Tag Archives: Everton

Landycakes no more

Landon Donovan scores v. Algeria, 23 June 2010 (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

In the future, we’ll look back at 23 June 2010 and realize that it was that day that Landon Donovan grew up.

To be sure, he’s matured immeasurably over the last two years or so. Most of that has to do with him finally accepting his position in US soccer’s player hierarchy and history. Donovan is the most talented player in US history. Now that he’s seeing that as more blessing than curse, he’s thriving.

Example A: his tenure with the Los Angeles Galaxy. He’s a leader and refuses to back down from anyone, not even Goldenballs himself. Example B: his work with the national team. Although Carlos Bocanegra is the captain and Tim Howard is the vocal leader, Donovan commands everyone’s respect. He’s the key for the strikers and the midfielders and they play off his vibe. He’s quietly confident now. Clint Dempsey’s rise has helped, because Dempsey is vocal where Donovan is quiet. At the same time, Dempsey and Donovan can switch sides without a large drop-off in skill level, a huge tactical advantage and a huge psychological burden lifted from Donovan.

The best, and final example, is Donovan’s 3-month long loan spell at Everton. In contrast to his stay in Germany, Donovan thrived in England. And the reason he thrived has everything to do with his maturity. Donovan accepted his position and the pressure and used it as a motivating factor, rather than getting psychologically crushed by it. Donovan was a revelation in England, and that led directly to today’s goal.

Donovan’s always had the ability to score. He’s not even 30 and he’s US soccer’s all-time leading scorer. He’s always been clinical, to a degree. But he’s never been happy with the result. It was like every time he scored, it was just another burden, something else to make him stick out from the crowd. After he scored the most important goal in US soccer history, there was genuine joy on his face. Even after the mob broke up, the smile remained. Donovan’s leadership and maturity and, most importantly, hard work over the last 2 years led to that goal.

So, no longer will I call him Landycakes. He’s Landon Donovan now. And US soccer is far better for it.

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Landycakes’s excellent Everton adventure begins

Landon Donovan debuts for Everton

Landon Donovan’s loan deal with Everton has repeatedly been described as “short-term” but I can’t find anyone willing to commit to an actual number. For argument’s sake, I’ll go with between three and six months, though if it’s the latter I don’t think the Galaxy or MLS would be happy since that would likely prevent him from joining the club until after the World Cup. But that’s neither here nor there; what’s important is that Donovan is, once again, playing in Europe.

Andrea Canales is already trying to decide if he will pave the way for more Americans in the Premiership. What she, and other Americans, don’t realize is that most Americans can’t handle the Premiership. The players aren’t coddled there – unless you’re a huge star, but even then you might not be coddled – like they are in American sports leagues (a constant – and valid – criticism of US sports is that it deifies its players ever earlier; perhaps local soccer coverage in Europe does the same thing, though). In any event, I think Donovan is particularly well-suited to success in Europe, provided he gets over his homesickness issues, because he has the technical skills other US players lack.

Technique is what sets him apart on the national team. He is clearly the best player and, over the past 24 months or so, has put it all together, finally. He is on an incredible run of form and it’s only right that he gets rewarded for that by challenging himself at one of the highest club levels. But here’s the reason he won’t be completely successful, despite his technical ability: he doesn’t have that killer instinct.

Look, for example, at the most successful US players in the Premiership: Brian McBride and Clint Dempsey. Although they weren’t as technically sound as Donovan, they had something he doesn’t: a massive chip on their shoulder. McBride and Dempsey are pitbulls who want every ball on every possession. They are balls-to-the-wall all the time while Donovan is not. I think that’s what US players need to succeed in Europe in general and England in particular.

Perhaps Donovan is developing that side of his game. Perhaps he can put aside his homesickness issues, which probably stem from the fact that he’s been the best player on every team he’s ever played on in the US while that wasn’t the case at Leverkusen and Bayern. He needs to see Everton as a chance to prove he belongs at the highest level and he needs to prove that he won’t back down. That will help him, and the US national team going forward.

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Premiership Matchday 13: Manchester United 3-0 Everton

Darren Fletcher's wonder goal v. Everton (Getty Images)

I’m going to keep this brief: Manchester United dominated Everton today at Old Trafford. From the kickoff, United dominated possession and kept the pressure on the Everton back four. A good number of chances were created even before Darren Fletcher’s excellent goal in the 35th minute. I’ll digress for a second for some illustrative superlatives: it was an amazing, impressive, shockingly good goal. Darren, I didn’t know you had it in you. I am impressed by both the goal and his form this season. Back on point. Everton came out somewhat better in the second half but Michael Carrick’s (him again!) goal in the 67th minute sealed the victory. Antonio Valencia’s goal in the 76th minutes – bouncing in off the unlucky Leighton Baines – was icing on the cake.

Good teams have short memories. In this case, the fact that the defeat at Chelsea’s hands happened 2 weeks ago probably had a lot to do with it. The Fox Soccer Channel announcers made a good point: last year at this time, United lost to Arsenal and then proceeded to go on a 16-match unbeaten run. Perhaps United will round into form now after looking ragged for two or three weeks before the international break.

We’ll see. But for now, I’ll enjoy the win.

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Saturday Night Links: Burn Notice edition

Because I’m watching the re-broadcast of Burn Notice, one of my favorite shows.

Gianfranco Zola is living in dreamland. He apparently thinks that (a) Mario Balotelli wants to play at West Ham; and (b) Mario Balotelli should play at West Ham. I don’t think he’s going to London.

Aliaksandr Hleb is going to Stuttgart, not Inter Milan. Go figure.

Xabi Alonso wants out of Liverpool and Rafa Benítez wants £28 million from Real Madrid. Which I guess is better than the £30 million he wanted last week. At this point, Real should just pay the extortion fee and move on. Alonso will never be worth £28-30 million but he will be worth £20 million to Real Madrid’s midfield. Meanwhile, Javier Mascherano wants to go to Barcelona. Which means Liverpool is capital-F Fucked.

Everton rejected an £18 million bid from City for Joleon Lescott. That’s a setback for the City building project.

Elsewhere, Rio Ferdinand is confident that the season ahead will be a good one, even after losing 1-0 to Bayern in some sort of tournament I hadn’t heard of until yesterday. I’m reasonably confident that the season ahead will be a good one. I’m interested in seeing how the rest of the summer plays out before making a call on that one.

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