The Courageous Podcast with Ryan Berman

Landon Donovan - USMNT All-Time Leading Scorer

Episode Summary

57 USMNT goals. 58 USMNT assists. 6 MLS Championships. 3 FIFA World Cups. 1 dramatic extra-time 2010 World Cup goal against Algeria that sent America through to the final 16. Landon Donovan is a name that needs no introduction to American soccer fans. On this episode of The Courageous Podcast, Landon calls into Ryan Berman on his way to Qatar. He shares what his next two weeks will be like, which American player he perceives will have the most courageous World Cup performance and, finally, he'll give his prediction for which team he believes will end up hoisting the coveted World Cup Gold Trophy.

Episode Notes

57 USMNT goals. 57 USMNT assists. 3 World Cups. 1 dramatic extra-time World Cup goal against Algeria that sent America through to the final 16 in 2010. Landon Donovan is a name that needs no introduction to American soccer fans. On this episode of The Courageous Podcast, Landon literally joins Ryan on his way to Qatar. He shares what his next two weeks will be like, which American player he perceives will have the most courageous performance for Team USA and his predictions for which team he believes will end up hoisting the coveted World Cup Gold Trophy.  

Episode Transcription

Landon Donavan 0:18  

One ball in the first minute of that one play could be the difference. You have to understand that everything is magnified in that way, and then the way you really have to get that across is you never know which moment is going to be the moment that's the most crucial.


(Intro music 0:35-0:42)


Ryan Berman  0:42  

We are now just days away from the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and productivity all across the world is going to screech to a halt when the first match kicks off this Sunday, November, 20th between Qatar or Qatar, depending on where you are in the world, and Ecuador.  If you're an American, and you're into American football, versus what the world calls football, the actual football. To put this into context, our last NFL Super Bowl, Super Bowl 56 between the Rams and the Bengals, there were 208 million people who stopped what they were doing to watch. The 2018 World Cup final between France, and Croatia, and Russia, if I might add for extra politics, was viewed by 1.1 billion with a ‘B’ people. The World Cup, which is granted, it's a month-long tournament, had over 3.5 billion people watching it. Now, if you're an American soccer fan, then my guest today needs no introduction. He's played in three World Cups, scored, quite arguably, the greatest goal in American history. His 2010 goal in extra time against Algeria that sent America through in their group. I believe you're still the leading goal scorer, and assist giver of all time; number 10, Landon Donovan. Good morning, my friend. How are you?


Landon Donovan  2:01  

I’m doing great. Thanks for the info, or the intro, sorry. That was quite spectacular, and I appreciate that.


Ryan Berman  2:09  

So, if you're hearing a little bit of grogginess on the other side, it's because Landon is… You're on your way to the airport, you're actually in a car, right? Going up to LA.


Landon Donovan 2:18

Oh, Yeah.


Ryan Berman 2:20

Are you…



Landon Donovan  2:21  

Yes, in the car on the way to LA, in on a 16-hour flight and head to, literally, the other side of the world. I think that's an 11 hour time difference. So yeah, I am really pumped, really excited. It’s going to be a long track, but I'm excited to get there and get going.


Ryan Berman  2:40  

I'm assuming you have a nice middle seat and couch, is that where they put you?


Landon Donovan  2:45  

(Laughs) I hope not. If that is the case, I might not be going.


Ryan Berman  2:50  

All right. Landon, you're a bit like a Johnny Cash song, and what I mean by that is, since the age of 16, soccer has taken you everywhere, right? You've been all over the world, you’ve played. A lot of times, US Soccer was like there's a ticket waiting for you here, you're going to play in the Pan Am Games, or the Olympics, and you're in New Zealand, and you're in Australia, and you're in South Korea. But have you ever been to Qatar before? And if yes, are you excited about it? If it's your first time, what do you think it's going to be like?


