Galaxy forward Landon Donovan and Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs spoke to the media on Tuesday about the 2010 AT&T MLS All-Star Game, to be held July 28 at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
MLS First XI selection Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)
Q: How special is it for you to be playing in yet another All Star Game?
A: Obviously, as athletes, playing in an All-Star game is special, mainly because (in our sport especially) it comes from all your fans, coaches, players, and all the people watching every week. I think that part of it makes it special; you’re honored by your colleagues. I’m particularly excited, even though I won’t get to play too much, to play against Manchester United. I think over the years we’ve had incredible experiences with some of the teams we’ve gotten to play. This one certainly tops them all. It’s going to be a fun night at Reliant.
Q: As the highest profile American player, what’s the summer been like for you?
A: In the past, it would’ve been pressure, but I’m embracing this and enjoying it. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. There are only so many opportunities in our career to do something like this. I think we all grasped the moment, took hold of it, and made it our own. It was really special to be a part of. It’s nice to get back and continue playing and continually have our names and faces in teams playing. It continues with a really fun game and really exciting game for our All-Star team to play in against Manchester United.
Q: Do you agree that you’re the one to carry the load of taking soccer to the next level in the U.S.? Do you agree with that and how does that affect your play?
A: I have an obligation to myself to always do what’s best for me. Along with that, I understand the responsibility that we have as ambassadors for this game. It’s not the case yet where we can show up somewhere and people are going to come watch. We still have to sell our sport, push it, and make the most of opportunities. We understand very clearly that generally, it’s every four years we get to showcase ourselves. The question at that point is, “Are we ready to take it?” This time around, we were up to it. Since I’ve been back, it’s been very clear that people were captivated by this team and what we were about. That’s reflective not only of the 23 guys and the coaching staff, but all the American players in our league. That’s the spirit that people who watch around the world have fallen in love with as well. You see that in the All-Star Game, in our league games, and certainly see that on the national level.
Q: What is the potential impact of Thierry Henry in New York?
A: Thierry Henry is a fantastic player, first and foremost. Amongst soccer fans certainly, and among sports fans in general, his name is fairly recognizable, and he’ll draw attention if he does in fact sign for New York. I’m in some ways jealous he’s not coming to LA as a player. It would be fun to play with him in LA. There’s no question he’ll boost the sport in this country even more.”
Q: When you think of Houston, what would it mean to have a record type of crowd?
A: For us, it’s a dream. We don’t often get to play in front of crowds that size, even in South Africa. It’s something you’re excited about, but you also want to take advantage of. You want people walking away from that game with a memory. Let's be honest, there may be people there watching their first live soccer game. The opportunity is really special for us. We need to make sure we’re giving people something to remember, something they’ll care about, and a reason to come back and watch again. I expect our team will do that.
Q: Your particular thoughts about being named to the First XI.
A: The minute I found out about this game, I was ecstatic. The minute I found out we were going to play in Champions League the night before, I was a little bummed out. This game has become really fun for us to play, ask any of the guys. In the past, an all-star game was an all-star game. You took it easy and you enjoyed the weekend. This game for us is not only an opportunity individually for guys to do well and show well, but for our league to strive and show the strides we’ve made. I think what we’ve found and you guys have found out is that we take this game very seriously and that we have a really good group of players in this league that can play with any teams in the world. I expect the same thing on the 28th. I expect it to be a really fun game, competitive, and an exciting game. If people are paying good money to come watch, we want to give them a good show.
Q: Talk about the LA-Houston rivalry in league play.
A: Houston are still a very good team. I know they’ve had struggles this year. Any time you lose guys like Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark, that’s going to happen. I know Dom [Kinnear] and [Brian Ching] very well. I know a lot of the guys on that team well. I know that if they get into the playoffs, they’ll be a very good team like they always are. My guess is that in the second half of the season, they’ll turn it around and be successful.
Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs
On American soccer and Major League Soccer:
“I think I probably took a lot more interest when David Beckham came over, because obviously I played with him, he’s a friend, so I took an interest on how football’s gone over here. Judging by the USA’s performance in the World Cup, football is healthier and very strong because they’ve got a lot of quality, both as individuals and as a team. Obviously it’s growing all the time, and hopefully it will be successful. I’m sure it will, because the fans that come to our games are fanatical and they know their stuff, and the facilities are second-to-none as well.”
On Landon Donovan and American players in general:
“I think it was interesting when Landon Donovan came over, because we heard he was probably the top player in the USA and [wondered] how he was going to do in the Premiership, and he did really well. [He’s] probably not the stereotype American football/soccer player that’s been over before. I think he was skillful, and he handled himself well, and the fans at Everton loved him and wanted him to come back. I think that the skill level has gone up and that it will keep going up."
On playing in large North American stadiums:
“Wherever we’ve been, the atmosphere’s been good. It’s good to know that we’re going to get another atmosphere that we’ve not witnessed before. I think as players, you want to play in good stadiums, and you want to have good atmospheres, because you rise to the challenge, and hopefully that’s what will happen."
On Houston and the 2010 AT&T MLS All-Star Game:
“Premiership teams have never won this game. That’s a goal for us, that’s an aim for us to try and win. We’ll obviously see first-hand the quality that is in the MLS. I know that it’s there so, like I said, and it will be our third or fourth game [of the tour], so hopefully we’ll be able to win for the first time.”
On playing an All-Star team:
“We won’t have any footage. If we do try to do our homework on how they play, or what system they're going to play, we won’t know until we actually get onto the pitch. That will be interesting, but obviously they do OK because, like I said, they’ve never lost a game to a Premiership team. We’ll need to perform. It will be interesting to see the quality that the MLS has got first-hand.”
On visiting Houston:
“I’ve never been to Houston; I’m looking forward to it. I’ve never been to Texas, so I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like, and I think for all the players, it's somewhere that maybe we never would have got to. That’s the bonus and that’s the plusses of being a football player.”