I have never understood the animosity that Landon Donovan can stimulate by doing nothing more than, you know, being Landon Donovan. His unreasonable detractors are legion.
So I know the push-back is coming, some of it the nuclear-tipped Angry Man variety, all screamy and scrunched-up face and all that. Grrrrr! But here goes:
If there was any remaining doubt that Landon Donovan is the best soccer player this land has every produced, is he erasing the last, lingering, stubborn vestiges of it now. I am well aware of Exhibit A that Donovan haters love to bang on about, that Donovan can never be the best U.S. man because he didn’t go to Europe and be all Euro massive.
Well, those people are just wrong.
First, Donovan did go to Europe and prove his worth in one of the globe’s top leagues. His loan spells at Everton were memorably productive, and the supporters of Goodison Park fell instantly in love with the fast, skillful and quick-thinking Californian.
But never mind. That’s not even a fight worth fighting anymore. If you want to debate about whether Kasey Keller or Claudio Reyna or Clint Dempsey even Tab Ramos or whoever is the best U.S. man ever, fair enough. Just don’t trot out the Donovan as lesser lament because he enjoys living in the United States. Please retire that one.
Meanwhile, just look at the mounting stacks of statistical evidence. The man passes the eye test, and has for a long, long time. But for those who only run their engines on the fuel of hard data, here goes:
- Donovan just matched Major League Soccer’s all-time goal scoring mark, with 134. He is just 31, so the man’s final total could easily land north of the 150-goal milepost. Perhaps even well north. That is to say, he is not only claiming the league’s most glorious individual record, he is obliterating it.
- Don’t forget that Donovan could also become the league’s all-time assist leader. And he could well be the only athlete ever to hold both titles. Ever!
- Donovan is Major League Soccer’s all-time playoff scoring leader.
- He is an MLS Best XI selection six times.
- For the Euro snobs and the Latin soccer snob who doesn’t highly rate MLS: Donovan is the U.S. national team’s all-time leading scorer.
- And the men’s national team’s all-time assist leader.
- And (going back to MLS momentarily) he is the Galaxy’s all-time leading scorer.
- Barring injury, Donovan will participate next summer in his fourth World Cup finals. Even for U.S. Soccer talent – where getting to World Cups is much easier than, say, arriving out of Europe or South American – notching a four spot on your World Cup holster means doing a whole lot of things right.
- He has been U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year four times and Honda Player of the Year (for U.S. men) seven times.
- He is the U.S. leader in World Cup games (12) and goals scored (5).
- Any attempts to identify the biggest U.S. Soccer accomplishments of the last 11 years will include a heavy dose of Donovan.
- Donovan provided one of the most famous goals in U.S. men’s national team history, the iconic, late strike against Algeria that propelled his country into the 2010 World Cup elimination phase. (“Oh, can you believe this? Goal, goal, USA! … Oh, it’s incredible.”)
- He has four MLS Cups, four CONCACAF Gold Cups (if you’re into those) and a FIFA Confederations Cup runner-up medal.