Landon Donovan  3:16  

I have never been. I'm excited to go and see the country. I think World Cups are unique in that you don't see the country for what it normally would otherwise be because everyone's going to put on their best face, right? So, you think about Russia; 2014. Brazil at the time in… 2018 in  Russia, and 2014 in Brazil. There's always stuff going on. There are always issues, controversial issues, etc. In South Africa, in 2010, everyone was worried about the violence. But generally, what happens is everyone puts aside all of the bad parts of life and come together for a month to celebrate. So, it's not going to be probably what Quarter is normally, otherwise known as, it's going to be the best version, which is, I think, good for everybody because you get to see a new part of the world being exposed to, like you said,  billions of people. And it's a big opportunity for them to put on their best face and show what they can do. So, I think it's going to be really fun.


Ryan Berman  4:24  

All right. Let's start in the obvious place which is, are you excited to see your real team; Mexico play in the World Cup?


Landon Donovan  4:32  

(Laughs) I will get to see Mexico at some point because I believe we have a Mexico game, but no, my excitement and everything is surrounded around how we're going to do, how the US is going to do. And I have a dash of optimism that we're going to do well, but I just don't know if the young team that hasn't exactly stormed into the tournament, firing on all [Inaudible 5:05]. So, I hope that in [Inaudible 5:07], iron out some issues and be ready to go.


Ryan Berman  5:13  

All right, just for people that are not huge American fans except for when the World Cup comes around. Let's at least explain this Mexico knock. So, back in 2018 -- we'll knock this out really fast -- US is not in the World Cup. You do this Wells Fargo partnership. Why don't you take it from here? How did it come up, and why did people take this the wrong way, I guess?


Landon Donovan  5:40  

People always take things the wrong way, as you know, Ryan. It preceded 2018. For years, I've been a partner of Wells Fargo, they've been really good partners, to me. And, before the World Cup, the US were not participating. So, we're trying to come up with creative ways to get an American audience to still pay attention and watch, and support the game, which matters to all of us. The sport matters to all of us. I grew up in Southern California, I grew up an hour, or so, from the border. And if you live in Southern California, you know the influence that Mexico and Mexicans have on us, and I am not shy about saying that I also want them to do well. And anybody else in our region who is competing in a World Cup now, with a lot of people. Recent nationalist movements across the world, a lot of people didn't take kindly to me supporting one of our biggest rivals, our biggest rival in the World Cup, but I'm okay with that. I'm at peace with it. And we don't have to agree on everything, but I do support them and want them to do well. And that holds true for this World Cup too, and going forward.


Ryan Berman  6:57  

Yeah. I think also, if you unpack your career. From the age of 16, I think, your very first game ever against Mexico, to your first US 70 cap, all you've done is torch Mexico, by the way. Like, [?Dosey Sero?] started, I think… Well, probably started before your goal in 2002. But every big match that you've played against Mexico, I think you've done fairly well here, no?


Landon Donovan  7:22

Yeah. To be clear, every time I stepped on the field against them, I was not rooting for them, and scored many goals against them and beat them many times. When you step on the field, nobody [Inaudible 7:37]. But when you take a step back, I do want us to all do well. And I want soccer to do well in the country, and across this region. So that's what's important to me.


Ryan Berman  7:52  

All right. Let's talk about your next few weeks. So, first of all, I think you're there for at least two weeks, maybe longer. But if you take us behind the curtain of what you think life is going to be like… And again, Landon, you're wearing many labels. You've been a player, you've now been a manager, you're going to go over there and you're going to commentate. Is it easy for you to stay focused on…  You've compartmentalized and stayed focused on the job at hand, or do you allow your mind to play a little bit and go back and reminisce to what it was like to being a player?


Landon Donovan  8:26  

I don't know until I get there. To be honest, this is the first time since 94 that I will experience a World Cup in person, but I'm not playing. So, it's going to be a little unique for me in that way. I'm really excited about it because, one; the job I have, and I use that in quotes, is really cool. I get to be with one of those play-by-play soccer commentators in the world, and call games on Fox when I go. But still, when I'm not doing that, I get to just go experience the tournament for the first time as an adult without playing in it. And that part I'm really excited about. The World Cup is so unique in that way, and there's so many people in so many different parts of the world that come together. And it’s just a huge party for a month, and I'm excited to live that as well.


Ryan Berman  9:18  

So, can you talk about what you think the next few weeks are going to be like? How much time are you working with people in the studio or producers? Has that part already happened? What's it like?


