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Apr 29, 2014

Landon Donovan: U.S. must play well

FC's Taylor Twellman looks at how being on the bubble for a FIFA World Cup roster spot affects players.

Landon Donovan says the United States has to play well at the World Cup and also force its rivals "to not play well."

Landon Donovan says the U.S. must pressure rivals to 'not play well.'

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• McIntyre: U.S. Hot List
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• Bennett: World Cup impact

Speaking at a promotion for Samsung, the 32-year-old Donovan said the U.S. needs to focus on its own game in Group G play versus Ghana, Portugal and Germany.

"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. We have to play well, and we have to force them to not play well," Donovan said. "That all ties into it. If we do that, we can advance. It’s also possible that we play as well as we can, and Germany, Ghana and Portugal could either tie us or beat us. They have great players, too. But as a starting point, if we don’t play well it’s going to be really difficult. That’s what we focus on. The rest of it, we can’t control, but I think we have a pretty good chance."

The U.S.' all-time leading scorer recently announced that this summer's World Cup would be his last, and has been taking precaution with his physical preparation while coming off a knee injury, including a kinder fitness regimen that includes Pilates and more gym work as he looks for the milestone of his 135th Major League Soccer goal.

"I don’t go all out in training all the time," he said. "That allows me to feel strong and ready. I know now, clearly, how much I can give during the week and on the field without it affecting my performance on Saturday."

The U.S. team has a demanding schedule ahead in Brazil, both physically and mentally. Not only will the Americans be playing three games in 11 days, but they'll have to navigate considerable travel distances between the team's training base in Sao Paolo and games in Natal, Manaus, and Recife. Donovan said he is aware of the challenges the team will face just to advance out of the first group.

"There are realities, right?" he said. "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."

The LA Galaxy star said he is not planning MLS retirement.He is the fourth-highest paid player in the league with a guaranteed $4.583 million salary, just ahead of teammate Robbie Keane's $4.5 million.

"You never know, but I’m not contemplating that," he said. "I’m just trying to be honest with myself, and stay focused on what I’m doing. If the season ends, and I say 'Enough is enough,' then that’s fine. If the season ends and I’m still feeling good and can contribute and help, then great. But I try to stay present, and live in the moment, and see what comes."

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