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Everton 1-2 Birmingham: Mission Merseyside; Donovan, Everton Eliminated from FA Cup by Brum


Landon Donovan’s third match in an Everton shirt was substantially less successful than his first two. But that should be no surprise given the competition. Birmingham City has been unbeatable the last three months and plays a very traditional British style of football featuring several long time veterans of the British game.

The result, a 2-1 Brum victory at Goodison Park, knocks Donovan’s Everton side out of the FA Cup. The match also marked the return of Mikel Arteta, who probably represents Donovan’s biggest competition for a starting spot. Arteta came on for Donovan midway through the second half.

Criticisms of Donovan’s play yesterday can be made, but when the central midfield is totally run over (as Fellani and Cahill were in this match), it’s difficult to integrate a wide midfielder into the attack. So while Donovan was certainly less than adequate,  he was far from Everton’s biggest problem.

The Blues are now unbeaten in fifteen matches and continue to demonstrate a grittiness and quality, that are bi-products of veteran leadership from within the leagues of the British Isles. Alex McLeish’s team has shown remarkable structure and organization away from home since October and if anything, has been more often than not the victim of several strange calls that have prevented the Blues from climbing into the Premier League top four.

The physical play of Birmingham’s midfield and defense, have made a huge impact on every match they play. Everton was not prepared for that type of play on the day, despite confidence running high after achieving results against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City in the league over the past month.

Also of interest to CONCACAF fans should be successful move of Christian Benitez to Birmingham. Chucho as he is known was outstanding for several seasons in Mexico with Santos Laguna, including in year’s CONCACAF Champions League.

Donovan made some good runs down the right sided flank, but did not receive adequate service from the central midfield, or watched left back Phil Neville often times choose to distribute the football back to the central midfielders bypassing Donovan completely. So perhaps, judging Landon Donovan on this performance, while surely poor, is unfair.

Donovan’s play in this match may have been subpar, but it was a good learning experience. Given how well the American did against finesse oriented sides in Arsenal and Manchester City, Donovan has the confidence to perform at the highest levels of English football.  The loss to Birmingham, who have since late October been the most successful Premier League side, should simply be viewed as a learning experience.

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  1. CA

    January 26, 2010 at 1:21 am

    You are spot on that Cahill, Saha, and Bily were nowhere to be found, and that Neville seems intent to not include Donovan in the attack. However, the level of hustle and effort displayed by Fellaini and Pienaar greatly exceeded that shown by Donovan. I am as BIG a LD fan as there is, as I’ve followed his career for almost a decade now, but for someone looking to secure a starting spot on a Prem League team he doesn’t seem to be trying as hard as he could. But then again, it was only his third game. Make us proud Donovan!

  2. Adrian

    January 25, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Donovan had a so-so game, but so did the entire team … and Donovan never got too many chances from his mates. If they want Donovan to shine, he needs touches (who doesn’t) and a chance to run at defenders.
    The defense and central midfield did not assert themselves, and the Toffees looked out of sync. Not many players did better than Donovan, and some big name players did not deliver at all (e.g., Cahill, Saha, Bilyaletdinov). Where the heck was Cahill during the game?
    Overall, Everton looked like a completely different team than the past two games. Donovan’s skill and pace were not used properly, and Neville just keeps playing ineffective long balls or ignores Donovan.
    Landon might well have had the equalizer in the 2nd half, but his teammate intercepted the cross with a lousy heading attempt.
    And, yes, I did watch the game (live on Sopcast). Unfortunately, the best feed I could get visually left me with an Iranian commentary (no big deal).

  3. MH

    January 25, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    The sooner Krishnaiyer disappears from the airwaves and this website the better.

    He does nothing but bash America and our players. I’m sure he is celebrating the victory for his crappy Honduran team that had everyone versus our C team.

    Farley coming in does no good. He is the same as Krishnaiyer and actually if possible worse. Listen to Inside the Six. He forces South America, Africa and Russia down us. At least Krishnaiyer sticks to the standard England, Mexico and Honduras, closer by places.

    • GO USA 2010

      January 25, 2010 at 11:01 pm

      I agree on Farley. At least Krishnaiyer for all his b/s rants and garbage analysis (he would call it rubbish since he always uses the Brit terms) has yet to write a preview prediciting we would lose to Algeria, as Farley did at World Soccer Digest.

      Anybody who really believes the US will lose to Algeria or Slovenia needs to have their head examined or put away in a looney bin. Slovenia has 1.9 million people! We have never lost in a match to a nation with that few people.

      • The Gaffer

        January 26, 2010 at 7:13 am

        Go USA 2010, sounds like you’re underestimating the talents of Algeria and Slovenia at your peril. Algeria just beat the Ivory Coast, one of the best teams in Africa. And Slovenia qualified from its group instead of Russia.

        I hope the US qualifies smoothly from its group, but it’s never as easy as teams think especially on the world’s stage.

        The Gaffer

  4. JS

    January 24, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Good post. Donovan had a bad day but so did the whole team. Birmingham is the form team right now, so it was always going to be tough.

  5. daniel anderson

    January 24, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    A fair assessment of the game. Donovan got very little service in this game, and the whole team was lackluster. Sometimes he seems to lack confidence to attach the goal, and the one thing that will assure his stay at Everton will be goals. Fingers crossed.

  6. CA

    January 24, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    A fair commentary; if a little too nice to Donovan:)

  7. kofix5

    January 24, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    NIce analysis of the game. I wish I could have seen it.

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