Landon Donovan  9:30  

Yeah. So, when I arrive tomorrow at some point, we have a couple of days of prep where we have meetings, and seminars, and things to get us ready. Then the tournament starts, I believe, on Sunday.


Ryan Berman  9:47



Landon Donovan  9:48

If I’m correct.


Ryan Berman  9:48



Landon Donovan  9:49

And then, for us, we start working. Well, I start working on Monday, and so, what it'll look like on a day-to-day basis is there are three… We call it three different types of shows. One is the games, the actual games, there'll be four games a day starting Monday through the first two weeks of the tournament. And then, in between each game, there will be a show, like an hour-long show in a studio about, I think, nine to 12 days. And then, being on the set in between other games, then the last show is what's called the ‘World Cup Tonight’ show. And that will air later in America, but that's basically a recap of everything that happened. A little more lighthearted and fun recap of what happened during the day. So, I could be on all… I could be on a game, in the studio, in between, and on World Cup tonight. Be on two of the three, one of the three, or none of the three. But basically, every day is going to have more of my face than anybody wants to see. And there'll be a lot of us analyzing and broadcasting and talking about what's going on.


Ryan Berman  11:03  

A lot of your old teammates. You've played in three World Cups, so maybe this is inevitable, but a lot of your old teammates are going to be there doing what they do. I know Modou, I know he's going to be there, I believe, commentating. Obviously, coach Gregg Berhalter, you guys played together in 02. Did you guys also play together in 06?


Landon Donovan  11:23

02 only.


Ryan Berman  11:24  

Okay. So, is it just fun to stumble into your old teammates? So, you guys all obviously live across the country, and now, probably the world, but, like, fun to stumble in and just sort of shoot the shit? Or, do you kind of go back to where when you guys were teammates, just pick right back up where you left off? Or, does it really depend on who you're talking to?


Landon Donovan  11:43  

Yeah, no. I'm really excited about that part. And the reason why Qatar is so unique is everything’s centralized within like 10, or 15, or 20-mile radius. So, all the stadia, all that hotel, all the entertainment, everything is right there. And generally, in a World Cup, you think about Brazil and Russia, you can be in a six or seven-hour flight away from one part of the country where the World Cup is going on. So, what's unique about this is everyone is going to be centralized. So, I'm going to get to run into lots of former teammates, lots of people I've played against in all different walks of life. Lots of soccer executives, lots of fans that I've met, and now, throughout the years, friends of mine. Everyone is going to be in the same spot. So, it's going to be really cool.


Ryan Berman  12:32  

Now, let's talk about this particular team, this US team. You already mentioned it that you're cautiously optimistic. I'm an optimist, so I'm kind of right there with you. But, to me, success seems from a lot of us, “Please get out of the group,” right? It’s, like, let's get out of the group. Do you feel like that's the right ask, you think this team should be able to get out of the group?


Landon Donovan  12:57  

That is the indicator of success for us, though. I hope we get to a point sooner rather than later where there's an expectation that we'll get out of the group, but we're still not there. So, for now, that's the indicator of success. I do think we can. I do think we will, but I think it all comes down to the first game is so important for us. Any World Cup, the first game is crucial, but in particular for a young team. If psychologically, and emotionally you get off to a bad start... First game against Wales is crucial. [Inaudible 13:33] win that game, there will be a lot of confidence going into the England game, which is our second game on Black Friday. And if you win the first game, the England game, you can still lose in the end. And that led to playing [inaudible 13:48]. The trickiest game that nobody is really talking about yet, the last game, is the Iran game. So, Iran is just across the Gulf from Qatar. My expectation would be that there will be tens of thousands of Persians flooding into Qatar to support their team, that's going to probably feel like an away game for the US. And, oh, by the way, there's a little bit of political history, and political recent stuff going on in the world. Well, outside of it doesn't impact our players as much, it absolutely impacts the Iranian players, and I can promise you, they will be told in no uncertain terms that they have to win that game. And so, there's going to be a lot of stakes that day.


Ryan Berman  14:40  

Do you feel with Wales and England, those same types of talks are happening between the Wales team about taking on England?


