PHILADELPHIA — For Landon Donovan, the hiring of Jurgen Klinsmann doesn’t only mean a new coach is in charge of the United States national team.
He believes it also means a new era of American soccer is beginning.
“We’re at kind of a tipping point now where it’s time to really go for it,” Donovan said during a press conference on Tuesday, a day before the US national team’s friendly vs. Mexico at Lincoln Financial Field (9 pm ET; ESPN2, Univisión).
“We’re not worried about if Major League Soccer is going to make it or not anymore,” he continued. “We’re not worried if we have kids that are talented enough. We’ve seen now that we have players that are talented enough to play on the world stage. And we’ve got to start cultivating that more so we’re getting 50, 60, 70, 100 super-talented young kids coming in to choose from like other countries do.”
At 29 and with the next World Cup three years away, Donovan’s days of playing a prominent role for the US national team may be hitting their twilight phase. But that didn’t stop the country’s all-time leading scorer from looking to the future and painting a promising picture of what American soccer can look like with Klinsmann at the helm.
After only a couple of days, Donovan already believes the new coach has brought much-needed enthusiasm to the squad — a small first step on the stairway to prominence.
“Jurgen has very positive energy and it’s infectious,” said Donovan, who played under Klinsmann while on loan with Bayern Munich in 2009. “I think the guys have already taken to that well. As far as tactical things and style and approach to the way we play, that’s going to take a while. ... But I think the energy is good in camp and I think we’re all really excited for what’s coming the next few years.”
The feeling of excitement about Klinsmann’s fresh outlook has certainly been prevalent among the American players as they prepare for their first game under their new coach. Donovan went on to say that “something different is always good when you get into the rhythm of doing the same thing over and over,” indicating he may have believed that a change at the top was needed.
At the same time, though, Donovan felt badly for former US coach Bob Bradley, whose up-and-down tenure was highlighted by the Americans’ dramatic group-topping performance at the 2010 World Cup.
“My initial reaction was one of a little sadness and compassion for Bob,” Donovan said. “We’ve been with him for five years and when you’re with a coach that long, whether you always agree or disagree, you become close to that coach. That was a little difficult.”
But Donovan has been a professional for more than a decade and knows that change is part of the business. The only thing the attacker can do now is try to help Klinsmann continue the progression of American soccer, an all-consuming quest that began before either of them got to the national team and will continue after both of them leave.
“There are going to be new objectives, new expectations and new things to learn,” Donovan said. “And this is our first crack at it. There is a little bit of a process leading up to [World Cup] qualifying but every step is going to be important. And it starts tomorrow."