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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.

Comments

  1. First, props for tracking down that article, that really puts into perspective what drives Donovan and as well how cool Leverkusan was with him leaving.

    I don’t read any “entitlement” in his message, rather he shows that he prefers to play “…when I’m just playing for fun.”

    L.D. is a special player in the U.S. ranks, and seems to choose to “play to live”; rather than “live to play”. Yes those of us without his talent can be confused, can not relate, can not fathom given the chance what we would do…but in the end this is his life. He is choosing to make his path his way and not worry about the pundits…I applaud him for this.

    My guess, after seeing this article, he’ll not sign long term in Europe even given the chance or the do-re-me…

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  2. In fairness to the Guardian, they do love on Dempsey and talk about how central he is to the Fulham team. I realize that most of them are Fulham fans, but I’m just pointing out that they aren’t as anti-american as you’re implying

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  3. I’m just getting a little sick of Sounders fans trying to inject their team into every discussion about soccer. Donovan and the Seattle Sounders have nothing to do with each other. Sorry to be a jerk, though. It was uncalled for, and I was angry about something else (non-SBI related). Honest apologies.

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  4. Didier hit the nail on the head earlier when he said, “My guess is that if Donovan had been German that night, he would have gotten maybe one line saying “he played poorly.”

    This is spot-on. American footballers are subjected to a level of criticism reserved for no other nationality, not even Aussies or Canadians(as they are part of the Commonwealth).

    LD is showing well at Everton-not outstanding- but well. He’s still a little timid at times and loses the ball in situations where Pienaar and Fellaini would not. Also, at this time, it’s quite apparent that LD and Neville have almost not chemistry on the pitch.

    That said, he has shown glimpses of brilliance, the fans LOVE him, and he’s faster than anyone else on the team. Also, I still dont think he’s match fit yet. I think he can, and will, do MUCH better still.

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  5. How about a goal for Landon, a blown call that costs him a second and 2 goals for Liverpool via a glaring defensive error and crap penalty (so Timmy doesn’t look bad either)?

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  6. You’re going to point THAT game out as proof of Donovan’s poor performance? The entire Everton team was a no-show.

    Find something else to pick on. Like his inability (so far) to beat his man one-on-one. However, I have no doubt that’ll come too as his fitness and confidence grow.

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  7. Here’s hoping Lando has a clunker tomorrow. I’m an American thru and thru but I’m also a Red until a die so Cone on you Reds!

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  8. I don’t understand your logic. Maybe you just wanted to find a way to segue from Donovan to your Seattle fact? Go drink some coffee and watch Frasier.

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  9. Please let Landon stay in MLS, so we aren’t begging for illegal internet sights for our entertainment this year.

    We might not be that far away. 40,000+ has to put Seattle in the Top25 teams in the world for attendance.

    “Seattle is continuing to surprise us all. They haven’t announced it yet, but they’ve sold out their available season tickets (for 2010). They’re now at 32,000 and expect to go well north of 40,000 for their attendance.” -The Don Garber

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  10. He didn’t disappear. He wasn’t as effective….but he absolutely didn’t disappear. If you accuse him of disappearing, then the entire team disappeared..because no one was effective.

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  11. My guess is that if Donovan had been German that night, he would have gotten maybe one line saying “he played poorly.” But the fact that he was an American obviously made his poor performance stick out.

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  12. No, he was actually quite good in the game played at Anfield. He subbed in for the last approximate 25 minutes and set up a goal and was actually rated a 2 by Kicker – tying for the highest rating on the field.

    In fact, it was that performance that caused all the fans and all the German sportswriters to begin clamoring for Donovan to start from then on. Only the coach disagreed and actually reduced his minutes….until that fateful day vs. Liverpool. I still wonder why the coach did that.

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  13. I’m glad you’ve changed your mind, but this is one of the things I never understood about the LD haters.

    “…who thinks he’s entitled to start for any club in the world.”

    What the hell gave you that impression? I have never heard him say anything that conveyed that sentiment. Just because he still considered himself a good footballer doesn’t mean he was some sort of arrogant jerk who thought he was the best ever in the whole world. I hear that from so many people and yet I’ve never heard anything like that from LD himself. It seems like people who don’t like him just project this kind of stuff on him to make him seem worse. He’s not arrogant, he’s confident…there’s a difference. And players are allowed to still have faith in themselves even after a bad spell. If they didn’t, wouldn’t that be even worse?

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  14. My buddy and I are so interested in this match up we are getting up at 4:45 AM California time to watch. Gotta get Tivo or DVR one of these days…

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  15. I wonder what Bianca, his ex-wife, thinks of LD’s playing in Europe.

    If getting divorced fires him to play the way he has, then let’s find him another wife and have him divorce him.

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  16. Nice write up Ives.

    You’re in good position to make a power move in the coverage of soccer in the U.S. right now. SI losing both Freedman and G. Lalas, and ESPN trying to incorporate WC/USMNT into one area… this site is by far the best shot to get reliable and consistent news.

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  17. What’s been amazing is how the Guardian podcast now glosses over Everton scores/analysis every week. It seems like they are hoping if they ignoring Landon’s success long enough, he will implode, and they won’t have to eat crow.

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  18. Thanks for bringing this up Ives. I rememeber watching this game with some friends and thinking he was completely out of his league playing for Leverkusen. This European stint changed my opinion of Donovan from being a star on the rise from WC2002 to a homesick, SoCal whiner who thinks he’s entitled to start for any club in the world.

    Divorce has given Lando the opportunity to refocus his game and become the great player he was working towards after Korea/Japan.

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  19. I was under the impression that he was even worse in the leg at Anfield. Was that not the one in which he was pulled a few minutes into the second half, a move Donovan thought was designed to humiliate him?

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  20. Donovan still has games where he disappears. The recent one against Brum in the FA Cup comes to mind. The commentators where on him for lack of movement to give Neville options and for reluctance to shoot when well-positioned.

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  21. I’ve read it before, and knew it would bear its ugly head before Lando went back to Anfield. Most inept performance by any professional ever?? It was bad, but c’mon. Glendenning never misses an opportunity to rip Americans playing what he seems to regard as his own personal game.

    And it was my Irish blood compelled me to point out that it was not by a “British writer.”

    (SBI-Fair enough Omar. I knew who wrote it, just didn’t know he was Irish. And his tendency to rip Americans aside, I have to say I agreed on the horrific performance Donovan put in that night. Worst performance ever by a pro player? Obviously that’s some hyperbole but it was truly awful.)

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  22. Well this were Donovan needs to be Confident. If Hes got a shot, he needs to fire it into the back of the net. BE THE MAN tommorow. And people will never think about that game 5 years ago again.

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