It’s a tricky question that boils down to taste and much as statistics, and lends itself to a great deal of debate: Which player was Landon Donovan’s best partner en route to his United States men’s record for caps and goals?
As we head into Friday’s “au revoir” match for Donovan, a lot of memories pop up (many we’ll be exploring in the coming days in this space. But a lot of teammates come to mind as well: Brian McBride, Jozy Altidore, Clint Mathis, Eddie Johnson. The list goes on and on.
Who was Donovan’s best partner in crime while donning the stars and/or stripes?
We can start with some statistics. In games Donovan scored, here are players who also scored:
Scored in same game as Donovan with USMNT (occurrences)
Once -Kirovski, Lewis, Stewart, Ralston, Cooper, Bornstein, Conrad, Twellman, Hejduk, Feilhaber, Robinson, Jones, Altidore, Onyewu, Casey, Gomez, Bedoya, Orozco, Holden, Diskerud
Twice – Corona, Goodson
Thrice – Wondolowski, Wolff, Mathis, McBride, Ching, Bocanegra, Dempsey
Four times – Bradley
Five times – lone goal scorer, Eddie Johnson
Six times – DaMarcus Beasley
Surprised? Perhaps not, as Beasley has played a boatload of games and his move to defender isn’t so long ago that we don’t recall his afterburners rolled out in pure attack mode.
But it isn’t just about scoring in the same game, obviously, which is why we bring up the point of personal taste. When thinking of who fits with Donovan it’s a bit of a challenge. He was 18 when he scored that first goal, assisted my Clint Mathis. Their mix of skills could be a handful for any defender.
And then of course there’s McBride. The two complemented each other so well. And Jozy Altidore reaped massive benefits from Donovan, as did Eddie Johnson in his first “on” year.
Beasley deserves a shout, too. Honestly, we can’t be sure these two won’t go down as symbiotic parts of US Soccer from 2001-2006.
The answer, though, is probably Dempsey. Their primes ran very close together, with Dempsey first harvesting goals from Donovan’s prime and Landon’s best years lengthened by Dempsey’s surge into the spotlight. We’ll never know how things could’ve happened if Donovan didn’t need his sabbatical (which as a human I admire).
A Donovan that danced into the Jurgen Klinsmann era with optimistic and enthusiasm could’ve turned this summer’s World Cup into something magical and perhaps even benefited his form. Alas, it’ll always be a “What could’ve been.”
We don’t need to deal with the “could’ve”, though, when it comes to Landon Donovan. It’s an argument for bars way down the line. One of the most important USMNT players ever is retiring. And what a ride it was.