Landon Donovan: Jurgen Klinsmann allows us to express ourselves

The United States star winger has praised his new boss for being confident in his players offensive ability.
Count Landon Donovan as a fan of Jurgen Klinsmann’s forward thinking.

Donovan, the active United States leader in international caps, praised the national team’s new head coach following Thursday's practice in preparation for tonight's friendly against Costa Rica, saying that he always encourages each player to play to their strengths.

“He’s encourages you to express yourself,” said Donovan. “For a lot of us, that’s what we’re good at. That’s what we’ve done our whole lives is taking chances and expressing ourselves.”

While his predecessor Bob Bradley preferred a rigid-defensive system that focused on playing narrowly, Klinsmann has pushed his players to take on defenders and take risks as long it's sensible.

“It has to work in the framework of how to make a team successful,” Donovan explained. “If a guy can do something different, taking a chance that makes us successful then go for it.”

“As long as you are making sure that your teammates are getting the ball and your team is playing well. But when you get a chance, it’s been absolutely encouraged. It’s been great because there is nothing negative that comes out of failure," he added.

Instead of mistakes being criticized, Donovan says that the former Germany and Bayern Munich boss insists that players continue to build confidence in moving forward. He wouldn't compare the differences between Klinsmann and Bradley but said that his new boss has been very involved in instilling an offensive mentality in practice.

“Literally, in training if a guy gets the ball, he’s yelling at them 'Go take them on',” said Donovan.

“If a guy tries something in the right part of the field and it doesn’t come off, he says it’s okay and to try again. Now if guys are trying to do something in their own 18, he’s also stopped it and said something to guys. So it has to be in the right context. When the moment is right, he wants us to express ourselves."

After a stagnant first half against Mexico last month, Klinsmann’s philosophy began to show glimpses when Brek Shea dribble past several defenders and delivered a stunning assist for Robbie Rogers’ late equalizer. It was made clear that talent is available to the U.S. and that it's a just a matter of properly blending those abilities.

“It is interesting to see, we have guys that keep on the line out there," Klinsmann said. "Robbie Rogers can keep on it, Brek Shea can. We have some younger players who are coming through who we have our eyes on, who are playing like all-time wingers. Then we have guys that can play in the typical No. 9 role, Altidore can hold the ball. Agudelo can keep the ball.  So we trying to adapt to the pieces we have.”

As the U.S. continues to getting closer to having all of it core pieces together, it should be interesting to see how Klinsmann’s thought process translates in their performances.

Matthew Spitz contributed reporting to this article