When I fired up my coffee maker on Saturday, my every intent was to sit down and share my thoughts on Landon Donovan winning Everton’s Player of the Month award for January; however, I failed to factor in the distraction of an absolutely scintillating morning of football featuring our man of the hour. In his brief stint, Lando has faced big boys Arsenal, Liverpool, and Chelsea, and has come out on the losing end just once. Saturday morning he shared the pitch with no less than defending PL champs ManU in a match that featured enough subplots to make even Margaret Mitchell jealous: right down to the civil war between Everton captain Phil Neville and Manchester United captain Gary Neville.
It is matches like this that make it so easy to love football. Adding to my excitement for this match was the fact that I was thrilled to see LD’s seemingly fragile psyche involved in a match of such high drama. Lord (from Bruce Almighty on down) knows he could use some callusing. The matchup between Everton and ManU featured two of the league’s hottest teams over the six league games since the new year (*cough* since Lando’s arrival *cough*), with ManU leading the way on 14 points and Everton on 13 out of the possible 18. Both squads were coming off midweek wins in Europe, albeit against differing classes of opposition, and both were suffering on the injury front.
It was the World’s Club versus the People’s Club; Sir Alex against his young-gun countryman Moyes. I can’t even imagine what must have been going through the minds of ex-United players the likes of Timmy Howard and Louis Saha, eager to get one over on their former club. Or the ex-Everton starlet Rooney, who will face no crowd more hostile than the Goodison Park faithful. But what got me revved up was the World Cup teaser of the States’ best of Timmay and Donovan up against England’s best in the form of scouser Rooney. After Saturday, bring on the Three Lions!
Ok, that’s going a bit far, but boy-oh-seriously-boy what I wouldn’t do to have Moyes in charge of the US squad going into South Africa. Moyes showed his teeth straight from the opening whistle by employing right-footed Donovan on the left (not unfamiliar territory for our boy) and left-footed Bilyaletdinov on the right. This meant the focus was on going directly at the depleted ManU backline through the center. The tactic paid off early with Bily’s equalizer coming as a result of his central run inside of front man Saha. Route-One football saw the ball drop nicely for the Russian who wasted no time in lacing a left footer to the near post. The Toffees put two more past van der Sar, both of which came from Moyes’ two substitutions. Yeah… enough of my man-crush on Moyes, let’s get back to Lando.
As I said here, no set of fans would be more readily accepting of Donovan than those of Everton, and those gracious Evertonia folk have done-good by me. In a classy move, Landon was voted by the fans to be Everton’s January Player of the Month. Consider that Cahill hit the winner against both Sunderland and Wigan, while Pienaar, who has been nails, found the net against Arsenal and Man City; furthermore, Fellaini has been a beast in the air and every bit as dangerous running out of the midfield. Sure, Lando has a goal and assist to his credit and that might be enough; but maybe, given the Toffee’s current run of good form, he is considered a bit of a good luck charm. Or maybe he does enough to allow those around him a bit more freedom to do their thing, thereby making the squad that much better. Or maybe the blue side of Liverpool is made up of supporters, people, who are simply quality, and they want to say “Thank you” and “Welcome, son” the best way they know how. I say quite possibly: “E. all of the above.”
Easily a great move by Donovan to Everton, and a better move by Everton to Donovan. I have to go back to Landon’s first home match at Goodison Park, the 2-0 win that handed Mancini his first defeat as Man City boss. In the 90th minute, with Everton up by two, Moyes made his final substitution: exit Donovan. It was Moyes’ way of singling out Donovan to introduce him to the fans, and in turn allowed the fans to introduce themselves to Landon. Quality all around…You stay classy, Evertonia.
Doug Beard is a staff writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at email@example.com.