Monday, October 8, 2007


Recently, someone felt compelled to share their opinion of Landon Donovan with me.

"I don't think he's that great."

I agreed.

My friend seemed surprised. "I thought you believed Donovan was great - the best the U.S. has."

"Half-right," I responded. "I don't think he's great. I do think he's the best the U.S. has ever had."

I'm looking at the whole picture in this situation. Donovan doesn't really do one thing incredibly well. He does a lot of things reasonably well, and that adds up to him being the most versatile and beneficial performer the U.S. has ever had.

Technically, I believe Tab Ramos and John O'Brien to be Donovan's equal, if not superior to him. But neither had his quickness or goal-attacking ability. Also, neither was a consistently healthy performer for the U.S., which is where I'd knock down Claudio Reyna.

The competitive hunger of an Eric Wynalda or a Clint Dempsey I'd say also surpasses Donovan, but his cool head means that Donovan isn't getting red-carded out of World Cup games and he's generally the one that can be counted on to nail penalty shots.

At 25, Landon Donovan leads the national team in assists, goals and points. The players that follow him in these categories have more caps than he does.

Of course, people can say that Donovan has played against CONCACAF competition - yet so has everyone else on the U.S. team. Compared to another CONCACAF squad, well, Donovan has as many goals (34) as Cuauhtemoc Blanco (who incidently, didn't have a great overseas career, either), who is fourth on the all-time list for El Tri. Donovan and Blanco also have an equal number of World Cup goals (2).

Some say they can never consider Donovan great until he goes to play European club soccer. Ok, that's fine, but that's not looking at the situation objectively. That's evaluating on only one gradient, one in which Pele himself would be found lacking.

"Why don't you want Donovan to go overseas?" I was once asked.

"I don't really care one way or the other - but I have a hunch that it wouldn't make much difference," I responded. "It makes me laugh to see how many believe on faith that Donovan going to Europe will make him a much better player. I think he's too old for any huge developmental leap. He's probably about as good as he's going to get right now. He'll do well to just maintain his performance level."

To sum up - I think Donovan is as good as it gets in U.S. soccer. If it's not that great, that's as much everybody else's fault for not playing any better as it is his own for being the best the Americans have, without being much more than pretty darn good.


A.C. said...

Just to give a taste of divergent Donovan opinions:

-Donavan, the best ever? What ARE you smoking woman? Have you seen the slew of American stars playing in Europe , in the EPL, in the Champions League etc at the very highest global level? How can you be so deluded about Donavan, granted an incredibly talented player and yet an utter clueless numpty Muppet, who doesn’t even have the guts to play at the highest level of the sport, instead of this Mickey Mouse league called the MLS.
What a load of bollocks!!!

-Donovan has accomplished nothing in competitive football. He's dodged competitive opportunities abroad and has performed awfully in the World Cup matches. While he shows occasional flashes of talent in a second rate league like the MLS or marginally competitive cup competition like the Gold Cup, he shows equally as many squandered chances and misfires.
Howard, Friedel , Keller, McBride, Dempsey, and Reyna are all in a
different class of footballer than Donovan. To label Donovan America's best is an insult to how far we've come as a footballing nation.

glen said...

Donavan is a good player, who when he is on really helps dictate play for the US. I don't know about the best the US has ever produced, but he is an essential element to our national team. He is a little hit and miss although. I was wanting to see if playing along side Beckham on their club team would bring out a little more creativity in his play. Hopefully it will as time goes on.

Anonymous said...

What I don't get is this so-and-so is playing in europe and therefore they are better - and yet, Landon still out-performs them on the national team. Funny to me, the guys on the team don't give a flip about where you play your club ball - just show up and play for the Nats. Which is exactly what LD does - moreso this year than any year. He's overcoming his main weakness, which was mental preparedness, and he's becoming a much better all-around player.

And you're right. I don't think he would get any better by playing in europe at this point, but these so-called critics (who can't even be bothered to spell his name right) would suddenly think he's awesom for the Nats - even if he played the exact same way.

He is the best US player. All others have as yet been unable to surpass him.

artnsue said...

"Technically, I believe Tab Ramos and John O'Brien to be Donovan's equal"

John O'Brien? Who's he? Kind of rings a bell but just can't seem to grasp the name anymore......

Anonymous said...

Donovan only out performs every other US player when playing concacaf competition. Following 2002, he has been crap when playing against real teams outside of the US.

A.C. said...

More Donovan email:

-He is a gifted player. OK, a great player.
He is inconsistent in his effort also; he still is able to disappear at the wrong times. That is my
problem with him. When he becomes consistently excellent I want to be among the first to eat crow or

East River said...

I think Donovan is our overall best player. But his play in 06 and 07 has had a lot to be desired of. He just has been that sharp or had his best form these last two seasons. Oddly enough that shows you how good he is, that he is not playing his best but is still the best US player for 07.

Anonymous said...

Donovan is very probably the most complete prominent contemporary US player, more so than Dempsey. I have always felt that his inconsistency stems from a lack of focus for some reason. If he can maintain his physical form (and he has certainly been blessed with comparatively good health) for a few more years perhaps his “football instincts” will start to catch up with his talent and we will see the benefits of that in 2010. Hopefully, he will learn a lot from playing alongside Beckham who, for all the hoopla and tabloid mania, is a stone cold, hard-bitten, tightly focused competitor of the highest order.

I agree with your observations about Ramos and O’Brien but I perhaps you didn’t see Reyna when he was first coming onto the USMNT scene; very exciting and very dynamic. But when he got the injury that kept him out of the 1994 World Cup, (a shame because he might have made a big difference) I think he lost some of that exciting, attacking edge that he never really regained, even though he went on to become perhaps our most distinguished player ever.

Donovan has been around so long we tend to forget that he will be 26 years old in March of 2008. Clint Dempsey is exactly one year and one week younger than Donovan, so if everyone thinks he is going on to bigger and better things, there is no reason to assume Donovan can't do the same thing. Both players have lots of room to grow.

Donovan will be 28 in 2010. When he was 20 he scored two very important goals for the US in their quarterfinal run in the 2002 World Cup. It is way too early to start writing this guy off.

Bet Blogger said...

For Donavan to be considered one of the best outfield US players, surely he needed to test himself for an extended period in one of the top European leagues. As for the best US player ever - Brad Friedel, without a shadow of a doubt.