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The Thursday Kickoff (Notes On Donovan, D.C. and Holden)

Good morning all. As we try to wrap our heads around Landon Donovan's new contract (which Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl puts at four years, $9 million), things continue to get more and more interesting in MLS during a time of year when things are usually slow.

So what is our take on Donovan's new contract? I think it's a good deal for both sides and offers Donovan some serious insurance. How so? Well, if Donovan had faltered with Everton, or at next summer's World Cup, he would have been in far worse position to negotiate a new deal and it would have been extremely unlikely that a team would come along next summer and pay what MLS would want for him.

Now, with the new deal, Donovan can head to Everton with some added security. And if he enjoys a strong showing at Everton AND at the 2010 World Cup? I have a feeling MLS would listen to the offers that would likely come pouring in come July.

Is the deal a cop-out by Donovan, as some fans and critics are suggesting? I find it hard to call going from two years/$1.8 million to four years/$9 million a cop-out. I've written on more than enough occasions that Donovan needs to go to Europe, but I also never thought I'd see the day (at least not yet) when MLS would give an American player a $2 million deal. Combine that with the fact that Donovan is about to head to England to play in the world's toughest league for ten weeks, and I really don't see Donovan as someone who is running from challenges. If he's running anywhere, it's to the bank.

Now, onto the D.C. United coaching search.

Few could have ever pictured D.C. United having trouble finding a head coach, but that certainly seems to be happening. The league's most successful franchise is struggling to find a coach after Akron head coach Caleb Porter turned down the D.C. job in a move few could have seen coming. Curt Onalfo had been considered the most likely successor to Tom Soehn if Porter didn't work out, but now even that looks suspect after the team's failed attempts to talk to Frank Yallop and John Spencer (though D.C. United insists that the attempts to speak to Yallop and Spencer came earlier in the process, and not this week.)

Should D.C. fans panic? Not entirely. While the draft is less than a month away, D.C. does have the luxury of still employing general manager Dave Kasper, one of the best in the business and someone well-equipped to run the draft on his own.


Perhaps the most interesting thing we've uncovered in our digging on the D.C. coaching story is the fact that Portland has begun looking for its head coach. A handful of MLS veteran coaches have already been contacted and one source believes Houston assistant John Spencer is a candidate for the job.

Spencer's situation is an interesting one. I know folks are wondering whether he really wants to be a coach after passing on the Chicago job two years ago and passing on the chance to discuss D.C. United's job this week. The Chicago situation came down to Spencer being made a low-ball offer. The sense I get as far as his current situation is that he is waiting for other jobs to open up and would rather stay on the Western side of the country.


As Houston Dynamo fans (and for that matter, U.S. national team fans) await word on where Stuart Holden will go next, a new club has emerged as a potential suitor. Sources tell me that English Premier League club Blackburn is expressing interest in Holden, who will head into the January transfer window a free agent. Blackburn is currently sitting in 12th place in the EPL but could be losing left winger Morten Gamst Pederson to Scottish club Celtic. While Holden isn't a natural left winger, his versatility and status as a free transfer could make him an attractive option for Sam Allardyce's squad.


For some quality reading, check out this in-depth piece on FC Dallas goalkeeper Dario Sala from our Designated Player brethren over at The Original Winger.


That's all for now. What do you think of Donovan's new deal? Stunned to see D.C. struggling to find a coach? Excited to hear Portland has begun its coaching search? Can you see Holden succeeding at Blackburn?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. For those disappointed that Donovan might not go to Europe, have you thought about what has happened to DaMarcus Beasley? Gone to Europe to develop his game, played at high levels, been sent to the bench by better players(Vennegor of Hesselink ring a bell?), been injured a few times(granted, LD has been surprisingly durable for a small fast guy), out of the USMNT picture for now.

    It’s hard to argue with the results LD has got by staying in MLS. And now the money is there too.

  2. Alex…the Main point is that MLS does not have comparable wages to the EPL. Until MLS improves the pay levels of its employees (Players) they will continue to leave when Europe comes calling. Improve the wages will most likely improve the league, which in turn will improve the players through compitition. Till wages are adjusted to attract GOOD players in their prime MLS will remain a Feeder/Retirement League.

