The US national team could reach its peak performance levels in Brazil this summer, and a few moments of brilliance from Portuguese megastar Cristiano Ronaldo could send them home early just the same.
That's the frank message from Landon Donovan this week, as he shared his outlook on the USMNT's daunting World Cup opponents in an in-depth interview with ESPNFC.com, the latest in the LA Galaxy icon's recent string of impressive media hits.
“There are realities, right?” Donovan told ESPNFC's Jeff Carlisle when asked what the US had to do to advance out of their “Group of Death” placement alongside Ghana, Portugal and Germany. “So Cristiano Ronaldo, I’m guessing, earns more than our whole team combined. He is, from a value standpoint, worth more than our whole team combined, if someone bought him versus our players on the open market.
“You can’t ignore that. It’s not an excuse, but it’s reality. He’s a special player and a special talent. We could play an amazing game against Portugal, and he could pull off two plays that only he can pull off, and we could end up losing. So what has to happen is we have to play well, no question.”
Donovan's overall attitude was hardly doom and gloom, however, as he emphasized his belief that the USMNT is primed to play its best soccer when it truly counts.
“If we play very well, are we capable of beating Ghana? Yes. Are we capable of beating Portugal? Yes. Are capable of beating Germany? Yes,” he said. “We have to play well, and we have to force them to not play well. That all ties into it. If we do that, we can advance.
“I think our team is ready for that, and is excited for that. I can’t imagine a scenario where we go into the World Cup and don’t play well,” he added. “I think we’re going to play well. Now, does it mean we advance? Not necessarily, but I think we’re going to go for it.”
Those were just a few of the intriguing thoughts shared by the longtime USMNT standout, who delved deeper into the topic of his career reaching its conclusion, including the prospect of retirement, how he copes with his waning physical attributes and his hindsight perspectives on his star-crossed stints in the German Bundesliga.
“I feel really at peace," he told ESPNFC. "I’m enjoying playing, and leading and learning different things. I think the crazy edge is off a little bit. I’m still competitive, I still want to get on the field, I want to win. Now I’m just sort of more even-keeled about it all. I do my best, I try to help the team win as much as I can, but I realize there’s a lot I can’t control. So if a result doesn’t go our way on a given day, it’s not the end of the world.”