February 2010

You Stay Classy, Evertonia

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 doug@yanksarecoming.com.

Doug Beard

  • Jennifer

    Is it wrong for me to wish that Everton does not offer him a permanent position? I love my MLS even with all our problems. I like to keep my US Soccer players playing in the USA!

  • I am the opposite. I want LD to stay at Everton past his loan, for a few reasons. One is because I have no local club in Atlanta to cheer for, so naturally, I am inclined to give all my fan efforts to the USMNT. If he’s playing against great competition in England all the time, it can only make his game better. Two is because it seems like the perfect fit. LD came in and he didn’t have a huge learning curve to adjust to the squad. He came right in and got to work, like he had been with the club for years. I like the way he’s used on the pitch, and I also like how Everton has embraced him as their own. If I recall, even Arsen Wenger was singing praises for Donovan. That says alot about the quality of a player if some of the best coaches recognize the level of talent they possess.

  • Amy

    Agree with Andrew ! Wenger did praise him, but more importantly, perhaps one of the best coaches in all of international club football has found a way to utilize him, believes in him, and has praised him profusely. He may get a full look w/Everton too– especially if Pienaar makes a mistake and departs. I also wholeheartedly believe that outside of Arsenal and maybe Marseille– Everton are THE best fit for Landon. He hasn’t been asked to be a star. He doesn’t have to carry the weight of the offensive attack, which he would @ a lesser EPL side (Wigan, Bolton, West Ham, for example), and Everton’s consistent presence in the top of the table ensures he doesn’t have to deal w/the pressures of relegation battles, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Everton keep him if they are at all able when his contract expires.

    Great article by Doug !

  • Tim Patterson

    As much as I loved watching Lando in the summer months playing with the Galaxy, I think he’s better of in England. For him to receive such a warm welcome and even more importantly, play to this potential, is a huge step for the USMNT and American soccer in general. I get excited even thinking about LD having some success against the backlines of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and now Man U. The MLS will no doubt miss him, but with this years influx of talent via the Generation Adidas program and the SuperDraft, this season will hopefully prove to be the best yet.

  • In response to Andrew and Amy about Wenger, Arsenal put up a great video online interviewing the professor as to why he has not tapped up the American market yet. AW cited the troubles with getting Americans work permits (ex. Luis Gil, Freddy Adu), otherwise he said Arsenal would definitely already have an academy set up in the states.

    Landon has shown that you cannot dismiss MLS. The guy has been in excellent form all year, and is now replicating it (in my opinion he has still not hit top form) in the EPL. It makes you think that other elite players in the MLS, such as Bring Ching and Shalrie Joseph, could have absolutely established themselves as world-class players. Especially Shalrie.

    Nevertheless, Everton should be proud of their recent form, and Donovan should be proud to show the legitimacy of his roots. Everyone talks about LD being an ambassador for MLS, but how much more of an ambassador can you be than outclassing sides led by the likes of Wayne Rooney, Cesc Fabregas, and Didier Drogba?

  • Seems I’ve found some long-lost relatives from across the pond?!?!
    I love the idea of LD in Marseille blue! Mostly because it gave me the romantic image of LD striding into a Desailly through ball and driving it across to Papin. (yes, I know… but this is MY fantasy, HA!).
    Great points and as much as I would love to keep Lando here to grow the image of the domestic game, I feel a successful stint abroad will grow our international reputation. To get a tip-o-th-cap from AW is no small feat.
    As it stands, we (the USMNT) still have calls go against us in CONCACAF because at one point all we had was a physical game. That all-power-no-skill game is still the dominant perception if US soccer in our region.
    For now, I am just happy to see Landon playing with such joy; especially in a WC year.