Landon Donovan  14:48  

Well, I guess the difference is the political component, right? So, aside from the political component, yeah. But, for Wales, they finished with England, they have to get all their points in the first two games. They kind of expect they're going to beat England. And that game, regardless of where either team is in the standings, it's going to be a lot because… It's going to mean a lot because of the close proximity. So, it's a really fascinating group in terms of storylines all around.


Ryan Berman  15:21  

Take us back to 2002 just for a minute when you land in South Korea. I think, at that point, you and Beasley are both 20 years old, just turned 20, I think, for you? And, I think you had mentioned to me before, like, the security. Like, you're just going to play a soccer tournament, but the security around you, is it eye-opening? Did you expect that?


Landon Donovan  15:48  

I did not expect it and it blew my mind. Maybe it must be the memory I have of the world cup. How we landed, the airport was shut down, completely shut down. Our path from our gate out to our bus was lined with South Korean soldiers. And when we got on the bus, we had an armored tank in front of us, an armored tank behind us, and a helicopter following us everywhere we went for the next three weeks. And, if you remember, the reason why is because that was shortly after 911. And then the proximity to the North Korean border. There's just a lot going on. And it was really uncomfortable.


Ryan Berman  16:35  

So yeah. We've got a super young team, right? Like you said, Gio, I think he's the same age as you, he is 20. Yunus Musah, well, I believe turns 20 In the next 10 days or so. Again, you and Beasley, same ages. Do you think these kids have any idea the political component of this? Is it impossible for them not to think about that?


Landon Donovan  16:59

I'm guessing it's individual based. I wasn't following the news, or watching CNN or Fox News when I was 20 to see what was going on. I didn't have the greatest idea of what it was going to look like or be. I guess it depends on the individual, but their hope is that they can go and just focus on the soccer, but the reality of a World Cup is they're going to be asked some many questions from the media that they're going to be prepared to deal with, that have nothing to do with soccer, it is part of it. And then depending on how the tournament goes, or what happens in Iran over the next two or three weeks in their country, with the protests, etc., you have to be expecting something off the wall to come about, and you got to be as prepared as possible. There's no way to be prepared, but as a coaching staff, PR people, everybody needs to be aware that some things can happen at any moment, and you got to be aware of it.


Ryan Berman  18:09  

Are you going to get a chance to meet the players when you're over there?


Landon Donovan  18:13  

The US players?


Ryan Berman  18:15



Landon Donovan  18:17

I don't know. I think their base is located on a small island just off the mainland in the Gulf. So, my guess is they'll be pretty secluded. Maybe a little better in some of the mixed zones, but I'm not anticipating seeing anybody, no.


Ryan Berman  18:36  

Okay, if there was someone on the team, specifically, that you'd like to connect with, who would it be and what would you want to share with them?


Landon Donovan  18:47  

I don’t know if there would be one in specific, I think there’s a few of the, quote-unquote, “older players,” I hope they are able to play very carefreely.  When young players carry pressure, and I know that because I [Inaudible 19:05] performance list. You have to experience pressure in dealing with it, and have some negative moments in order to know how to handle it appropriately. So, for some of the older guys, or more experienced guys, I should say, like Tyler Adams [inaudible 19:21]. I hope that they're able to play freely and not worry about all the extra BS. If they did that, I think we have a really, really good chance to do well in advance, but reality is everyone has a phone now. You've missed a big chance, or you give up a goal, or something happens, everybody's going to know about it right away, and that can pile on quickly. So, my hope is that that is not the way it goes, and that, even if it is, our guys are able to play with some carefree mentalities and just enjoy it.


Ryan Berman  20:03  

Yeah, it's funny you say that. I believe a year or two ago, Josh Sargent just said, “Screw social media.” He just got off it, and just started focusing on the game. But look, if our country is dealing with this, our players are dealing with this, other countries are as well, right? England must be dealing with this. Is this something,... And again, I don't have my finger out of the pulse of culture in every country, but do you think every team is now feeling, or every player is now feeling this exact same pressure just because of their country, or people on social media?


