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Donovan wins Honda Award as clueless voters get it wrong


In what has to be one of the more embarrassing results in American soccer award history, Landon Donovan has been named the 2008 Honda Player of the Year, beating out Tim Howard in a vote that can best described as a bad joke.

The announcement marked Donovan’s fifth Honda Player of the Year award, and while he has certainly earned many of those, the 2008 prize will go down as the clearest example of a flawed voting set-up that has culminated in a result that has to diminish the credibility of a once-prestigious award.

Created by Futbol de Primera, the Honda Award is voted on by 213 "journalists across America." Now you find me even half that many soccer journalists who cover the U.S. national team with any legitimacy and you too can have a prize.

The voting wasn’t even that close. Donovan finished with 297 points while Tim Howard received 249 points. Clint Dempsey finished third with 176 points.

While Donovan does deserve credit for breaking the national team’s career goal-scoring record, his contibutions to the national team this year were well below his normal standard and it can be argued that he shouldn’t have even been a finalist, with Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra having had stronger years for the national team.

So what went wrong? The easy explanation is that Futbol de Primera has given out ballots to an inordinate number of journalists, many of whom don’t even cover the national team, and apparently some who must not even follow the team all that closely.

The reality is that as far as national team player of the year awards go, U.S. Soccer’s official player of the year award is considered far more legitimate and is voted on by a select number of media (and by select I mean much fewer than 213).

What do you think of Donovan being named Honda Player of the Year?:

Who do you think deserved the award? Do you even think Donovan was a top three finalist? Share your thoughts below.


  1. Ives,

    You are correct about the shutouts for Howard.

    However you do not mention that they were friendlies and ment nothing to England, Spain and Argentina.

    Please provide all the facts not just the ones that you want your cronnies to see!!!

  2. Nice Reid. It is pretty easy being racist on the internet isn’t it?

    Posted by: Phil | November 11, 2008 at 09:04 PM

    What? Racist? What in the world are you talking about?

  3. Like it or not, a big-name player winning a “best of the year” award when he is arguably not the best of the year happens all the time in pro sports — especially when people who aren’t very knowledgeable (fans, or journalists, or whatever) vote. Heck, it happens all the time in any awards that are voted on.

    So, I say we all just take a deep breath and simmer down.

    And re the headline: I know this blog isn’t a completely objective news source, but I was a little surprised at the tone.

  4. Donovan wants to be a benchwarmer in Germany instead of a leader that brings the Galaxy back to respectability. Even with all the goals this past season he was very inconsistent. Let this “me” player go and stop giving him awards!

  5. What happened? I though Timmy had the award back when the US team tied Argentina.

    Ives, How do we get this fixed? Because if what you are saying is correct, than we have voters who vote blindly. What a blow to Timmy!

    P.S. I’m a DC United fan!

  6. “Folks, the criteria is national team performances only.”

    Thanks for the clarification, Ives. IMHO, any award based only on the few National Team performances each year is a pretty worthless award. But in any case, based on that moronic criteria, the (co-) winners should probably have been Boca and Gooch.

    I don’t know what the criteria is for US Soccer Federation player of the year, but if you are going by the performances of all Americans at both club and country, I’d say that Brad Freidel should win the award (even if he didn’t play any games for country), with Gooch/Boca tied for second, Donovan 4th, and Timmy 5th. For his club side, Timmy’s been pretty leaky.

  7. Maybe it’s the Metros/RedBulls fault, but here in the most famous city in the World, the NY Metropolitan area, where all sports have serious fanatics, I don’t hear SQUAT about the RedBulls on the radio. Espn tv mentions soccer games in passing, the radio station sometimes mentions final scores, but that’s it. The FAN? They don’t make them laugh. It’s messed up. They spend hours talking about College teams I could give a shh about, but nothing on the MLS playoffs. But I digress. So I ask you, who are these voters? Tennis guys with time on there hands? Golf experts with side gigs? High school soccer analysts maybe? I’m sure Ives has many colleagues out there that cover soccer with as much gusto as he does, but to find people like him and us that dig for information on this beautiful sports on a daily, there aren’t many. I do think the key is a successful Red Bull team, and a successful USMNT. Then, maybe, the world will notice. That being said, I hope Landon goes to Europe and kicks serious butt, like he should’ve been doing for a couple of years already.