  3. Not sure what stellar alignment you’re imagining, but the most prolific playmaker in national team history doesn’t suddenly forget how to contribute just because he turns 32.

  4. It’s all about no ex post facto on designated player status. Cakes is no more or less of a designated player than he was before the Beckham rule, and he’s the same player whether or not his pay grade has caught up to his skills. The real question is, does Bianca get a share of these ill-gotten new gains?

  5. Does Drogba’s team have a seed? Zlatan’s?

    Actually, I love this deal as it shows that an American can make serious money playing soccer in at home. That’s crucial to making the US a Soccer Nation.

  6. I saw that video and while he’s an exciting player, we have to keep in mind that it’s just in the Danish SuperLiga. Also, we have better options.

  7. No offense Brett but MLS is a business not the 4 h club. They don’t need to take it on the chin, not for anyone. You can not be a succesful business letting your best assets leave becuase its good for their potential career. MLS isn’t trying to be a feeder league this isn’t argentina where no one wants to live there. A better playing environment here and comparable wages and you watch that mediocre league you speak of will be on the other side of the pond.

  8. What does this have to do with trying to understand why some people are disappointed again?

    I think you want to have a different conversation. I have no interest in talking about the EPL and how it compares to MLS, outside of where LD may/may not go. The “what ifs” of the MNT all playing here follow the same line. Another conversation, enjoy that one.

    LD should do what LD wants to do. Where did I say any differently?

    I WANT LD to do what LD WANTS to do. That was, from his own mouth, going abroad. If he likes the little safe loans, good for him. Hope it all works out for him.

  9. I think that the English style of play suits Holden very well, and Blackburn could be a nice club to go to. They’re another team in a similar meltdown situation like Everton.

    Holden should also take into consideration the offer from Rangers. Home land, club with a history of success with Americans, and could springboard him to a bigger deal.

  10. It definitely is a competing with EPL thing, IMO.

    Over and above people watching/following soccer in Europe rather than MLS,

    EPL, Europe, will take away talent.

    Even in Seattle, 67,000 ( full capacity ) will show up for the Gold Cup, Chelsea game, Barca game. For regular Sounders game? One half that, 35-40,000 next year ( which is huge for MLS ).

    My point being if the National Team guys were all playing here attendance in the US would be a LOT higher. There are a lot of soccer fans, just not a lot of soccer fans watching MLS.

    US fans will not root for minor league anything.

    Weird you would WANT him to move on. My season tickets are a lot more valuable with us playing him twice next year.

  11. Why would the MLS give Landon a new contract when he has 2 more years remaining on his deal? If the MLS wants desperately to keep Landon it would still have made a lot more sense for MLS to wait til next January for a # of reasons:

    1)Alot can happen in a whole year (injuries, bad world cup, etc.)

    2)This deal locks them (MLS/Galaxy) into a long-term contract with no flexibility (this is an all guaranteed contract– foreshadowing CBA changes??). All they did was secure Donovan for 2 additional years when he is 30 and 31. Keep him on his current contract and save 2.7 million (4.5 million/2 years new deal – 1.8 million/2 years old deal). Then you can decide if you want Donovan for 2012 and 2013 season and what price…I am sure he or a better DP player will be available for the 7.2 million available (the 4.5mil for final 2 years plus the 2.7 mil you save)for the 2012 and 2013 season

    3) this opens the door to all sort of other players wanting to negotiate current deals even though there is multiple years left (MLS would only negotiate previously when players were entering final year or out of contract) and it opens up the door for contracts that are guaranteed (w/o club options)..think Shalrie Joseph or De Rosario are not going to want new deals?

    Ives what are your thoughts??

  12. The league certainly wouldn’t get that for Donovan, but it won’t stop them from asking for it.

    They can’t let Landon go for less than Jozy got, and they won’t.

