Is Landon Donovan the player of the tournament so far?

by Charlie Coffey

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

It just had to be Landon Donovan that scored the dramatic last-gasp winner against Algeria last night. The USA’s talisman has proved to be the difference between a workmanlike side able to match decent opposition over 90 minutes, and one that is able to surpass them. Last night he was the difference between an early exit from the World Cup and a passport to the last sixteen as the undefeated USA went through as winners of Group C.

Without Donovan, the USA are at best an average side. The fact that they rely so heavily on their ’star’ striker Jozy Altidore, a man who scored just once in 28 games on loan at Hull City last year, speaks volumes of the lack of quality running through the squad.  Donovan is the only player with genuine class, and so his team rely on him to perform to his potential when it matters. While he was criticised for going missing in Germany four years ago, he has put that right in South Africa.

One thing his less talented team-mates possess in abundance is spirit. As Bill Clinton, making a bizarre appearance for a post-match interview yesterday, said, “all great contests in life are head games”.  However, mental grit can only get you so far at the highest level. New Zealand, under the leadership of their captain Ryan Nelson, have been able to match Slovakia and Italy so far but lack a quality player capable of finishing the job, and may well be found out by Paraguay this afternoon.

While the USA look to Donovan, other teams of a similar level rely on their sole star player to provide the goods. That the South African team placed their hands on the corn-rows of Steven Pienaar during a prayer before the tournament’s opening game showed how much they lean on the Everton midfielder. Unfortunately for the host nation Pienaar had a quiet World Cup and his team were knocked out despite a valiant victory against France in what proved to be their last game.

Similarly Australia look to Pienaar’s Everton team-mate, Tim Cahill, to provide goals and inspiration. When he was shown a red card in the opening game it was obvious they would struggle. Their win over Serbia last night (Cahill scored the opener) also came too late.

It is fitting, then, that Donovan chose Everton as the club to prove himself in European football with. His short spell on loan there showed just how far he has come on as a player after a fruitless four-year spell at Bayer Leverkusen during which he made just seven first-team appearances and another loan at Bayern Munich after which the Bavarian Club declined an option to extend his visit.
At Everton, though, Donovan was a revelation. David Moyes had little to lose by bringing him in, but he could not have expected the Californian to adapt to the pace of the Premier League so quickly after playing in the US Major League.

Consolidating a place on the right of a five-man midfield containing both Pienaar and Cahill, he scored two goals in thirteen games, took set-pieces for the club and was voted as Player of the Month for January.
The spell at Everton may have played a major part in Donovan’s performances in South Africa. During his visit he was involved in several tight but mostly successful matches as his adopted team enjoyed a rich vein of form that included home wins against Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City and a hard-fought draw at Arsenal. Donovan has had to compete with at least the same level of intensity and with the added pressure of the expectancy of a nation on his shoulders when playing in the blue of the USA at the World Cup.

While the big names continue to struggle for their respective nations as documented here earlier this week, the players around them have the quality to take the carry them through. Donovan alone must continue to carry his team as they enter the business end of the competition. When it has counted so far he has provided the substance that his more illustrious peers have not. Without his two goals in three games the USA would be sat on a flight home now rather than preparing for their match against Ghana on Saturday. For this reason Landon Donovan is my man of the tournament so far.

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  • bud

    Landon is our hero and one hell of dude, he is the man, god bless the USA!!!

    We will win the World Cup, we warned the world at the Confederations Cup, take note, the States are coming for you Brazil, revenge!

  • Darren

    I admit, he’s having a quality World Cup, his 2 foot strikes have been class, he also puts the work in.

    A very under rated player indeed.

    I predict the States will make the semi’s then go out on pens.

  • dexylongshot

    Landon is my player of the tourno so far. He was my diamond in the team previews for the yanks and one of my first dreamteam picks, he’s doing a fine job for me and i’m cruising at the top. I had a sneaky e/w on the yanks last summer to get to the semis. Looking good for the USA methinks.

  • Ashleigh

    It’s bound to happen one day, in a country so vast they are going to find 11 decent footballers good enough to win the World Cup. There not their yet, but a decent showing is SA will only raise the game even further in the US and that day will come sooner then everyone thinks.

    As for Donovan, he’s a class act. He never gives in and gives the American’s workman like team that little bit extra when they need it most. A player that was severly lacking in the Italian team and is why the USA are through and the Azzurri are out.

    USA! USA!

  • dexylongshot

    Freakin Eh! How long before Landon is playing Champions League football, 4 months?

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