Landon Donovan has been all over television delivering his takes on the World Cup. He refused to do so with the local media on Thursday.
“I have an obligation,” he said after finishing practice with the Galaxy, which resume MLS play Saturday against San Jose at Stanford.
That didn’t sit well. His opinion is exclusive to TV viewers for a certain network? Never mind the fact that the dozens of current and former athletes in all sports who have broadcast duties are happy to share their thoughts with anyone who asks from a different platform.
It was a completely strange juxtaposition, then, to have Galaxy coach Bruce Arena happy to opine on the United States’ standing in the World Cup. The Galaxy held off their practice until 11:30 on Thursday so they could watch the Americans face off against Germany.
And give a little leeway for Donovan’s segment of Q&A.
Arena, it should be mentioned, has time and again in the past been reticent to assess the play of the U.S., not wanting to step on the toes of his successors as the national team coach.
But he didn’t mind talking about the road of the U.S. and the tournament in general as it headed into the round of 16.
“It’s good to advance. The game wasn’t particularly good,” Arena said after Germany’s 1-0 victory. “They are playing one of the better teams in the world but that’s the way the U.S. is going to play. They’re going to grind it out, get good goalkeeping, create an odd chance every now and then but they’re a battling team, they’re a fit team, they’re an organized team.”
Arena on the next U.S. challenge:
“Belgium’s certainly a good team. It’s not a bad matchup for (the U.S.). It’s a good matchup for the U.S.”
Arena, of course, was coaching when the U.S. reached the final eight in 2002 following a landmark win over Mexico. The U.S. hasn’t been that close since, but has now advanced out of the group stage in two consecutive tournaments for the first time.
“I think it’s a sign of progress,” Arena said. “I think we need to obviously improve as a team but that’s not going to happen in this World Cup. We’re one or two World Cups away from competing with the big boys.”
And surviving the “Group of Death” with Germany, Ghana and Portugal?
“It’s good. There’s one very good team in the group in Germany,” Arena said. “The others were pretty close to each other and we managed to be the team that came out in the end. Ghana was a pretty talented team. Inconsistent, obviously, going into an important game more worried about the cash being on the plane. Very odd preparation.”
“Give the U.S. credit. They persevered in a very difficult group. I thought all along that they needed to get three points against Ghana and one point against Portugal and that’s the way it played out.”
And that means what?
“I should do (prognostication) rather than coaching,” he said with a smile. “I’m better at that I think than working with this team right now.
“Believe me, I don’t think anybody could have predicted this World Cup. At the end of the day when the dust settles, the big boys are going to be around, there aren’t going to be any Cinderellas. However, I think Costa Rica may make it to the last eight.”
Sorry, Greek fans.
And Arena on the first start for Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez:
“He did a good job.”
And Donovan would rather have talked about the Galaxy against San Jose.