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Donovan has chance to erase bad Liverpool memories

Landon Donovan Everton (Reuters) 

When Landon Donovan takes the field for Everton against Liverpool on Saturday (7:30am, ESPN2), he will be doing more than playing in the most important match he's played in since going to England on loan. Donovan will also be looking to exorcise some demons against the same team he faced when he put in arguably the worst performance of his career.

It was March of 2005 and Donovan drew a rare start for Bayer Leverkusen for its UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match against Liverpool. Leverkusen wore bright red uniforms that night, a color that only seemed to magnify Donovan's poor performance. He was timid, ineffective and utterly useless for the 53 minutes he played before being mercifully substituted. Donovan's showing led one writer to say the following about the performance:

"Poor Landon Donovan is putting in the most inept performance of any professional footballer I've ever seen. His confidence is so shot to pieces that every time the ball comes anywhere near him he looks scared."

A month later, Donovan would be back in Major League Soccer with the Los Angeles Galaxy, which he ultimately led to an MLS Cup months later as he resumed his place as the best player in MLS. That success did little to wash away the stigma of a second failed stint in Europe and the belief that Donovan just couldn't cut it across the pond.

Donovan couldn't be blamed for thinking about that awful performance when he faces Liverpool on Saturday, almost five years after that awful night. He has matured considerably since then, with his form for Everton a far cry from what he showed that night in Leverkusen. Since joining the Toffees, Donovan has been confident, aggressive, productive and effective. He's basically been everything he wasn't the last time he faced Liverpool, which is why Saturday's match carries even more important for Donovan.

The Merseyside Derby won't be the deciding factor of whether or not Donovan's loan spell at Everton is successful, but a strong performance against Liverpool would go even further in washing away the memories of his past failures in Europe while boosting his already soaring confidence as he prepares for a defining World Cup.

A good showing against Liverpool could also push Everton closer to considering a serious offer to keep Donovan permanently. It would be fitting if, five years after a poor outing against Liverpool secured Donovan's return to MLS, Donovan finally secured a move back to Europe on the strength of a good outing against Liverpool.


  1. Lets hope donovan gets the start, and if he doesn’t at least a sub in the 60th to give him ample time for the feel of the game. Only 30 more minutes!

  2. Ives great article.. this and the rememberences of the 98′ USMNT rumor now confirmed are two things all US soccer fans should be aware of. two rings in the ladder and also perspective of where US Soccer has come from.

    To reply to Jesse.. didn’t they fit all 4 last week? Arteta and Osman in the middle and pienaar and LD on the wings.. bilynalotov sp? in the 18.

  3. I’m on the flip side of things these days.. ‘taking one for the team’ and volunteering to wake up early with the baby.. these days that’s called a double win..
    However the 02 world cup.. now there’s a tourney that lended itself to the all night gigs. the local bar staying open dropping the vodka and flowing the red bulls and coffee for the 2:30am game.. good times.

  4. love it.

    we need more songs/chants for our teams, national team included, that incorporates nursery rhymes. Something to the tune of Old McDonald? 3 Blind Mice? I think they’d work well and be fairly original to the US

  5. Benayoun is actually out injured. Liverpool will probably start Insua at LB.
    There is a realistic chance that Landon won’t start, though. Arteta is threatening to be fit enough to play from the start, and if he is then it’s probably Donovan’s place he’ll take.

  6. who is going to be marking LD tomorrow? I know gerrard will be floating all over the place, but he is a left mid correct? is it mascherono?, I hope not benayoun. Regardless it should be fantasic.

  7. I want Landon to stay here too. I want the league to continue to get better, and that won’t happen with our best players leaving for Europe every year. I think he will stay though. It will take a very big number for Everton to purchase that contract from MLS.

  8. Ok, so, Landon had a bad game when he was a teenager playing in the Champions League against Liverpool…

    The guy has obviously improved his game and his confidence since then, so I don’t see any reason to rehash the past other than to remark about how far he has come.

    (SBI- Donovan was 23 during that match. And I rehashed the past precisely to point out how far he’s come and how he has a chance to show it tomorrow.)

  9. British can be used for Irish, Scottish, or English people. Just ask Andy Murray and the thousands of fans on the Island.

    (SBI- You know, that’s what I thought, which is why I figured I was safe. I differed to the Irish guy, but maybe he simply doesn’t like the reference.)

  10. All true and all well met. Look at Davies. The boy appreciates what he has, but never settles for it, always going with a high work rate, confidence, and mentality that he and any team he plays for can beat any team, on any day, under any circumstances.

