Dec 11, 2009
Flash

Spineless Ninny Heads to Goodison Park

LandycakesLA Galaxy’s Landon Donovan will join Everton in January on a short term loan. The Blues are bleeding goals and have an injury depleted roster and a woeful financial situation, so this is looking like a reasonably shrewd move by David Moyes. The loan market is loaded with rubbish, and while Donovan isn’t a physical player, he can add skill, pace and versatility at no risk. He’s like a Honda Civic, that one. Trouble is, he’ll be a Civic on the Autobahn, and I don’t think he has the heart, grit or tenacity for the ride. 

That Donovan can be a cracking player when his mind is right is a fact that cannot be denied. If he musters even half of Mikel Arteta’s creativity while at Goodison Park, Everton will have scored a helluva bargain and Donovan will win a permanent job in Europe. But that’s a massive if for a man whose career has been defined by them.

"If he’d been more mature at Bayer Leverkusen…"
"If he wasn’t buried on the depth chart at Bayern Munich…"
"If he didn’t disappear in the 2006 World Cup…"
"If he hadn’t sailed that penalty kick into the night sky."
"If his head is in the right place…"

In a nine years as a professional, Donovan has spent the last five choosing comfort over sacrifice; whinging instead of leading; and choking when the lights burn brightest. Sure he’s been quality for the last six months but that didn’t stop him from flaking out in the MLS final – a match he should have owned. After a beautiful assist, he disappeared, only to reappear during the penalty phase and blow it. You know what he said about all that?

"I just put it in the air," Donovan said. "It’s probably partially due to tired legs and not concentrating in that moment… "I’m not sure what happened on their goal. It was pretty sloppy. But in the end, they probably deserved to get a goal at some point."

There is a spineless weakness about this quote that makes me ill. Great players focus when others fold, and when they’re beaten, all they can say is "too good. Get em next time" because they have no regrets. But then, Landon Donovan isn’t a great player is he? He could be. He should be. But right now, he’s just a good one who has flashes of brilliance against class competition. Sometimes he plays with tenacity and shocks the world. Other times you wonder if he left the match and got back on the bus.

Donovan will have but a few weeks to find his feet at Merseyside before he’s fighting to be more than a fringe, bench player when guys begin returning from injury and the African Nations Cup. According to some, it doesn’t matter because he has everything to gain and nothing to lose, but let’s be real. This is his fourth try in Europe. He is well beyond fool me once, fool me twice. He’s a footballer in his prime whose chance for a significant career outside the United States and true respect within it hinges on how he performs in 2010. He can’t just show up and play in Everton. He needs to show out. That’s a lot of pressure and adversity for a man with little experience with either one.

"What about Confederations Cup? What about his play in MLS? He rose to the occasion like never before!"

Donovan lead a team of underdogs in an improbable run to the Confederations Cup final and that should be applauded, but when was the team under any pressure to perform? And MLS, for all its improvements, remains a junior varsity league that he should dominate year in and out. That doesn’t require much grit. But pressure and adversity will be there in spades when Donovan tries to make an impact on a squad that is not only perilously close to relegation but also must continue its push in the Europa League knockout stages against a Champions League castoff. And unlike the Confed Cup and the MLS season, this time, the entire world will be watching. The British tabloids will give them no choice.

The last time Donovan went up against a legitimate challenge of any magnitude on the European club level, he took his ball and went home. In a way, it was the right decision, as he’s been able to stay in form. But what has his time in MLS done for his mental toughness? When has it really tested his tenacity? I wish Landycakes all the luck in the world on this one but I think history is about to repeat itself – not because he’s lacking in skill but because he hasn’t the spine. 

8 Comments

  • Desperate move for Moyes though I can’t blame him. But a horrible move for Donovan. He should go to France. It suits his game. If he isn’t blown off the ball every time in the Prem and relegated to bench warmer, I’ll be shocked.

  • “bench player when players begin returning from injury”
    You mean when by Rat Boy Jr. comes back?

  • Little Rat Boy might be back from surgery before Donovan even suits up. I think he’ll surge out the gate but hanging on is another matter entirely. I have to see to believe on this one.

  • I think this post brings up a great point that people are missing. It’s his mental toughness that will determine his success, not his skills. The guy can play and it’s anti-American bias to think otherwise. But I don’t think he’s a Dempsey or McBride who will go balls out no matter the circumstances and will kill themselves trying to beat you. Donovan wants to mix it up until it gets tough and then he disappears. That won’t work in the Prem.

  • British media will be all over him too. That’s going to be an entirely new animal for this guy.

  • You know I’m not a soccer guy so help me understand this part of it. I keep hearing people say that Donovan shouldn’t have to go overseas because he’s redeemed himself at MLS and anybody who thinks he should play and stay in Europe is just biased. What’s up with that?

  • I think there’s a failure or unwillingness for some Americans to acknowledge that as much as the MLS has improved, it holds no candle to any top league in Europe. And because of that and LD’s international performance over the last year, they think he’s proved himself to be a world class player. But they don’t want to admit that being world class only comes when you play against the world’s best every day of the year and not in random tournaments and friendlies. They accuse anyone who disagrees with them of anti-American bias or of being snobbish. It’s foolish.

  • Look at it through baseball. Matsui and Ichiro are two of the greatest Japanese players of all time. They coulda stayed in Japan and dominated forever but that’s worth shit in the grand scheme if they don’t go to America to make it happen with the best. Same with Donovan. People who don’t think he has anything to prove are morons. The next 7 months mean everything. If he can shine at Everton, some club will pay to get him out of LA after the World Cup. If he doesn’t, he’ll have to hope for the best in SA.

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I am a jaded, sarcastic girl prone to unreasonable fits of rage. This site is my outlet. I am not classy, nice, or fair. It's best you know that up front.

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