  8. Perhaps the subject was a bit harsh, but Ives, once again, is on the money here. Freakin popularity contest.I do think he deserved votes, absolutely, but not to win, not even top 3. Sounds like the voting system is off. Do they make you choose 1st place, 2nd place, etc, like in MLB? IF not, they should.

    I blame these alleged “soccer journalists”. I was very surprised to hear that number of soccer journalists even existed!

  9. Most American sports journalists are woefully out of touch with soccer. They don’t understand the game, player development, many things. If they did, they would have realized that while Donovan has had an OK year, it’s certainly not been top tier, particularly for the MNT. Yes, he’s been a scorer for the Galaxy, but of course that is a team that has missed the playoffs for 3 years running.

    Michael Bradley, Tim Howard, or Carlos Bocanegra would all have been better choices.

    I surely hope MLS, Donovan, and Bayern Munich can come to some sort of agreement so that Donovan can develop his game more against stiffer competition. He is getting ready to have a 10 day workout with them…that’s exciting.

  10. Eric Anderson, the award isn’t supposed to go to the player with the highest value over a replacement player. It’s supposed to go to the best player. Which Donovan was not.

  11. The Honda award is a popularity contest voted on by old-school fringe media guys and friends of Futbol de Primera. This award has nothing to do with USSF. (there’s barely a mention of it on ).

    If Donovan wins the US Soccer Athlete of the Year award, well, then I’ll worry that the voters have gone clueless.

    Futbol de Primera Honda Award:USSF Athlete of the Year::Nick Teen Choice Awards:Academy Awards

  12. I gave up on this award years ago due to the fact that McBride mindblowingly never won this somewhere between 2002-2006…or ever. To me, he’s the guy that opened the floodgates for the number of players in Europe right now. Proved Americans could get it done internationally and in Europe.

  13. I hate these people trying to justify Donovan winning it this year. Yeah he is one of the best players for the US, yeah he has done well in the past. But this year was literally defined by the ‘Wall’ that is Tim Howard.

    Last year we had the same argument, but this year it was unarguably the wrong choice!

    I think LD’s agent bribed some writers in anticipation of his move to Europe. $$$$

  14. Damon Starr – good lord, its not about past accomplishments…. its about the past year… Howard has clearly been the best player for the USMN this past year…. shows up 100% to each game, always on top…. he’s saved us an embaressing game against Argentina, at which the game could have easily been 4-0(or more)….

    while LD is an important player on the team, he opens the field, he produces, he does alot that cant be replaced (this is coming from a guy who calls him landycakes on a regular basis), but he was NOT the best for the USMN this year….

    someone mentioned Howard’s shutouts against the likes of Cuba, Guat, and T&T arent impressive (as they arent superpowers) but how many of LD’s goals and assists came from these same lowly CONCACAF teams?? how many goals and assists were notched against the likes of Barbados?? again, LD is important, but Howard has been a CLEAR runaway for best this past year…

  15. I woke still stupified by the short list and by the vote outcome which clearly left it for Timmy to win given that Gooch and Bocanegra weren’t on the short list. (The vote among Gooch, Bocanegra and Timmy would probably be close with Timmy likely getting the nod in that scenario as well.)

    Perhaps the voters think that MLS games count and/or consider the players’ careers as a whole? That’s all I can fathom. It makes zero sense.

  16. Phil, your a child who wanders into the middle of a conversation. You only hear what you want. It was a jab at people for calling Ives “rude” or whatever (and i have no clue what their race is and don’t want to know). Also the point of what i wrote was hoping that Ives writes an article for ESPN with the same feeling. Because the only way that the voting will come to light is if someone like Ives takes it out of the dark. Us writing on this board or other boards won’t do shite.

    So Phil just because you see words together your mind shouldn’t immediately jump to race

  17. Has clue. Does not vote as I fear Big Soccer stupidity is spread through participating in any online voting scheme.

    The internet has done as much for soccer in America as it has to harm it.

  18. I never thought LandyCakes would stoop so low as to pretending to be a Nicole on Ives’ blog to defend his award.

    Timmy is number 1 in my book.

  19. I am a huge Landon Donovan fan… But Howard deserved this award. I love how Donovan plays, and am often perplexed by the amount of criticism shown to him by many Nat team supporters. Even on this blog today Landon-bashing is rampant. That being said, I don’t see how your post insults LD in any way. You were stating the facts: Timmy deserved this award, and although LD may have had a great year for club and country, it did not compare with what Howard has done. Beautiful entry that says what needed to be said.

