He gives credit to the armband.
Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann appointed his most experienced player captain for the afternoon, and Donovan celebrated his 155th cap – just nine off Cobi Jones' national record – by starting the sequence on Chris Wondolowski's first goal and getting a nifty touch to set up the second.
“I don't know the statistics, but throughout my career, when I'm wearing the armband, I would guess that I play significantly better,” said Donovan, whose assist on Wondo's 60th-minute goal was his US-record 58th in international play, equaling his goals mark. “And I take that role very seriously. I take it professionally and, again, someone can do the stats, but I think our team record is probably pretty good when that happens.”
Someone has done the stats, and you know what? Donovan is correct.
He has won the armband in 18 international matches since 2004 – he debuted in an Oct. 9, 2004 World Cup qualifying victory at El Salvador and had last captained the US in a March 29, 2011 loss to Paraguay in Nashville, Tenn. – and the Americans are 11-3-4 in those matches. They were unbeaten (9-0-4) in his first 13 games as captain.
The US’ regular captains during Donovan's time with the squad have been Claudio Reyna and Kasey Keller under Bruce Arena, Carlos Bocanegra under Bob Bradley, and Clint Dempsey under Klinsmann.
Donovan served as LA Galaxy captain in 2006, the first two-thirds of 2007, handed off the armband when David Beckham arrived that summer and was restored as captain by Arena in 2009. With Donovan wearing the armband, the Galaxy won two MLS Cup titles, another title game appearance, two Supporters' Shields and four straight Western Conference finals.
Robbie Keane assumed the Galaxy's captaincy while Donovan was on his sabbatical last year. Donovan wore the armband five times for LA last season, all losses.
He said he gained great joy serving as captain against the Koreans.
“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “And I like being a part of this group a lot this month. A lot of eager, excited players, and I really think I took on the leadership in the right way, and I wanted to do that. And I was very honored to have the armband.”
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- Jurgen Klinsmann