Athlete Q&A: USMNT Star Landon Donovan

Athlete Q&A: USMNT Star Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan is the all-time leading scorer for the U.S. men’s national soccer team, Major League Soccer’s all-time leader in regular-season goals, and has played in three World Cups. Oh, and there’s this goal from the 2010 World Cup that propelled the USMNT into the mainstream sports world. Donovan recently spoke with Men’s Fitness about his role in the 2014 World Cup, the rise of soccer in the U.S., and the importance of looking good off the turf. 

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Men’s Fitness: What role would you like to play at the World Cup?
Landon Donovan: “Any player wants to be a part of the World Cup in any capacity. For those of us who’ve been there before, we want to help the team reach success any way we can. That’s what I’m hoping to do. You want to play as much as you can, but at the end of the day you want your team to succeed.”

How will your training change going into the World Cup?
Training for the World Cup has changed for me over the years. I focus more on visualizing the opponent, so I know exactly what I’ll be doing. When I was younger, my body was capable of more and it was more hours of work each week in the gym and on the field. At this point, it’s more about maintaining the ability to stay fit, sharp, and mentally prepared.”

Run us through a typical day of training in preparation for the World Cup.
“In the last few years, I’ve taken to Pilates because I like it and it’s beneficial for me. It works different muscles then we’re used to working. I spend more time looking at other teams and preparing for other teams than I did in the past. When I was younger, it was just about getting myself ready, but now it’s about preparing for the opponent.”

What gym exercises make you a better player on the field?
“You want to do things that are soccer-specific. It might look better physically to do things like bench-pressing, but movements that are more related to what we do are exercises for the hip flexors, core, and glutes that strengthen the areas where running happens. I make those areas as strong as possible so they’re able to perform. The TRX and Swiss balls are helpful in using your core to your advantage.” 

What are your favorite drills to do on the field?
“I’ve been an attacking player my whole career, so any time I get a chance to get in front of the goal and work on shooting and scoring goals, that’s preferred. After training with the team, I shoot and pass in front of the goal so it feels natural when it happens in a game.”

What is your greatest strength as a player?
“My creativity. I’m the type of player that sees the field and reads the game well and I have the ability to affect the game in the attacking half of the field. Whether it’s passing, dribbling, shooting, or running at people, being aggressive and making plays happen has been the best part of my game.”

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What will be the keys to success for the U.S. national team in the World Cup?
“Our biggest strength is that we are a team. Our spirit, camaraderie, and chemistry have always been going for us. Now that we’ve become more of a soccer nation, we’re able to couple that with talented players that can make special plays. When you have those two things combined, you have a chance to succeed, and that’s what we’re hoping for.”

How has soccer become more appealing in the U.S.?
“Time has contributed to that. Soccer has always been a popular sport amongst our youth, but it’s about taking it from being a popular sport to play to being a popular sport overall. Nowadays kids are completely engaged in what we’re doing. You have to develop a fan base, have children growing up and influencing their children and eventually you become a soccer nation. That’s what has happened with other sports in this country and we’re on the same path.”

How would you describe your personal style?
“I have an athletic style in the sense that what’s comfortable is what’s best for me. Over the years, I’ve realized that it is important to dress well in certain situations. If it’s comfortable and it doesn’t look good, I’ll wear it. If it’s comfortable and it does look good, I’ll wear it too. Fortunately, I’ve had people in my life help me out with that so I can wear what is comfortable and still look pretty good.”

Tell us about your partnership with Neutrogena.
“It’s been a really nice fit because it’s a comfortable and simple way to improve my skin care. It’s very easy to neglect your skin but especially as athletes and entertainers, we all have some vain bones in our body, so we want to look good and feel good.” 

Why is it important for athletes to pay attention to skin care?
“When you look good and feel healthy, you play and feel better. Male athletes can be negligent and we think that it’s OK to use whatever soap they have in the locker room in the shower after training. We don’t realize there are other simple alternatives like Neutrogena Men’s Invigorating Face Wash, which is going to be a lot better for your body in the long run.”

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
“I love spending time with my family and two beautiful dogs. When I’m done playing, I’ll probably do a lot of golfing, playing tennis, and spending time at the beach. For now, I’m focused on soccer.”

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