  20. Tim Howard deserved the award in my opinion. And, again in my opinion, it shouldn’t have been close.

    However, it’s not as if Donovan campaigned for this thing… Let’s place the blame where it belongs, squarely at the feet of those who voted, and resist the temptation to add another log to the Landon-bashing fire.

  21. Way to go ives. Dont let these people challenge you, these people are senstive as a 6 year old girl. unbelievable if they dont like they can go some place else but they shouldnt because you have the best blog on the web. also it was clueless howard stood on his head all year amd yes you can compare a field player to a goalie look at all the accolades iker cassialles has been considered for the past year. Ives, brush them haters off.

  22. Ives: I am a voter, and I voted Howard-Dempsey-Bocanegra. I don’t think Landon deserved it this year, but I don’t think it’s the crime you make it out to be. And I don’t base my vote entirely upon national team performances — to do so would be idiotic. The national team is part of a larger context, and because this award is based on the national team, I throw great weight to the NT performances. Probably somewhere between 65/35 and 70/30. And I grade actual competition — the qualifiers — much more so than friendlies. Landon was decent for the NT this year, but not great. Howard was great. Landon was very good, often great, for the Galaxy. Howard was great for Everton.

  23. Crusader – are you kidding me??? Dempsey had a lousy year for the Nats until the last couple games.

    I’m in the camp that believes that we saw just how dependent the team is on Donovan to make the offense go when he was missing, but that’s no criteria for Player of the Year.

  24. Ives sounds like you are just a little upset. What did they take away your vote? Bottom line is Donovan is the best player this country has produced to date and if he never plays another game for the MNT he deserves ten more for what he has done for soccer in America.

  25. How people said “no, but it was close” is an even bigger disgrace!!!!!!!!!!

    This award is either completely voted on by soccer-illiterate sports writers, or it is completely fabricated by executives who want to cash in on the inevitable Donovan move to Europe.

    Give up your medal Donovan!!!

  26. Eric, you give Donovan credit for the games he doesn’t play in? What kind of sense does that make? You say the team’s record without him is a measure of how valuable he is. I say that he has conveniently missed some of the tougher games the team had this year.

    Where was Donovan against Guatemala? Where was Donovan against Cuba in Cuba? Where was Donovan against Argentina? Where was Donovan against Mexico?

    Keep pumping him up but any way you slice it he shouldn’t have won the award.

  27. Yeah, I must be out of it today because I’ve just read the 4th paragraph in the story above and the numbers still don’t add up. I’m assuming, of course, that by points, Ives means votes. If that is not the case, maybe an explanation of points would be in order. And Ryan, if everyone of those 213 journalist voted for their top three and Landon Donovan was in everyone of their top three, then Donovan would have 213 votes (unless it is a different system with the point).

  28. Ives,

    I’ll admit the Howard has been great this year; he was definitely the man of the match against Argentina and in Guatemala. However, I think you do have to recognize how bad the offense struggles without Donovan when voting for this award. Besides, I think you are giving Donovan too little credit for the games he did play: he was dominant against Poland and Trinidad, and was our best field player in Guatemala City and Havana. I think he was better than you give him credit for against Mexico and Sweden, although it’s been a while since I watched those games. Obviously he was good against Barbados, but everyone was that game. Still, I feel that every game Donovan has played, he has been our best attacking threat and one of the top field players. The team suffers a lot more from losing Donovan than anyone else (Howard included), and it’s for that reason that I feel he deserves the award. Just look at the team’s record with and without Donovan–it’s obviously not the only statistic to look at, but I think it gives an idea of how important he is.

  29. Crusader, you’re including league play into your ranking. While with the Nats, the criteria for the award, Dempsey did not play well. He picked it up in qualifying, but still not a top 3 type of year. Even if you want to add club form, he wasn’t starting for Fulham on a regular basis by the end of last season, and he has played sparingly this season as well. So I wouldn’t agree that he’s a top 3 player there either.

    I’d agree with several posters that if the criteria was simply best player, then Donovan would get more consideration due to the brilliant season he had for the Galaxy for all the good it did them, and decent play for the Nats…

    But Howard would still probalby win…

  30. my question isn’t with donovan, it’s with the fact that dempsey was one of the final three. He’s on the bench for Fulham, and until just recently has been playing like crap


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