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Donovan hails Mexican youth system as “better than ours,” plans to finish career with L.A.

Feb 13, 2014, 11:03 PM EDT

South Korea v United States Getty Images

You have to consider the audience, but Landon Donovan said some things in Mexico City that are going to have some US Soccer higher-ups scratching their heads.

Not in a “Whaaaat?” way, rather a “Politeness aside, you didn’t have to say that, did you now?” way.

After telling that he thinks the Mexican national team’s brutal 2013 will not affect their chances to “do something special” in Brazil this summer, Donovan lavished praise on the Mexican youth… somewhat at the expense of his home country.

“In my opinion, the youth in Mexico is better than ours,” he said. “We’re looking for ways to improve it, but for me Mexico is one of the best in the world at that kind of progression, with youth, and with the national team it’s almost the same forever, and I think it will continue to be for a long time.”

He also admitted what’s been rumored a bunch; Donovan had opportunities to play professionally in Mexico. That ship has sailed, and he says he plans on finishing his playing days as a member of the Galaxy.

“In past years, I have had some other opportunities that did not work out at that time,” said Donovan. “Now I think I’ll stay in Los Angeles for the rest of my career. I want to be in Los Angeles – you never know what can happen, but I am very happy at home.”

  1. elgallo2001 - Feb 14, 2014 at 8:37 AM

    I’m a LD fan, but as our greatest soccer talent Donavan had a National obligation to play abroad.
    I try not to criticize him, but I’ve always been disappointed that he chose to play his career in a lower tier league.

    • Sgc - Feb 14, 2014 at 9:06 AM

      Could you and your ilk just give it a rest already? Some people choose to live *their* lives, rather than your vicarious life.

      • elgallo2001 - Feb 14, 2014 at 10:02 AM

        Landon is an extraordinary talent. Only a few of those exist in any given nation at any given time. It’s as if Thomas Edison had decided to not explore his full potential, what repercussion could that have had for the world? Now, I know we are just talking football here, and not saving the world but when you are one of those gifted and special people what you do can affect the people you represent.
        It becomes a “what if” situation. Could he have achieved a super star status? Would that have brought attention to an emerging sport in a nation of NFL and NBA? Would that have inspired a Nation of youth footballers?
        IDK, but I do know that I’m not trying to live vicariously through him, I’m not that short-sited. I’m thinking big picture.
        I love and respect the guy, he will always be a USMT legend and hero. Remember this?

        It just, what if?

      • Sgc - Feb 16, 2014 at 12:10 PM

        If you’re sure you’re not living your life vicarously through the guy, pining over these decisions 10 years later and inflating the guy to Payton Manning-ish levels are not the most efficient ways of convincing me.

        There are lots of prospects around the world like Donovan at any given time, and relatively few of them become superstars. I’m not at all convinced Donovan short-changed his National Team career by staying in MLS; in fact, if it made him more confident, staying almost certainly enhanced it.

        Besides, what do you think we’d have gotten out of a Donovan European career other than to bask in someone else’s club glory? Do you think we would have won the World Cup because one guy, who was our best anyway, was a little bit better? If you think that, maybe you should be watching basketball instead of soccer.

        Also, don’t BS me, it’s not just a ‘what if.’ I did actually read your first post, and there was certainly no ‘what if’ in it. You flat declared that he had a ‘national obligation’ (which is absurd). If you’d said “hey, what if he’d stuck it out in Europe” and left it there, you know you wouldn’t have drawn the reaction that you did, which is why you’ve revised it to make it sound more rational after the fact.

    • Nick - Feb 14, 2014 at 11:14 AM

      If the player can play close to home (while snagging a good paycheck in the process) and show on the international stage that he’s not out of his depth, then why should he feel obligated to play overseas?

    • jay1934 - Feb 15, 2014 at 1:31 PM

      I too am LD fan. I live in San Jose where he got started with the Earthquakes. I have enjoyed his play even though he chose the Galaxy. I’m glad he’s chosen to stay in the U.S. I look at this way: my enjoyment is more important than his European or English “career”.

  2. tylerbetts - Feb 14, 2014 at 9:46 AM

    I’m an LD fan, and I’m glad that he used his status as our greatest player to help raise the profile of our domestic league.

