- Posted by Drew Epperley
- On October 27, 2009
- 2 Comments
- Geoff Reid, Landon Donovan
While I realize that the news of Landon Donovan winning his latest US Soccerís Honda Player Of The Year award isnít exactly new, I thought it was important to discuss the progress of the USAís number 10. I myself will be the first to admit was one of his fiercest critics not because of his three stints in the Bundesliga, but because at one time his attitude was all wrong.
After he signed with Bayer Leverkusen as a teenager, the smartest thing Donovan could have done was come back to the MLS on loan, get considerable more playing time and help develop his game further. It just helped that he was playing for both Frank Yallop and Dominic Kinnear, two of the best coaches in the league, and on a team that was starting to become something special. He was surrounded by good teammates that had an excellent work ethic always pushing each other every training session and getting the best out of each other on the pitch while off the field being a close knit group. Itís no surprise that the current Houston Dynamo club has made the playoffs so many consecutive years in a row since they were the original San Jose Earthquakes.
This part of LDís career no doubt helped him succeed, and with his impressive play during the 2002 World Cup in South Korea made us all realize how much potential he had. In early 2005, Donovan made the decision to head back to the Rhine and Leverkusen and give Europe a shot, and the German club were involved in the latter stages of the Champions League while Donovan started against Liverpool at Anfield in a 3-1 loss.
Obviously none of us know Donovan personally, so I canít officially say what went on during his second stint in German football, but from what reports said at the time, his attitude was all wrong. As a new player to a new team, you have to go in with the attitude of wanting to work as hard as you can every training session as well as every match in order to earn your starting spot or a place on the bench and ultimately prove yourself. The problem Donovan has always had playing in the MLS was that he was simply put a big fish in a small pond. If reports are to be believed, he expected to get a starting spot right away, not having to earn it. After realizing that wasnít the case, his transfer back to MLS was quickly taken care of from both sides, and being allocated to the LA Galaxy after former Earthquakes General Manager Alexi Lalas decided to trade away his allocation rights.
At this point, he developed the nickname ďLandycakesĒ which I will admit, quickly picked up on, and when the 2006 World Cup in Germany came and went, not all blame can be placed on Donovan for the disappointing overall performance the USA provided us, but certainly he was a big part of it.
It was shortly after the World Cup where Donovan changed his attitude for the better. He publicly stated that getting married helped him mature and take responsibility and by judging from reports, changed his work ethic a complete 180 degrees. It was almost as if he realized he had something to prove to the world not only for himself, but that the disappointment in Germany in his club career and the World Cup that the criticism came his way were very wrong.
Of course now if reports are to be believed about his marriage, can also add to another part of his responsibility not only with his club, but country as well. After having a short stint at Bayern Munich and third in the Bundesliga, I believe the fire is in him to succeed at the highest level at both club and international football. Having Jurgen Klinsmann as manager at the time was the only reason as to why Bayern even took the time to look at him, and Donovan didnít do himself any harm in his short stint in Bavaria. If anything, he didnít get much of a chance competing for a spot against Luca Toni, Miroslav Klose and Lucas Podolski.
Right now, you see more then ever this determination on Donovanís face of wanting to succeed at club level after the Galaxy being the laughing stock of the league since David Beckhamís arrival. You see the fire in his eyes that this season means a lot to him not only because of that, but wanting to prove the Galaxy are the best team in the Western Conference, and possibly being his last season in MLS before giving Europe another try this winter with his contract due to expire soon.
This latest award came as no real surprise, the only legitimate challenger would have been Tim Howard, and rightly so because the Everton keeper kept the national team in a lot of games with some fabulous displays. But Donovan also proved when heís on song, so is team USA. Itís no real surprise he smashed Eric Wynaldaís all time goal scoring record for the national team and itís not far fetched to say that he is the best player this country has ever produced hands down, certainly out of outfield players. The problem I always had with Donovan was not that he didnít have the technical ability, that was always there and he was always good enough to succeed at the highest level, it was his attitude that bothered me. I feel safe to say that he has certainly won me over these past two years showing his commitment and passion to want to play for his country. No longer will I be calling him Landycakes and certainly my next US national team jersey will have Donovan number 10 on the back.
Editor’s Note: Geoff Reid appears on WVHooligan.com each week. Feel free to leave him a message below.