December 2009, Donovan, World Cup 2010

A Defense of Donovan


An Open Letter to the Misinformed, not informed, ignorant and wayward legions of Landon haters Alike

First, I can’t even believe I’m writing this post. It’s unbelievable to me that it is even necessary. I had hoped to start the Yanks are Coming’s list of 32 players to watch in the 2010 World Cup tonight, but after reading a bit on message boards and comment wall’s (much, much more on that in a paragraph or two), I couldn’t help but feel this post was necessary, if only to make me, forget Landon (who doesn’t care!!), feel better. Second, let’s get some religion about how absurd it is that I’m writing this post. How absurd is a “Defense of Landon Donovan?” Well—for perspective—“A Defense of Landon Donovan” is more or less the equivalent of a “Defense of Dirk Nowitzki”, or a college football column entitled “In Defense of Colt McCoy”. Editors would laugh at those columns. Most folks should laugh at the thought of this one being necessary. And yet here I am. And here it is. Finally, this column will, as the title suggests, be an “open letter” to the legions of ignoramuses out there who continue to insist on the inadequacies of Landon Donovan. The engine that drove this column—well—you’ll have to read my letter, which I’ll begin now. One plea from the author— pay special attention if you fall into ANY of the categories in the group after the affectionate word “Dear.”


  1. Misinformed soccer fans;
  2. uninformed soccer fans;
  3. ignorant or semi-delusional British and European soccer fans who I’ll see in Rustenburg this June;
  4. delusional Premier League fans who’ve never watched the U.S. Men’s National Team nor a single MLS game and may have caught Sportscenter’s brilliant soccer coverage for twenty seconds here and there but still feel the need to act like they know a great deal even though they should just plead ignorance;
  5. and wayward, silly, pathetic Landon Donovan haters,
  6. Bruce Arena,

My goal in this letter is to be as honest with you as you are not being with yourselves. As such, there are two things you should know outright, especially if you get to the end of this letter and you don’t fall into the category of “F” or someone who can’t just sit down, pour yourself a glass of egg nog or a pint of Guinness and admit ignorance. First, I am a devout fan and follower of Everton FC. As a fan of the Toffees, it has been a trying year. First, there was the Joleon Lescott saga with Blankcheckster City. David Moyes has been frustrated by poor form and a training ground that has Finch Farm looking more like a war hospital than a practice ground. Injuries to team captain Phil Neville, England national Phil Jagielka, the EPL’s most underrated player, Mikel Arteta, as well as the perpetual injuries of Yakubu, the world’s most lazy world class talent, have challenged Everton’s depth.  The result of all of this is that Everton find themselves three points out of the drop zone a year after playing a riveting FA Cup Final with table topper Chelsea FC. Unlike Blankcheckster City, who only are allowed to play in England, the Toffees play in Europe too and the plight in Europe has been much better, as they find themselves in the knockout stages of the Europa League, along with fellow Liverpool residents Liverpool, but even that campaign has been sullied by a grotesque defeat against Portuguese giants Benfica. It is with this background that Everton have decided to try a loan with the subject matter of our letter, Landon Donovan.

Everton Crest

Second bit of honesty before the meat of the letter—I’m an Everton fan and I don’t dislike Steven Pienaar. In fact, I think the South African international is a fine player and I admire how he has battled through what is clearly a painful knee injury this season. That bit of honesty is required because news of Donovan’s impending loan to Everton has sparked some rather absurd claims regarding Steven Pienaar. Did you know Steven Pienaar can make a paraplegic run for his life? Or that it takes Steven Pienaar twenty minutes to watch 60 Minutes? It’s true. Or so I learned today.

I also learned a great deal about Landon Donovan today. Most of it can be found here, on the four-letter network’s soccer website comments. Most of this was news to me. In fact, I found it so interesting I thought I’d share it with you in this letter. If you are in fact the one who wrote it—feel flattered. Not only have you qualified as a candidate for Jackleg of the Month– I found your nonsensical drabble so patently ridiculous you made it into the letter!!  For the sake of Dan Seco—I’ve not embarrassed all the haters. As Kenny Powers so eloquently said, “I’ll just include the choice nugs.”


What I’ve Learned About Landon—Starting with the least offensive but still clueless:

a. Chad Marshall is a better option:

    From a guy who calls himself “OSPUD::

    “Definitely a depth move for Everton. Donovan probably won’t play a whole lot (and even less after others get healthy and the Africa Cup wraps up). So perhaps a limited contract makes sense. I wish he’d do something like make a permanent move to a club like West Ham or Wigan (or go to France, which is a fine league with a number of teams that could use a player like him).

    Though if I were David Moyes, the American player I’d be after is Chad Marshall. Everton is bleeding goals this season, on a pace to nearly double what it allowed in 2008/9. Marshall could put Sylvain Distin, who is swiftly becoming useless, on the bench immediately.”

    Thanks for playing, “OSPUD”…

    Of course, a couple of problems here. First, Everton have two players who MAY play the Africa Cup of Nations. Neither of them of course play Landon’s position. Yakubu plays left out mostly and he’s about as big a work-out guy as Lendale White, so no big loss there. Joseph Yobo may play as well—but Landon isn’t a center-back either. Steven Pienaar is who I imagine OSPUD was referring to but Bafana Bafana didn’t qualify for that tournament so clearly OSPUD knows his stuff.

