March 23, 2007
Landon Donovan: 'Always be with the ball'

By Mike Woitalla
(From the October 2006 issue of Soccer America Magazine)

Landon Donovan didn't win titles when he was a boy, but, by age 23, Landon Donovan lifted three MLS Cups.

He won two in San Jose, scoring once in his first MLS Cup and twice in his second. Last season, he powered Los Angeles to the title with four goals and two assists in postseason play.

''Before my first MLS final, I thought to myself, 'I can't remember ever winning anything with my club teams growing up,'' says Donovan, 24, who has scored 25 goals for the USA and has played in two World Cups, U-17 and U-20 world championships, and the Olympics.

''It's amazing to me that people put so much emphasis on trying to be tactical and worry about winning when it doesn't matter when you're 12 years old,'' Donovan says. ''It's sad. That's something that's going to have to change if we want soccer in this country to develop.''

The Southern Californian credits his skill development on playing youth ball with a team comprised mostly of Latino kids coached by a man, Clint Greenwood, who ''was always focused on a lot of ball contact.''

Says Donovan: ''His theory was absolutely perfect: As a kid you need to touch the ball as much as you can. You should always be with the ball. You should have a feeling that wherever the ball is, you can do anything with it. No matter where it is, where it is on your body, how it's spinning, how it's coming at you, the speed it's coming at you, anything.

''You can learn the tactical side of the game later. We're Americans, we're athletes. But if we never learn at an early age to be good on the ball, then it's just useless.''