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Landon Donovan: Stay Over There

Landon Donovan is a marquee player.  I wouldn’t say he is world class, but he is certainly a good player in the top league in the world.  World Class, to me, means someone who instantly affects the game he is in.  A game changer, a Rooney or a Crynaldo.  Landon Donovan is neither of those.

But he is a good player in the English Premier League, and a poster boy for American soccer.

So if he is a good player in a vastly superior league to Major League Soccer, and a poster boy for American soccer, why should he stay abroad?

The answer is quite elementary and is both good for himself and American soccer (and MLS is not synonymous with American soccer).

Right now, Landon Donovan will gain nothing in terms of skill from playing in the EPL, contrary to some claims that his fans make.  No, Donovan has probably already peaked.  His personal gains will be found in better pay and the opportunity to test himself against the other players in the league

And his benefits for American soccer can be found in the same way.  A consistently strong Landon Donovan can erase stereotypes which are held against American soccer players abroad.  Instead of seeing American players benched (or playing reserve football) when they make moves overseas, we could see an era of where the American player is treated equally with those of soccer majors. Benefits can also be found at home. In Major League Soccer, his salary money can go to bringing up an American potential, or several American potentials, for that matter. Essentially, a Donovan move opens spots for younger players, who haven’t peaked yet, to play higher division football.

However, a permanent Donovan move to the EPL is probably bad for Major League Soccer.  Unlike some authors, I have no illusions about the so-called “Good For Major League Soccer because it will attract other players here” argument.  The reality of the situation is MLS will still be looked down upon with disdain.  Treated as a private joke, perhaps, but not viewed as a place to develop your game.  The main negatives that will be found will be with the fact that the United States’ best player is no longer playing in the league and this is no longer a TV or attendance draw (although the ‘metrics of it might show that he never was in the first place).

But what is best for American soccer is more young players playing a higher tier of football, with the mature, developed players, playing abroad, and not taking up spaces for Americans on teams that are below their [the players] calibre.

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  1. Yixing teapot

    June 17, 2010 at 4:31 am

    No matter how much MLS silverware Donovan wins it won’t compare to similar accomplishments in England. And Everton are not a third-rate side. Given their youth prospects, who were scoring goals against Man U, and the total quality once people are back from injury, I do think Everton is a potential Champions League threat with Donovan and I think it is better for US soccer and LD if he stays there.

    • kimooa

      June 17, 2010 at 4:34 am

      let’s splash a little cold water on the LA Galaxy are better than Everton nonsense shall we.

  2. Les

    February 24, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    A fair assesment of MLS would be to see what MLS coaches have experience managing in Europe. Even NASL/USL have a number of coaches with major experience.

    I know Krishnaiyer always got flamed for saying that but it is true. Look at how many USL now NASL coaches have UEFA badges. Heck, did not Edmonton just hire PSV’s former coach?

    Hans Backe is a good start but MLS is still far from having a real tactical setup and organized European style training.

  3. OleGunnar20

    February 24, 2010 at 1:23 am

    let’s splash a little cold water on the LA Galaxy are better than Everton nonsense shall we.

    Example: Mike Grella after graduating from Duke rejected a contract offer from MLS to join the league and be in the 2009 Superdraft. Prior to the draft he was considered one of the top Forward prospects ( along with Marcus Tracy (who also snubbed MLS and now plays for Aalborg in Denmark). He instead went to Leeds Utd (current promotion candidates) of League One (that is the 3rd division of English soccer). He has started 2 games and has 10 sub appearances in their 28 league games. You’ll notice that the next forward prospect for the 2009 MLS draft was Chris Pontius who was drafted 7th overall by DC United and started 28 of 30 games for them (and was considered a rookie sensation).

    So essentially equally talented young American soccer prospects show one being a fringe squad player for a League One team (albeit a good one) and the other being a lock starter for an average MLS team.

    What I draw from this is that this year’s Leed Utd squad (with Beckford, Snodgrass, Becchio et al) would dominate in MLS as would probably Norwich and other top League One teams. Meaning the assessment of MLS being on par with the top of League One and bottom of the Championship is even too generous and the likely comparison is that MLS is on par with the middle of League One.

    Now. I would hope with time (and some less retarded and restrictive rules/structure) that the MLS could be a top 8-10 league in the world. On the par of the Championship and FMF, Brazil and Argentina in our own hemisphere. I think cities like Seattle and Toronto have proven that there are plenty of excited fans out there that will follow MLS. Whether they will stay for 15 years if the league stagnates and does not increase the quality of play/players to the sort of level I referred to is another story all together.

  4. Mark

    February 23, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Three Lions? You have not heard of Ricketts or Birchall? They are stars for their national teams. Chris Birchall played in the last World Cup, starting all three games!

    • Lars Lowther

      February 23, 2010 at 5:45 pm

      And neither one would play anything higher than Championship in England, effectively cementing CONCACAF as a backwoods for soccer and MLS as a third division, with the best teams being at the bottom of the 2nd Division.

