Landon Donovan may not have put all the doubts to rest, but on a frigid day in North London, he clearly showed that he has the skills to play against a top team in a top league. Everton should have strolled out of the Emirates with all three points against Arsenal, but a few lucky bounces for the Gunners gave them a share of the winnings in the 2-2 draw.
One person who will be able to testify to Donovan’s skills was Arsenal left back Armand Traore. Traore has done well over the past couple of months in place of the injured Gael Clichy, but he had a miserable time trying to contain Donovan’s pace and touch. Donovan had Traore backpedaling most of the game, and used his speed to create several useful crosses, including one to Phil Neville whose shot came within inches of dipping under the bar and into the net.
The opening goal did come off a perfectly placed Donovan corner that was slammed into the net off the head of Leon Orsman. For long-time Donovan watchers, it was a little odd seeing him take several deadball opportunities. With the Galaxy, David Beckham is always the first choice from a set piece, and it is easy to forget that Donovan has some solid deadball skills too.
After the game, Everton manager David Moyes had this to day about Donovan’s performance:
I thought he played very well. I was disappointed I had to take him off, he cramped up. I don’t know if the cold had a bit to do with that as well, I’m sure more to do with it was having four weeks holiday and then only having five or six days training with us. So I’ve got to say he’s done really well today and I thought he was a threat to them all day and he contributed to a good Everton performance. We’re only finding out about him. We played him on the right today, I thought he did a great job there, I was really impressed by him. We may play him up front or off the front man as well so we just want to see if we can get the best out of him in the couple of months we’ve got him for.
On some message boards, which have been generally positive about Donovan’s debut, there are a few voices faulting him for Arsenal’s opening goal. I have watched that goal on reply a few times, and I think that judgment is very harsh. Donovan headed a frozen ball on a bounce out of his own box, and only sent it about twenty yards away from goal. However, I find a lot more fault with the three Everton defenders who stood like blocking dummies as Denilson stole the ball, sent it to Andrey Arshavin, who touched it to Eduardo who left it for Denilson to score. Given all that, Denilson’s shot got a lucky deflection off of Osman before getting past Tim Howard and into the net.
Next up for Donovan is a likely home debut against Manchester City a week from today. This early game will be on ESPN for American fans, so you can expect a ESPN to devote a camera to follow Donovan’s every move.