    As for Chad Marshall—this is embarrassingly silly. Even if you accept his assertions about Distin, Phil Jagielka is the center-back to replace him and will when he is healthy. Of course, I can see why a cash-starved club would pay what the Crew would demand for the MLS Defender of the Year, especially when they already have a Fabio Capello love-child coming off the training table when the calendar turns to 2010. Right. That said, all OSPUD is guilty of is making assertions about things he knows nothing about and more or less being ignorant of Everton’s situation and depth chart.

    b. Steven Pienaar is better than Landon Donovan:


    From a Guy who calls himself “BAFANA 2010” (Immediately damaging to your “message board street cred”)…

    “Pienaar is a better ball player, can hold the ball better, is better defensively and is tougher physically. Pienaar also does not disappear in games like Donovan does, especially in big games. If Donovan is better than Pienaar what is he still doing in MLS?”

    Easy, my Bafana homeboy !! I love my country too—but that’s not a license to say things that have zero resemblance to reality. Pienaar is a good player who is particularly effective when he can run onto the ball. He may hold the ball better than Donovan, so you are okay there. Unfortunately, that’s the end of rational thought for you. Landon Donovan is far better defensively. Just running next to Dirk Kuyt or Steven Gerrard doesn’t mean you are defending them. The “physicality” is about a wash—though I complemented Pienaar above on his toughness this season. As far as big games—MLS CUP aside—this claim is ridonculously silly. Pienaar has zero goals this year in league play and zero assists. He has goose-eggs against the Big Four the last two seasons. He has two Europa goals, one of which secured a draw, but mostly what he does in big games is foul—13 against Arsenal, Tottenham and .Liverpool. This answers most your claims without even diving into international football, but just for giggles… zero goals, zero assists in his last eight internationals and outside of one particularly disruptive game against Spain in the Confederations Cup—he has more fouls than shots on goal. So much for not disappearing.

    c. Steven Pienaar isn’t just better, he’s….

    From a Guy who calls himself DBLU2:

    “Pienaar on his worst day is better than Donovan on his best day — right now.”

    Sure—I can see why his two international goals, against powers Burkina Faso and Uganda would help compel you to that conclusion. And certainly it couldn’t be that he occasionally finds the back of the net for Everton (6 times) or assists on goals (7 times in his career at Merseyside). Since we all know he’s Everton’s best player—your claims are beyond debate. Landon’s forty-two international goals, including his “not big game” goals against Mexico in the round of 16 at the World Cup, and Confed Cup goals against Italy and Brazil, aren’t convincing. I mean—I get that the U.S. is better than Bafana Bafana—but how does playing in the U.S. exactly negate everything Landon’s done? Oh that’s right, it doesn’t.  Again, I have nothing against Pienaar in particular. In fact, he’s probably a bit more suited to a hold the ball possession style of play than Landon, who is always looking for a more penetrating play and will learn patience a bit in the EPL. Unlike Pienaar, Donovan uses his vision, not patience and short passing, to help break pressure. It is different than being a splendid build-up player, but Everton already have those. This is an upgrade and David Moyes knows it. On top of that, there’s no guarantee for now that the two will occupy the same spot. So your comparisons aren’t just absurd, they are slightly ludicrous.

    d. Landon Donovan is a woman ??


    From a Guy who calls himself TOPE2A:

    “Im going to need a little help from you vast amount of numbskulls in explaining your logic that donowoman is on par with Pienaar. Pienaar is a proven player in the EPL and donowoman has failed in numerous stints in europe. Pienaar plays day in and day out in the EPL, which in terms or overall talent, is light years ahead of the MLS… All you donowoman lovers are living in a american vacumm of false hope. There is a lot of pressure playing with the big boys in europe day in and day out. So I dont see how donowoman will be able to hack it. I mean, he is not a bad player by any stretch of the imagination. But realistically, he is a MLS caliber player.”

    Which ad hom, non-warranted, ridiculous assertion to address first…Uh… forget it. Tope2a, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

    e. Landon can’t play on the wing and his defense is atrocious.

    From a Guy I’m convinced is really Bruce Arena, but calls himself THRUHIM17:

    “landon’s defense is atrocious. the us and galaxy adapt their setup to allow him to succeed. he’s not a winger or a striker. you can’t compare him to either in the epl presently. i dont think he could play outside for everton. I think he’d be a good sub up to the last 10-15. Winger is horse work and landom simply doesn’t have that in him..”

    Uh…No. First, about his defense. We must be watching different Landon Donovan’s. Did you watch the Spain game in the Confed Cup? If anything, his willingness to track back on the defensive end is one of his strengths. He covers a ton of ground. 10,000 meters is a walk in the park for him. Can’t knock the guy for his work rate. Second, he can’t play the wing?? What? Do you live in Narnia, pal? Or maybe Fantasyland? You realize you have to leave the Magic Kingdom at the end of the day, correct? Bradley plays him on the wing because: a) he does track back and defend; and b. he’s effective running onto the ball and has splendid vision along with good (not great) service ability. Seriously, you need to watch more soccer. Or just admit you are a hater.

    Glad I got an education this evening. Either way, you see what I’m dealing with. I omitted several more, because it’s pointless.

    The bottom line is Everton are getting nothing short of a world-class player on the cheap. Is he Messi? No. Is he Ronaldo (either of them)? Of course not. Is he a “slightly less good movement in the box but better finisher” version of Dirk Kuyt? Yes. Probably. And that’s more than Stevie Pienaar, at least on most days.

    As I finish this column, note that the deal is done now. Let’s see how many of the haters stick around.

    Neil W. Blackmon