Sunday, February 19, 2012

Landon Donovan's 2nd Everton Stint

With Clint Dempsey's assault on the goalscoring record books (Fulham's and US') in EPL play this year, it would be easy to overlook Landon's outstanding play in the 9 games he's had with Everton on loan.  Though he didn't score this time around (2 goals back in 2010), he still contributed 6 assists (compared to 4 assists in 2010 in 13 games) and was awarded Everton's January Player of the Month.  It is no small thing to be able to seamlessly fit right into the EPL league, a physical style for which many would think Landon's small frame and skill set is not particularly suited for, not just once but twice.

Though the club hasn't been nearly as successful this time around, Landon was clearly the standout performer on the team.  His accurate passing, especially in the final 3rd (interesting considering the US' struggles in that very area) were hugely important in securing valuable points for the struggling EPL side.  In those 9 games, Everton scored 11 goals, 6 of which were from Landon assists.  The 3 standout games this time around include the assist which salvaged a point vs Aston Villa, one that beat Manchester City and another in the 2-0 defeat of Chelsea, which was also his last game.

However, perhaps the most memorable for Americans was the FA Cup matchup vs Dempsey's Fulham club.  Both goals in Everton's 2-1 win came from Landon assists while Dempsey was mostly ineffective on the night.  It was a big win for Landon since the hype had been (and hopefully continues to be) all about Dempsey's awesome season.  Ultimately, that game served to remind us all that Landon still has something incredibly valuable to offer the US squad - an attacking presence on the right flank.

Too often in the past, we've asked Landon to be the do-it-all man in the offense.  I think it is obvious now that his best place is a clear, unhindered attacking role on the right, opposite of Brek Shea where a starter has not emerged in Klinsmann camps.  His ability to cross, execute clever through-balls, and exert pressure with his pace will be maximized there.  Brilliantly, Everton doesn't ask him to do more than that, and neither should we.  The results speak for themselves.

As for his time with Everton, I personally wish he could have stayed there for the remainder of this year and perhaps another.  He has nothing more to prove in the MLS.  It would quiet the skeptics about his legacy and escalate US Soccer on the international stage that much more.

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