Landon Donovan  20:36  

Probably it's expectations there, right? So, if you're going… I’m going to use Wales as an example, I don't think anyone is expecting them to get out of the group. So, that's fine. If you are a country that's relatively below expectation, then I think it's okay. But for everybody else, yeah, absolutely. Social media has changed the way players think. And I've experienced that firsthand In San Diego Loyal. I was the manager, things that happen publicly, or post made, or things like that, you can actually really see the impact on players, which I think is crazy to me, because that's something that never bothered me. But it is very real, it's a very real part of their lives. And so, you have to take that seriously. In the case of England, social media wasn't what it was now, but in 07, you can feel, literally feel on the field pressure they were carrying and playing. And having played in England, the media can be unrelenting and challenging. It's really challenging for them, and there's no question of that [inaudible 21:55] for the world cup.


Ryan Berman  21:58  

So, in 2010 when you scored the goal against Algeria to send the US through, which is not a small moment. By the way, might also have been the last time America was truly united, we're not even talking about politics. But there's this epic video going around of all the different parts across America, watching their reactions when you score the goal. Red states, Blue states, we were just states back then, I don't think it was as polarized or as crazy. I'm sure we were red and blues. But I actually felt like, in that moment, we were all in it, and we were all united. But you had mentioned that, I think it was Michael Cameron who runs communications for the US team. It wasn't until the next morning after the game that someone showed you this video. Can you walk through that story real fast?


Landon Donovan  22:50  

Yeah. So, when you're halfway across the world, at that time, it was hard to stay connected with what was going on in the States. So, nobody knew how people were reacting back in the States. But, the next morning, I was walking to breakfast and someone from the PR team called me in for the communication center where they did everything and said, You got to check this out.” And a fan has made a video, a compilation of all the reactions of people throughout the country, and experiencing, celebrating that goal. And it's really powerful to watch. And it was pretty amazing for us to see because we just had no idea the impact we were having back home. And the inspiration we were providing was pretty special. And, to your point, it was Red states, blue states. There were people who I'm sure who are on vast different bands in the political spectrum, ideological spectrum, what they believed in, but it didn't matter. And that's the beauty of sport, and in particular, this sport. Because it’s a global game, race becomes less important, gender becomes less important, and beliefs become less important. Everybody is united by this common love for the sport. And that’s one of the reasons why I love this game so much.


Ryan Berman  24:21  

I believe after that Algeria game, you also had a special guest who joined you in the locker room.


Landon Donovan  24:27  

Yeah, we had a few, but the highest profile was Bill Clinton was in the locker room after the game, and that kind of told us too how special it was. Former heads of states and former presidents were in the stadium watching the game, and then, coming down to having a beer and celebrate with us after, was pretty special.


Ryan Berman  24:53  

I mean, just to put this into historical context, because in 2010 you're just trying to do your job, right? You're trying to help your team win. I don't even know if it felt like a job once you're on the field or not. But these kids that are about to take the field, they're trying to do what they can to win, and it happens to also be their job. But to put this in perspective, Landon, that, for me, what you've done for America it's more than just helping put US soccer on the map, at least, in this country, but  it's more cultural. And I did a little bit of research on the name Landon, and it's as Landon as a name, as a popular baby name. So, in 2001, before you showed up really on the circuit, before the 2002 goal against Mexico in the World Cup, Landon is the 194th most popular baby name for boys. In 2002, after you scored in the quarterfinals against Mexico, 2-nothing win, the name pops to 142. In 2003, Landon as the name goes to 80. In 2006, the name goes in the top 32. When you scored the goal against Algeria, the name pops inside the top 20 for most popular Baby boy names.


Landon Donovan 26:11



Ryan Berman 26:12

And then you can see this, it's crazy. You can see it as you watch the name in 2014, it goes to 33. In 2018, it goes to 50. In 2020, it's the 67th most popular name. So, I wonder, like, just by what you've done, it's amazing to watch the cultural impact you've had on people here. I could speak for my family, and how my family feels about you being here in San Diego, being a San Diegan, and seeing you coach and manage our team here; the San Diego Loyal, and how my kids respond to that. I just want to say thanks, man, for all you've done for not just US soccer and San Diego soccer, but for the country.


