were drawn together in early December. And while Slovenia and Algeria round a group that pundits have deemed favorable for the Americans, Donovan said the focus is on having life after the group stage, not success against England.
“Our expectations are simple - get out of our group. That's the goal, when we think of the tournament that’s what we see,” he said. “I hear a lot of the U.S. and England game. We could lose the England game and still qualify. We could win the England game and not qualify. We have to see the big picture which we will, and that's to qualify.”