Donovan’s “Good”-ison Times
I don’t mean to add any more pressure on Landon Donovan, but if his bags felt really heavy when he first arrived at Goodison Park, he should blame just about every American soccer fan who has jumped along for the ride and is exhausting every will in his/her body to hopefully see who many believe is the best Yank ever finally succeed in Europe. No one American player, not Harkes, Wynalda, Perez, Lalas, Moore, Reyna, Keller, Altidore, Dempsey, Adu, Johnson, Bocanegra, Davies, Bradley or Gooch has the U.S. soccer fans wanting to succeed more on soccer’s biggest club stage than Donovan. Why? Because he’s arguably the best player the United States has ever produced. Because he’s won everything there is to win on American soil. Because he’s won enough individual domestic and international hardware to build a nice sized tool shed. Because he holds every significant U.S. national team record. Because he failed at Bayer Leverkusen. Because he failed at Bayern Munich. Because even when he wasn’t playing in Europe, he was still the best known Yank on the planet. Because he’s never done anything to embarrass the U.S. Because even the Argentines and Uruguayans here at work think he’s really good. Because he’s shown that when he plays alongside a world class player such as David Beckham, he doesn’t look out of place. Just ask Ashley Cole. Because Mexico hates him. I’m not saying he’s Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Kaka, but for us, he is one of those three in regards to American soccer. He’s been our soccer poster child for close to 15 years and now we desperately want him to finally paint a career in Europe that even the purest of “football snobs” will have to admire when Landon decides to hang up his boots. Unfortunately, as of seven weeks ago, all they remember is Landon failing on his first three strokes on the European landscape. We all know that homesickness got the best of him during each of his first two stints at Bayer Leverkusen. Cool. Whatever. Heck, if Bianca Kajlich was waiting for me back home, I’d also leave Germany faster then it takes to say, “Avita Zein, dudes!” Bayern Munich? It smelled like disaster from the get-go. Jurgen Klinsmann, fighting for his job, injects an American into one of the world’s most storied clubs which was struggling at the time to clinch the Bundesliga title and a spot in Europe. Good luck! Donovan had as much of a chance at a prosperous future with Bayern, as a fat juicy pig living next door to a wienerschnitzel factory. But then came the call from Liverpool, England. Not from Rafa Benitez, but instead from David Moyes. Thank goodness. You see, Moyes has a soft spot for American players having signed Tim Howard and Brian McBride in the past. The Scotsman has done wonders with a club that isn’t quite known for spending the big bucks in the transfer market. Moyes has led the Toffees to 5th place finishes the past 2 seasons in the always tough EPL with a squad full of really good, but not world class players. Howard could be the exception and that’s why Moyes might have taken his stellar goalkeeper’s advice to acquire Donovan on loan from the Galaxy back in December. So with a U-S national teammate on the squad, a style of soccer that better fits his immense gifts, a club and gaffer not pressured to win everything on the planet each year, English spoken on the streets, the burning desire to finally succeed in Europe, no wife back home – Donovan got divorced last year, and a club, manager and fan base that want him to succeed as much as we do, it appears as if the stars have finally aligned up for America’s brightest star to succeed in the old continent. Yes, it’s waaaaaaaaay too early to call Donovan a success overseas, but at least there’s a strong indication that he’s headed in the right direction. It started with his Everton debut against none other then one of England’s big four, Arsenal. Donovan used his pace to open the field for Tim Cahill, Louis Saha and Steven Pienaar who scored a goal in the game and seems to have benefited more then any other Toffee with Donovan’s arrival. If not for a stoppage time tying goal by Tomas Rosicky, the Merseysider’s would’ve had a brilliant upset at Emirates stadium. You can easily say that Everton has been the hottest team in England since that January 9th match in London. Wins over such powerhouses as Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City has Everton currently riding a record of 6 wins and 2 losses which puts them within shouting distance of another trip to Europe, something that was looking very precarious back when Santa Claus was making his stops around the world. Everton is clearly a different team since Donovans’ arrival. Moyes’ side is oozing confidence. It has an offensive attack that keeps its opponents honest thanks to Donovan’s ability to create space and generate opportunities from the right side of the pitch with his blistering pace. Maybe the best indication of Donovan’s impact on Goodison Park is from the people that sit in its stands. Recently, a group of Everton supporters started a Facebook campaign in order to try to keep him from leaving the club in one week when Donovan’s loan spell with Toffees expires. You can throw Moyes’ into that group of Donovan fans that want him to stay at Goodison Park. Although his superiors aren’t known for splashing out the big pounds, the Scotsman recently acknowledged that the Toffees are trying to keep Donovan for the rest of the season. Donovan also wants to stay with the Blues but realizes the business side of soccer might not let that happen. Donovan signed a very lucrative deal with the MLS back in December so the league isn’t about to let its best player skip town without getting something big in return, especially the Galaxy who already have Beckham on loan until July. However we are talking sports, right? Contracts in all sports are broken everyday. Players and teams do it all the time. If Landon really wants to the best Yank ever, he has to force the MLS’ hand now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not at the end of the season. Now. Landon Donovan is the only MLS player, not named David Beckham, who can force the league’s hand. No one player can tell the MLS, “if we don’t work something out that’s fair to everyone, I’m not playing.” Some would call him a brat or an ungrateful malcontent if he did that but I would call him brilliant and well-deserving. At the end of the day, no one cares about how many goals or titles Donovon won on U.S. soil, all they care about is how he did against the best at the highest level, proving once and for all that he truly is the best we’ve ever had, no matter what the German’s or anybody else thinks.