The celebrity matrix doesn’t function when it comes to football in the United States. David Beckham spent three years waving in Hollywood with little discernible impact on the American psyche, so what hope can there possibly be for the members of the US national team?
The answer is not much, although there is one member of the star-spangled starting XI to face England in Rustenburg on Saturday who might turn a head or two were he to take a stroll down Sunset Boulevard.
“Everywhere I go, someone might notice me and say something but it is not like my daily life is crazy,” says Landon Donovan, the undoubted star — indeed, the only star — of the USA team. “Of course there is more pressure on the English players. If we don’t do well in the World Cup, people care for a little bit.”
In looking forward to Saturday’s contest, he chooses to downplay the significance of the game. “Our main hope is to qualify from our group, whatever that takes. Supposing we don’t get a result against England – that doesn’t mean we can’t qualify. We still have games against Algeria and Slovenia.”
He is quick to praise but just as quick to point out that perhaps Fabio Capello’s squad might be exhausted after a long season. “People go on about Rooney – and personally I think he is one of the very best players in the world – but if you spent all your time trying to shut him down, the next thing you know is that you have got Lampard and Gerrard all over you. “Big players play a lot of games in Europe and the World Cup comes at the end of their season, so it is always an interesting dynamic, how do you balance that? Fortunately the guys that play in MLS are just now starting their season and just now getting warm so it can be good for us.”
Will everything that the US players have be enough to produce an early shock in this 2010 World Cup campaign? One senses that Donovan is confident enough to believe that a historic victory is possible but sensible enough to know that such belief if best left unsaid; that the only way to make it so is between the white lines of the Royal Bafokeng.