    A lot of people seem to think the MLS cares about Landon’s development as a player. They don’t. They only care about him being in MLS stadiums because he is a big draw for the American crowd. Not a chance they take one on the chin just to let him go ply his trade in Europe. This deal is a death knell for Landon’s potential career abroad as far as I’m concerned. He just adjoined himself to a league that will mire in mediocrity for the next 20 years.

  13. Freddy Adu just posted this on twitter

    “I am about to make one of the most important decisions of my career. I have alot of help of course but i hope i make the right one.”

    He has to get out of Portugal.

  14. Are you really saying that Donovan isn’t progressing as fast as the guys in Europe?

    There are quite a few guys you would have considered locks that won’t even make the team after leaving US.

    Bold prediction, he will play in 2014 even if he never plays in Europe. Really going out on a limb here don’t flame me too badly.

    (SBI-I agree with that statement, though as someone said above, if Donovan can’t make the 2014 team then that means there is some serious talent on that team, which would be a very good thing.)

  15. I touched on, in my opinion, why some people are disappointed with this. You know, expectations put into motion in due to part because of hype. The hype was all the past months of build up talk about moving on and the big announcement of this week. Do you think people were all psyched up about LD signing for bigger bucks in LA? Maybe you were, so cool. I wasn’t one of ’em.

    The money speaks for itself. Of course that isn’t hype. I never brought up that aspect. Same will be said when a club actually puts their money up for him. The money will speak for itself.

    Why the need to turn it into a competing with the EPL thing?

  16. Most of the comments I have seen center around how much it would take for the MLS to release him, not how much a European team would pay for him. I think the fact that the best American field player (w/ the possible exception of Deuce) is still playing in the US says there is a disconnect somewhere.

  17. Ives, the other issue with Donovan is 2014, the first Cup when his age and competition for his position might be an issue. If Donovan has any real interest in playing 2014, you’d think he’d almost certainly have to go to Europe for an extended stay between now and then given the likelihood that there will be a fair number of American midfielders/forwards plying away in Europe by that time. This contract cements Donovan’s finanical picture, but it does little to indicate whether he is really interested in making it in Europe or interested in challenging himself to become a better player. The more Dempsey establishes himself at Fulham, the more it looks like Donovan doesn’t want to push himself. I think its safe to say that we all want Donovan to push himself, particularly now that his finanical health seems secured.

    (SBI-A World Cup five years from now is an issue? Somehow, I doubt Donovan was thinking about 2014 when this whole thing was finished, nor do I blame him for not thinking about it.)

  18. no kidding, right?

    besides, why can’t we all selfishly be a little bit happy that we get to (probably) watch him for the next few years in the states.

  19. Lets be honest. No European club is going to pay serious money for ANY American to move from MLS until we play so consistently at the international level that we are a seeded team for World Cup. This is not an arbitrary measure, but a metaphor for the level we need to display as a “Soccer Nation” to be taken seriously as a player producing country.

    The way to do it in the current paradigm is to go over young, start with small contract and earn your way up. It would not make sense for Donovan to go that route now. So he did the smartest thing…guarantee earning potential.

  20. The League panders to the larger revenue markets [period].

    They don’t try to hide it. But they also don’t admit to it.

    Q: Hey “A”, who is it that owns the Galaxy?
    A: I think it’s Phil Anschultz.

    Q: Really! Isn’t his name on the new MLS Cup trophey?
    A: Why yes! You are correct!

    Q: How did he swing that?
    A: He use to own pretty much the whole league and still has considerable power when it comes to decision-making.

    I’m just saying.

  21. But could you blame him? He is already making great money, he gets to play and live in LA and he doesn’t have to deal with the intense pressure and scrutiny of European Football.

  22. Obviously it is NOT fair to have TWO DP players on the Galaxy being paid 4 times what other TEAMS are being paid.

    But when you look at it, Beckham doesn’t join the team until mid season, so they only have that advantage for 1/2 of the season and post season.

    Just playing counter point, I completely agree with you.

    IMHO, MLS will have 2 DPs next year, which will leave smaller revenue teams out in the cold, but maybe they tell LA, you already have your two DPs.

    Plus can LA really afford to have another DP ?


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