    He probably could have made more money, but I wonder if it would have harmed the growth of MLS if they hadn’t had him to market.

  3. heelfans - Feb 14, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    Bravo, LD !! US Soccer and MLS should be doing more than just scratching their heads. It’s time for ODP, college soccer, and pay-to-play to be discarded. One quick fix is to rapidly expand the outreach to the ethnic clubs throughout the country. Hispanic, obviously, but also eastern European, African, etc. Soccer needs to start tapping into the melting pot.

    • Sgc - Feb 14, 2014 at 4:44 PM

      ODP already is pretty close to irrelevant. It’s only for the handful of kids not playing on a Development Academy team.

      Pay-for-play is also going away, although slowly (because it costs a lot of money to replace).

  4. lyleoross - Feb 14, 2014 at 11:56 AM

    Interesting enough, I live in a city with a mix of Pay to Play, and ethnic clubs. It is amazing to watch the ethnic clubs kill at the U10 and under level, and then to slowly get siphoned into the Pay to Play clubs on scholarship after that.

    The difference is quite simple. The ethnic clubs have kids out in the park every day playing touch ball with brother, sister, dad and mom. The Pay to Play clubs have kids playing toe tap and ring the bell and trying desperately to win games instead of learning ball control. Its a sad comment on everything that is wrong with U.S. soccer.

    On the brighter side, I have seen some changes. More trainers on the field playing with the kids, more parents participating actively in practices. We are learning.

  5. seanb20124 - Feb 14, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    If there is no pay for play, who picks up the tab for coaching, travel, uniforms?

    • scottlemenager - Feb 15, 2014 at 1:15 AM

      I coach for an “ethnic” club that is working on going around so called pay for play. How do we do it? Volunteers and community support, along with some minor help from the parents. We cannot do it for free, but taking out the monthly club payments by using volunteer staff and working hard at fundraising has allowed us to create a highly competitive club at costs equal or lower than most recreational programs. (When comparing cost per game/practice session). The only costs families help pay for are registration fees for league and state cup play and minimal amount to pay for coaches training costs and uniform kits (although uniform kits are partially sponsored so costs are minimal for basic kits).

      What it really takes are some good people and a lot of hard work. I’ve heard coaches from other major clubs complaining that we are taking their talent base and making the overall teams in the area them I say widen your scholarship program or lower costs and we won’t be able to take so many players. It is the best when we play these teams, especially at the older age groups and beat them.

      Pay for play is unfortunate, it really honestly hurts soccer in this country. I remember my first coaching course way back when, the Ethiopian coach pointed out to the complex we were about to use and said it.made him sad…in his country that field would be filled with kids of all ages playing pick up games and dreaming about their futures in the game…here it was empty, reserved only for the 11 or so coaches to take a basic course for an entire day. Only basketball in our country is played this way, if only soccer could be seen the same here then instead of LeBron or Kobe or Jordan playing basketball they could have been the next pele or messi, or Ronaldo.

      Lower cost of entry to play at the higher youth levels and I guarantee you we become a top soccer country faster than anybody could imagine.

      • marcodona71 - Feb 15, 2014 at 11:31 AM

        Sir..just using the word ethnic..quote on quote or not…is the antithesis of the sport itself…this is a world game and the most beautiful at that..people will be how they are, but please, please people..let’s not tarnish what the game is…so you coach a football team or futbol team or fussball team…but an “ethnic” team…it just sounds disgusting and i’m sure people worldwide who love the sport for what it is would agree….it brings people is something anyone can enjoy in a 100×50 yard space 22 at a time…there are derbys and rivalries is never about race though…this is what Americans don’t get…I love the U.S and always will but when it comes to understanding certain things the rest of the world is my way or the highway

  6. chadmoon1 - Feb 14, 2014 at 4:17 PM

    LD is right about the youth set ups in both countries. Mexico is better now because it is a top down system, with pro clubs setting up the youth system. Here, it is a bottom up system, with youth clubs developing players that may or may not go pro.

    That said, we are changing with MLS clubs now having youth setups. But we have a deeper problem here. In the US, soccer is a game for the wealthy, while in Mexico, it is a sport of the people. With our demographics changing, that is now changing too, but it will take time.

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