Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Star soccer player practices with UW

US National Team and Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan (right) joined the Wisconsin men\’s soccer team March 20 and 22.Photo courtesy of Drew Conner

American soccer player Landon Donovan has pretty much done it all.

Throughout his illustrious professional career beginning in 1999, he has played for soccer teams in Germany, England and the United States, in addition to becoming one of the most successful U.S. National Team players in the country’s history.

One soccer experience that has always been missing from his resume, however, is college-level soccer experience – an opportunity he chose to forego when he began his professional career while still a teenager.


So when an opportunity emerged for him to join the Wisconsin men’s soccer team March 20 and 22 in preparation for his return to the Los Angeles Galaxy lineup in Major League Soccer on March 30, Donovan jumped at the chance to be an honorary Badger.

“It was pretty unexpected,” sophomore defender AJ Cochran said. “We were told Tuesday that he would practice with us, so it all came pretty fast. We were shocked.”

Jumping right in with the team, Donovan participated as just another member of the program, sporting the same white training shirt and red shorts that the rest of the team wears.

But the Badgers immediately began to notice the small differences that come with being a professional soccer player.

“It was all the little things that he did,” freshman midfielder Drew Conner said. “His little quick movements off the ball as soon as he would pass it. He was always there moving into the right spaces.”

Standing with the team, the 5-foot-8 Donovan certainly fit right in – save the beginnings of a receding hairline and a fuller beard than most 20-year-olds are able to grow – but when Donovan stepped on the McClain Center indoor field, practice immediately took a more intense tone, as each player fought to impress his childhood hero.

“The intensity was really high, the level of play was awesome,” Cochran said. “He is a super special player, and he only helped pick up our games even more.”

“I hope he learned from me too,” senior midfielder Tomislav Zadro joked. “I don’t ever remember being so tired after a practice before.”

Playing at what Cochran described as “only 30 percent,” Cochran and Co. still saw glimpses of some of the skills Donovan possesses.

In one scrimmage scenario, Conner was matched up with Donovan, who was playing the same position on the other team. Even though Conner said he thought he had been doing a good job of containing the speedy 31-year-old midfielder, it only took one moment for Donovan to slip away and score the winning goal for his side.

“I thought I was doing pretty well going into the last minute,” Conner said describing the scenario. “I checked my right shoulder and he was right there, I thought I had him covered … and then the ball was passed, and he was already 20 yards past me and he scored.”

Even though Donovan’s talent certainly got the better of his younger counterparts on a number of occasions, Cochran described him as humble and hardworking in his approach to practice, despite his world-renowned status.

As a result, it didn’t take long for the team to take him in as one of their own – chatting and joking around with him as they would any other new addition to the group.

Donovan even showed off his table tennis skills, challenging a few of them to matches after practice had finished Friday, before eventually getting beaten by the team table tennis champion, freshman midfielder Luc Kazmierczak.

“Luc is ridiculously good,” Conner said smirking. “He won 21-18. If we had to take the team though, and rank them, Landon would probably be number two.”

After the two days were up, Donovan headed back to Los Angeles and made his return to the Los Angeles Galaxy lineup March 30, while the Badgers returned back to their normal routine last week.

Still, even though Donovan may be gone, the experience the team gained learning from a veteran of their sport hasn’t worn off.

For Zadro, playing with Donovan – even for just a couple of days – was a reminder of what he hopes will be his fate after he completes his final season for the Badgers next fall.

“It definitely motivated me,” Zadro said. “The fact that he was there, training on the same pitch as me, made me think, ‘why can’t I do that?'”

For the younger Badgers, it was a reminder of how much room they have left to grow in a sport where they have always been the ones to rise to the top throughout their young careers.

“We all got to see what a pro plays like and that just cranks up the intensity that much more,” Cochran said. “I’ve still got some things left to learn.”

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