Landon Donovan  26:49  

I appreciate that. And that's pretty cool to hear that. As I said, I truly viewed it as, I don't know if job is the right word, but a responsibility. As I got into my later 20s, I understood clearly that we had a responsibility and an obligation to help the sport grow. And there were a few reasons for that, one; I did become aware as I got older that people were paying hard-earned money to come watch us. And I was wondering, “If you spent the money to fly to South Africa and stay there for a week or two, the least we can do is give our best performance.” Forget about the whole representing your country thing, just for those individuals. And then two; for the players who came before us, who gave us a platform to play at that level, to make lots of money, to have people actually care about the game, a lot of those guys literally played for per diem. 10 or 20 bucks a day per diem, and they were playing for the national team, and nobody even knew who they were. They can barely scrape by a living. They were coaching kids on the side. So, I just always felt a responsibility to play the right way and try to lift the sport in every way possible. So, that was really kind of top for me.


Ryan Berman  28:18  

So, now that you look at the game through the lens as manager, not that Berhalter is looking for advice from you, I'm sure he's going to want to do it his way, but if you had a chance to sit with him, and he's like, “All right, Landon, what do you see? What am I missing?” What feedback or advice would you give him on how to attack these next three games?


Landon Donovan  28:43  

Well, one; he’s played in the World Cup. He's been coaching a lot longer than I have. So, he’s got to figure it out. My advice to anybody going into a world for the first time in any role that they are in. Player for the first time, coach for the first time. What always stood out to me about the World Cups was that every player is magnified. And what I mean by that is, if you play a 30 game season with your club, [Inaudible 29:15] 32 games, or 34-game seasons, and you have a couple of bad games in a row, you have time to get back on track, make the playoffs, etc. In a world cup, you don't get that. In my three World Cups,  literally, each time came down to one play, each, whether we advanced or not came down to one play. And sometimes it wasn't even a play that we made, we were waiting for another game, and the result of the other game. So, the reality is that every player is magnified. If we open the tournament on Monday, we score in the first minute, and the rest of the game was kind of bland, boring, whatever, but we win 1-0, and then, we win England and we get a tie against Iran, that one goal in the first minute, that one play can be the difference and could send us to the next round. So, you have to understand that everything is magnified in that way. And then, the way you really have to get that across is you never know which moment is going to be the moment that is most crucial to play. So, it's not like you can wait and say, “Well, there'll be a penalty kick in the 71st minute.” It could be making a bad pass in the first minute in the back of your net, and now, you're not advancing out of the group. So that's my advice in the World Cup, is everything is magnified.


Ryan Berman  30:35  

Well, how hard is that to stay playing free and loose when there's the potential for a very heavy minute?


Landon Donovan  30:42  

Yeah, that's a good point. What I'm curious with our team is if there is a level of pragmatism that set in, fear is the most powerful human emotion, and what I see all the time with sports is during the season, when it's the middle of the season, and it's okay if you lose the game, there's not a lot of fear. People play a certain way. But then, when it gets to the end of the postseason, the playoffs, everybody tightens up. And nobody takes chances anymore because the fear of failure set them. And so, this is what I love about our US team is that them being bold, and brave, and even when it's cost us some goals. I like that Greg can keep going, and keep playing, and keep trying. And the big question is, when you get to a time that you want to play can make a difference, how much pragmatism is there? Either explosively sad, or even tired of getting back formations. “And, you know what? I got to be careful here and just play in open field.”


Ryan Berman  31:54  

Let's talk about outside the US for a second, how much have you studied the field? From a surprise standpoint, is there a team you feel ‘keep an eye out for this team’? And then, on the same topic, is there a surprise, like, a disappointing surprise, like, “Well, I don’t sense that this team that usually does well has their act together right now”? Can you share what you're seeing, or what we should look for.


