Premier Class: Landon Donovan

March 10, 2010

Landon Donovan and Tim Cahill

Landon Donovan celebrates Tim Cahill's goal

Landon Donovan is the most recognizable American soccer player of his generation, similar to David Beckham’s status in England. Donovan burst onto the world scene with his performances for the U.S national team at the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan, and followed that up with strong showings at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, and more recently, the Confederations Cup this past summer. With incredible speed, technical ability, and shooting ability in both legs, Donovan is most known for playing for Major League Soccer’ L.A Galaxy rather than a more competitive European league. This is certainly a peculiar choice for someone of Donovan’s talent, and his recent two-month loan deal to Everton in the English Premier League has shown everyone that he possesses the ability to be a star in one of the most competitive leagues in the world.

So why does Landon Donovan play in the MLS? He may be asking himself the same question right now because the midfielder who once accused L.A Galaxy teammate David Beckham of not being committed to their team, is now doing the exact same thing that Beckham did when he extended his loan spell at A.C Milan last year. Donovan has asked permission from the L.A Galaxy front office and head coach to have his loan deal at Everton extended until mid-April. Donovan seems to have realized that the English Premier League competition marginally better than the MLS.

Donovan has stated that playing in the league in two short months has helped him improve as a player.
“It’s absolutely improved me. It’s impossible not to. I have learnt a lot technically, tactically, how to keep myself motivated. It absolutely puts me in a stronger position for the World Cup. But the biggest thing is having the confidence I can play against anybody and not fear anyone.”

His acceptance by the Everton fans has had a profound impact on how he feels about the team as a whole. After Everton hammered Hull City 5-1, a game that Donovan came off the bench to score once and assist on another, he was greeted by a raucous ovation from the Goodison Park faithful who desperately want him to stay at Everton. An American player beloved by hundreds of thousands of British fans is a seldom seen occurrence, but for Donovan, it’s reality.

Landon Donovan and David Beckham

Beckham's loan spell at A.C Milan gave Donovan the inspiration to try a loan move of his own at Everton

Many people may be asking themselves why Donovan plays a full season for the MLS and then uses his off-season to play in another foreign league? The answer is simple and Donovan was given the inspiration to do so by his L.A Galaxy teammate David Beckham. With the World Cup this summer, the top MLS players who play for their country need to stay in shape for the tournament that starts in June, and in Beckham’s case, this means a loan-spell at A.C Milan in order to be picked by England manager Fabio Capello for the English World Cup squad. Donovan is a different case because he would be picked for the U.S team regardless of whether he was playing or not. Donovan chose to take a loan move to Everton to stay in shape and play at the highest possible level of competition to prepare himself for the World Cup. Being America’s best player, Donovan needs to be at his best to give the U.S team any shot at making into the knockout rounds, and playing with a higher quality team improves his ability as a player.

Donovan’s dedication to the MLS’ growth as a league is admirable but the reality is that soccer is one sport that the United States does not have a world-class league for. The best players domestically play elsewhere, except in Landon Donovan’s case, however he may be carefully reconsidering sometime soon.


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