  11. It’s all right for those of us on the sidelines to say American footballers get a raw deal in Euro press, but I sure hope our footballers don’t believe that bull.

    Most of the truth is that as a whole our footballers haven’t measured up. The reality is that every footballer has to constantly rise to meet new challenges – you can be the world’s best, but find yourself on the bench,. Few other sports are so cruel this way. Part of what makes soccer the best sport there is.

    US footballers that think they’ve somehow made it (maybe because you & I are so pumped up about them) are at a disadvantage – footballers need to stay hungry, disciplined, focused, & hungry!

    Dempsey seems hungry and seems to have learned when he is not hungry enough, he’s likely on the bench or worse. Landon seems hungry this time – hungry enough?

    I would love to see him do something special again pool. Has he learned enough, from his time with Everton, learned the team system, sharpened his talent; is he hungry enough?

    I hope to see the answer is yes. No small ask of our man, but his relevant opposite number on the National level is Wayne Rooney. C,mon, Donny, give ’em hell!

  12. As long as we’re correcting others….

    It did not “bear its ugly head”. It didn’t even “bare its ugly head”, which would be a mixed metaphor, but would at least make sense. It might however “rear its ugly head”.

  13. Actually Pienaar is slightly faster.

    in fact Pienaar was tracked as having the top speed at the entire confeds cup last summer, with LD as the second top speed.

  14. hell, if there were’nt anti-american conspiracies or perceived anti-american conspiracies we’d be third rate. all hail our paranoia! or the hate thats inflicted upon us.

  15. I wouldn’t take anything in that article and apply it to how Landon feels today about playing in Europe. He is a changed man. He is divorced, which changes so many things, not least of all how he views the world and/or his soccer career.

    I truly believe, if given the chance, he will stay in Europe.

  16. LD is the best we have, and doesn’t give any reason to dislike him.

    I’m hoping to hear “U.S.A.” chants in Anfield tomorrow.

  17. I think Lando is finally reaching his potential. He is playing unbelievabley great soccer, and has been for the last year or so…There were other articles that came out around that time (2005) that echoed the sentiments in the USA Today article.

    Now, going back to your earlier post, you can clearly see how the indifference towards LD started. I would never call myself a ‘hater’. Just dissappointed he couldn’t push himself, at that time, to be the player he is today. Full props to the 2009-2010+ version of Landon.

  18. “I’ll even stop cursing him during USMNT games.”

    This makes me think you’re American. Why on earth would you curse him during USMNT games? Especially in its recent history where there were stretches of games at a time where he was one of only 2 or 3 on the pitch that appeared to give a crap?

    No, seriously, I’m interested. What have you got against this guy? Or what DID you have against him?

  19. Okay, I just read the article. I don’t see any entitlement. He didn’t piss and moan for paragraphs about how meanie-faced everyone was to him and how amazing he was. I see someone who was young and who was going with what felt best at the time. The only quote I see at all that lends itself to what you’re saying is:

    “”I remember thinking, ‘If I can play at this level, why am I not getting a chance in Germany?’ ” Donovan says.”

    Okay…but, this was when he was a teenager, for one thing, and it seemed valid at the time considering he was doing very well with the US youth teams. He did not say “If I can play at this level, why aren’t the best clubs in the world banging down my door and begging me to come play for them?”

    He wanted to go somewhere where he would get playing time. That’s not entitlement, that’s trying to do what he felt at the time was best for his happiness and his career as he saw it. It was his choice to make…all the people who thought it was wrong are allowed their opinions, but none of them were living his life.

  20. Nice write up Ives. I’ll admit that as both an Evertonian and someone who hated Donovan, I was not in favor of this move for the Toffees when it first was rumored. But he’s been winning me over game by game, and if he keeps playing this way, I hope Everton can find the cash to sign him, and I’ll even stop cursing him during USMNT games.

  21. Sorry here too. We are guys, so we are cool going forward.

    MLS attendance and LD are NOT unrelated.

    Seattle Sounders and LD are NOT unrelated, I watched him play in person many times in Seattle versus the Sounders.

    I am in the minority, so maybe a little annoying, maybe a lot annoying, but I am one of the few that want Landon to stay in the US.

    Just pointing out, if Seattle is drawing like this, we may not be that far away from keeping talent at home where we can watch in person.

    First time I watch LD play was in front of about 500 fans in Seattle, seriously. Ching was a Sounder then, now it will be 40,000.

    Soccer in the US may be keeping LD at home yet.


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