Landon Donovan  32:25  

So, I can't say which team this will be, or won't be, but I can tell you what I believe are the types of teams that are going to do well and not do well. So, this World Cup is very unique, in that, literally, yesterday, most teams and players were together for the first time. So, if you think about that the tournament starts in a week, no less than a week, it starts in five days for some teams. So, what that means is there's no time for preparation. Wherever you are, you are at this point. And generally, in a World Cup, you get three or four weeks together as a team to practice, train, prepare, play, play exhibition games, and you get to figure out what teams look like heading into that time. We don't have this time. So, I think the teams that actually would benefit the most are the teams, one; that play later in the tournament because they'll have more time to prepare, they'll have 12, or 13 days, versus five or six, in some cases. They can also then play an exhibition, the teams are fine. The US doesn't have that luxury, nor does anyone in their group. And then, the other teams that I think will be successful are the teams that have the ability to have gotten their players together. As the US team played a couple of friendlies a month and a half ago, maybe two months ago. But those guys haven't seen each other since then, they're going to have three or four training sessions, and then, they'll be playing their first game. In the case of teams like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, maybe a few other teams where most of their players play their domestic league, they will have had the chance during the week. 90% of the Iranian players play in Iran. They can play their club game on Saturday, but then, they can go in for two or three or four days during the week and get together as a national team, and be together, and prepare, and then, go back and play with their club teams on the weekend. Qatar, majority of their players play in Qatar. I can promise you they've been preparing together for a long time, their first match against Ecuador. Their players have been playing all over the country, or all over the world with their club teams, and the first time they will be together in months would be yesterday. So, I think those types of teams will have an advantage. And then, the teams that will have a disadvantage are, obviously, the opposite side of that coin, but also, European teams and players that they used to playing in cold weather. The heat is going to have a huge impact, there's no question about that. And it's not that it'll have an impact necessarily in one game, but training and playing and that level of heat over the course of a week or two weeks is going to have an impact on players who are not used to it.


Ryan Berman  35:29  

So, if you read between the lines on that, in many cases, you can make a case that US is playing basically on the first full day of the tournament. A lot of the players are in Europe, I guess if there's any good news, Wales players are the same thing, right? They're in cold weather.


Landon Donovan  35:47



Ryan Berman  35:48

Right. But by the time we get to day 10 when we see Iran, we would’ve been together for weeks, or can get together for weeks. At least, hopefully, we're meshing at just the right time to take that team on. Is that what you're saying?


Landon Donovan  36:02  

Yeah, assuming, obviously, you get something out of the first two games, right? So, what we want is we want that third game to be meaningful for us. In a perfect world, it's not meaningful in the standings for the Iranian team. But, again, we faced this in 2010 against Algeria. Algeria had nothing to play for in the standings. But politically, they did not like us. And you could feel it from their players, they wanted to win that game so bad.


Ryan Berman  36:36  

All right, man. Take us over here, Landon. And I appreciate you finding some time on your drive up to coach on your flight here. Who do you think is going to take it all? Give me two teams that you think have the best shot from what you've seen to win it all.


Landon Donovan  36:52  

I think Brazil. if I were betting money, I would bet Brazil because of the hot weather thing. A lot of their players have played in Europe for a long time, but they will quickly acclimate, and it'll feel pretty similar to the Brazilian climate. And I just think they're the best team in the world right now. So, if I were betting I would bet on Brazil. France -- from a talent standpoint -- have to have the most talented roster and most in-depth probably, if anything, but you just never know what you're going to get with France. So, if I were taking a flier, it'll be on France, but I think Brazil might win.


Ryan Berman  37:35  

AIl right. Since this is The Courageous Podcast, which US player will have the most courageous performance of the World Cup?


Landon Donovan  37:45  

Brenden Aaronson, a name that's a little under the radar for US sports fans, but US soccer fans know him well. I think he's playing at the very best he's ever played, and I think he's our best player right now. He’s playing the best of any players at Leed United in the Premier League. The other one is, if Weston McKennie is fit and stays healthy, he can literally be one of the best players in the tournament. He is that good on both sides of the ball. But I think the most courageous guy who just goes, and goes, and goes, and takes chances and risks is Breden.


Ryan Berman  38:28  

Awesome. LD, safe flight over there. Hopefully, you have a good book. And I'll see when you get back, man. Thanks for joining us today. Go USA.


Landon Donovan  38:37  

Thanks, Ryan. Go USA.


Ryan Berman  38:41  

Thanks for tuning in to this episode of the courageous podcast. If you enjoyed the show, don't forget to review us on Apple podcasts so more people can find us. See you again next week.


(Outro music 38:51-39:07)



[End Of Audio]