CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan may not have bagged a goal during the U.S. National Team’s 2-0 victory over Korea Republic on Saturday at StubHub Center, but the match was an incredibly meaningful one for the LA Galaxy attacker for deeper means.
The match marked the first time in nearly three years that Donovan served as the captain for the U.S. National Team. The last time that Donovan served as the captain during the U.S. team’s 1-0 defeat to Paraguay in March of 2011. Prior to that match, Donovan led the U.S. during their iconic 3-0 victory over Egypt in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa. During the match against Egypt, Donovan served as a major engine for the U.S. attack, an effort that he duplicated against Korea.
On Saturday, across a complete 90 minute shift, Donovan frequently tested the Korean defense from his spot in the center of midfield and aided in the buildup of Chris Wondolowski’s final goal of the evening. However, even though the win was important for Donovan, the chance to serve as captain again made the day truly special.
“It was very nice. I really enjoyed it. I liked being a part of the group this month—a lot of eager, excited players and I think I really took on the leadership in the right way and I wanted to do that. I was very honored to have the armband,” said Donovan. “I don’t know the statistics but throughout my career, when I wear the armband I would guess I play significantly better. I take that role very seriously. I take it professionally and again, someone can do the stats, but I think our team record is probably pretty good when it happens.”
The statistics truly back up the Galaxy attacker’s claims as the Americans boast an impressive 11-3-4 record with Donovan as captain.
Donovan continued that trend of strong play with the arm band as he was able to routinely challenge the Koreans through his crisp distribution and well-timed runs that likes of Wondolowski, Graham Zusi and Brad Davis in dangerous positions. Where he needed to be crisper was in the final third as he failed to test the Korean goalkeeper, but he racked up an assist in the 60th minute for a back-heel pass to Wondolowski, who fired the ball into the back of the net.
Even though the goal never came for Donovan, Zusi lauded his impact on the pitch.
“It’s great. I love playing with Landon. He makes people better and he had a part in both of the goals tonight as well. I love being on the same field with him and what it comes down to is just wanting the team to succeed,” said Zusi. “It’s easy to play with him…He seems to slow the game down when he gets the ball and he’s so good at involving other people around him.”
Now Donovan will turn his attention to a Galaxy side in the beginning stages of preseason preparation, but before he changes gears, he couldn’t help but reflect on a job well done for the U.S.
“We wanted to take this opportunity in a friendly to have confidence and try to play,” said Donovan. “We could go to Brazil and sit back for three games, for 90 minutes, and pray we get results but that’s not how we’re going to progress as a soccer nation. So we’re going to go with the confidence to play.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com