Tag Archives: Los Angeles Galaxy

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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Filed under MLS, Premiership

MLS Cup 2009

Kyle Beckerman and Real Salt Lake celebrate winning the MLS Cup (Getty Images)

Uncreative title, I know. I couldn’t think of anything fun. C’est la vie.

In any event, it was a good match. It was very exciting although injuries took their toll, which is always unpleasant. That said, the reinforcements more than held their own for 120 minutes and 7 rounds of penalty kicks. Surprisingly, Landon Donovan and, to a lesser extent, David Beckham, were absent for long stretches of play. Donovan was particularly surprising, given how well he’s played for the national team over the last year or so.

After all of the playing, in which several players, including Andy Williams and Beckham, ran themselves ragged, it came down to penalty kicks. The exciting/aggravating time in soccer. Both keepers played well, with Real Salt Lake’s (I hate their name, BTW. It is hands-down the dumbest name in MLS. I don’t understand why they didn’t call it “Royal Salt Lake” or the “Salt Lake Royals” or something. Why the Spanish? Why???) Nick Rimando performed his wizardry again: stopping just enough Galaxy shots to win the match and the MVP award. Surprisingly, Donovan missed his penalty kick. Go figure.

The atmosphere was electric; Seattle did a wonderful job hosting the Cup and creating the atmosphere. Over 46,000 people watched the match. They weren’t disappointed. Among some, the idea has already taken hold that the atmosphere proves soccer has arrived; I wouldn’t go that far but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

Congrats, Salt Lake.

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Saturday Night Links: fans’ protest edition

st james park protest

Fans protest at St. James' Park

Mike Ashley is an idiot. He renamed St. James’ Park “sportsdirect.com @ St. James’ Park Stadium” which is way, way worse than Citi Field or any corporately named stadium in North America or, really, anywhere else in the world. It should be protested on principle. Of course, Mike Ashley is an idiot so that doesn’t help.

Well, Arsenal are making me look like a dumbass. They won today, rising to second in the league, just ahead of idle Manchester United and just behind idle Chelsea (United and Chelsea play tomorrow). The point is that the Arse are playing well lately.

The MLS playoffs are in full swing. Did you notice? No? Shame on you! Fortunately, you still have time to catch LA Galaxy v. Chivas (tomorrow at 7.30pm EST) and Seattle v. Houston (tomorrow at 3pm EST).

Finally, the big game tomorrow is Manchester United v. Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Both managers are busy scheming but I expect a fast-paced game and I expect everyone to be excited for it.

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David Beckham challenges the fans

I like David Beckham. I think he’s the classic effort player. He has one extraordinary skill – free kick taking – and gets by on guts and fitness. He’s loyal to a fault, especially to England, for whom he wants to play one more time in 2010 in South Africa. I’m not justifying his actions toward Los Angeles and I think fans have the right to say things about actions on the field, within reason. I’ve no idea if fans went overboard though I do know that both the fans and Beckham come off looking terrible here.

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