Landon Donovan Talks Inland Empire Roots, Jermaine Jones, Today’s Fury vs. Sockers

by Gunnar Berndt

U.S. legend returns to his home region for blockbuster MASL clash

By Gunnar Berndt
(Photo credit: Jason Ferran)

Ontario, Calif. – U.S. Men’s National Team legend Landon Donovan, who was born and raised in Ontario until moving about 30 miles east to Redlands, returns to his home region this Thursday for his San Diego Sockers’ historic Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) clash with Jermaine Jones and the Ontario Fury. The 36-year-old Donovan took some time to reflect on his childhood in the Inland Empire, facing off with fellow former Stars and Stripes ace Jones and the fierce indoor rivalry between the Sockers and the Fury.

The blockbuster meeting between Ontario and San Diego at Citizens Business Bank Arena is set to kick off at 7 p.m. PT today. Tickets may be purchased by clicking here or by calling 909-457-0252

Q: What was it like growing up as a soccer-playing kid in the Inland Empire?

LD: I loved playing soccer in the Inland Empire because of the great number of passionate soccer people. There was always a place to play or a game to play. We would often head to an indoor facility in Upland and that was a nice change of pace from the outdoor game. It gave me a chance to touch the ball more and it was a little more exciting with more action. I absolutely loved it. So now, to have the opportunity to play at the professional level is really full circle for me, especially coming back to play a game in Ontario.

Q: Talk a bit more about your emotions heading into the meeting with the Fury.

LD: I grew up on Fourth Street, about ten minutes away from (Citizens Business Bank Arena), so going back to that area will be very special for me. Most of my friends and family are in Redlands because I lived there for a long time, but I also have friends in Chino, Upland and Rancho Cucamonga. I expect a good number of them to be at the game on Thursday, which will be a great experience.

Q: Given you play for the Fury’s biggest rival, what are your thoughts on your hometown club?

LD: I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Ontario and I think it’s exciting that the Inland Empire is one of the few places in the country that has a top-level indoor team. It’s great to have a rival in Southern California and specifically one that’s difficult to play against for us. So of course I want the franchise to succeed - just not on Thursday and not against us in the playoffs if it should come to that. It makes the game more exciting and I think the upcoming game will be an amazing experience for everyone involved.

Q: Are you feeling any extra motivation going up against your former teammate with the U.S., Jermaine Jones?

LD: There’s no extra motivation, but I think it’s great for the growth of the MASL that someone like Jermaine, who has played in the (UEFA) Champions League and in the (FIFA) World Cup is excited about playing the indoor game. He’s come with an attitude and clearly wants to do well. He’s not just there to have a little media attention and make a little money. He’s there because he wants to succeed, which is what the league needs and should have - players who have been at a high level and are committed to making their teams better. It seems he’s been adapting well and I look forward to playing against him.

Q: Any final thoughts on the rivalry?

LD: Proximity obviously always matters, so the fact that we’re only abouy a hundred miles apart immediately makes it interesting, but that’s not the only thing that makes a good rivalry. It’s also the fact that the games between our two teams are usually very close and hard fought. Having seen that, I can honestly say it’s one of the most intense rivalries I’ve ever been a part of. Take the last game in San Diego, for example. It was intense and back and forth and we ended up going to overtime. That’s great for the players and the fans, and it’s great for our league.