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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Americans Abroad: Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)

            Landon Donovan has been reborn.  Once considered the Godsend for American soccer as a young blonde-haired California boy with lightning speed and promising skills, ten years later, the LA Galaxy captain plays a game that has matured even more than his appearance.  Although struggling with his form through the middle of the decade and enduring harsh criticism, Donovan has reemerged as the leader and most talented player on the United States national team.

            As many of his American teammates did, Donovan used this summer’s Confederations Cup as an opportunity to showcase his skills on the world stage.  And boy, did he do a magnificent job.  An excellent decision maker, a great distributor of the ball, capable of playing on either side of the field, and a relentless worker, Donovan is by far the best player on the United States team.  He was also perhaps one of the best performers in the recent World Cup tune-up.  After driving his nation to an outstanding second place finish in the Confederations Cup, Donovan looks to be receiving offers from European clubs this summer.

            Donovan is not all too familiar with European football, however, something he has been criticized for throughout his career.  Finding it difficult to leave his native California, Donovan has played the majority of his club football with the San Jose Earthquakes and the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS.  In effort to take his game to Europe, Donovan attempted two stints in the German Bundesliga, one with Bayern Leverkusen and another with Bayern Munich.  Both, however, were unsuccessful.

            Donovan can succeed in Europe, though.  His two stays in Germany were atypical of what he would naturally encounter in a move across the Atlantic.  While at Leverkusen, a young, immature Donovan found it difficult to adapt to life in Germany.  And at Bayern he was forced to compete for playing time with an attacking unit consisting of Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose, Bastien Schweinsteiger, and Franck Ribery, thus not often seeing the pitch.  Should Donovan find the right opportunity with a team that actually needs his services, he can thrive in club football outside the US.

            Donovan’s skill has never been a question, and now that he has matured, at age 27 his time has come.  Apparently, newly promoted Serie A side Livorno have shown interest in Donovan, although the Galaxy captain should honestly be aiming for bigger things.  He has expressed interest in playing in Spain, where there would be no language-barrier, for he speaks fluent Spanish.  And with his speed, he could certainly fit well in the English Premier League with a team like Fulham or Everton, for instance.  But whether Italy, Spain, or even England, Donovan can without a doubt compete in any of the world’s top three leagues.  Now, it’s time for America’s biggest name to strut his stuff in Europe.

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