      • The Gaffer

        February 23, 2010 at 7:56 pm

        Chris Birchall is best known from his time with Port Vale, a team which currently plays in the bottom division of English football.

        The Gaffer

    • Lars Lowther

      February 23, 2010 at 8:14 pm

      For the record, I do enjoy MLS. I am a proud supporter of Toronto FC, and I don’t mind most of the other teams in the league. There are a few I despise with a passion and will only write about in passing, because I believe I’d be far too biased against them otherwise.

      The reason why we point these failures of MLS out is because we care about the league and we dream for what the league may be one day.

      NASL failed, for reasons relating to rapid expansion into weak markets (the buy in was 100k, which after inflation is still less than 10 million, let alone the 40 million MLS charges), poor ownership and the purchasing of aging superstars by the weak market teams.

      While it is clear there are weak markets in MLS, there also is a lot of positive developments. DC United is arguably my favourite non-TFC to watch, with Real Salt Lake a close second. The support shown for the two clubs demonstrates a true love for the game. Once I would have said the same for Seattle…but biases come into that when I talk about Seattle. So I’ll avoid it otherwise.

      MLS has strong markets, but it alienates these markets by feeding bench USL/NASL players to us. Raise the league minimum and make it so that at least we’re watching average starters from USL/NASL on the pitch.

      And Donovan should stay over there, for American soccer. I pulled for the US at the Confed Cup, and I’ll be pulling for them in South Africa. He is the poster boy of soccer in North America. He is, in fact, my favourite player to watch in the world, even if I think he is not the most talented.

      I say that as a Canuck, who loves JDG and De Rosario.

      • Lars Lowther

        February 23, 2010 at 8:15 pm

        DC United is arguably my favourite non-TFC team* to watch, with Real Salt Lake a close second.

  5. Mark

    February 23, 2010 at 10:52 am

    The Galaxy are a better team than Everton. Look at the wealth of experience of the Galaxy team. More international caps than Everton, and a world class player in Beckham. Who does Everton have? Some Aussie and South African dudes?

    Three Lions should appreciate the Galaxy. We starters from all over the national team scene. Donovan Ricketts, Chris Birchall, Greg Berhalter, Eddie Lewis, Jovan Kirovski, Beckham, Donovan, just to name a few.

    • The Three Lions

      February 23, 2010 at 11:44 am

      Beckham is past it and shouldn’t go to the world cup in my opinion, Donovan is at Everton and the rest are all shit. So I don’t really get your argument. Everton would probably give these lot a kicking, somewhere near the 7-0 mark would probably be a good estimate.
      Hope you’re having a nice time in dream land by the way

      • The Three Lions

        February 24, 2010 at 8:30 am

        Sorry, Donovan Ricketts, he’s the L.A Keeper from the West-Indies right? He looks a good player, but sorry, I don’t think he’ll save your team from getting hammered

    • David

      February 23, 2010 at 6:48 pm

      Dude, do you actually follow MLS? The top MLS teams cannot beat teams from the Honduran, Guatamalan, and Jamaican leagues. There are conclusive match results to support this fact.

      • Lars Lowther

        February 23, 2010 at 6:52 pm

        I disagree that the top MLS teams cannot beat teams from Honduran, Guatamalan and Jamaican leagues. It’s more that MLS has nothing to gain from it, because they do not market the Champions League. Often times you’ll see bench players starting. MLS chooses not to do well in these games.

        The only team that really seems to take it seriously is TFC (primarily due to the huge success of the Impact’s 08-09 run), and they lost out to the Islanders in the Preliminary Round. To be fair, the Islanders made it deep in 08-09, going to the Semi-finals, and took down their fair share of Central American champions.

        • David

          February 23, 2010 at 10:03 pm

          Sorry, pehaps “did not beat” would be more accurate.

          Getting drilled by your opponent means you’re not as good as they are. Saying “we didn’t really try” or “we didn’t really care” is very bush league, which actually sums up the mentality of the MLS powers-that-be pretty accurately.

          Teams all over the world start bench players in non-league competitions. One of the measures of team quality is bench depth. Not having bench depth means your team lacks quality. I know there’s a salary cap, yada yada yada. But in the end, all that matters is whether you have better players and if they play better than your opponent’s players.

          • Lars Lowther

            February 23, 2010 at 10:13 pm

            The MLS players don’t even get paid really for Champions League. I understand what you’re saying. I agree with a lot of it, but until MLS shells out and starts their starters, I’m gonna be a skeptic.

            But really, CCL matters to me, very very much and I wish it mattered to more. If CCL was selling out games in the US, you’d see American/Canadian/Mexican playoff rounds. My dream in fact.

    • CoconutMonkey

      February 23, 2010 at 11:47 pm


      • CoconutMonkey

        February 23, 2010 at 11:47 pm

        Oops. Wrong thread. I take back my “No”

        • Lars Lowther

          February 23, 2010 at 11:50 pm

          If it was No to me, fair enough. If it wasn’t, also fair enough. I believe, based on the reply, it was to me, which i will take as a mistake. If not, my mistake.

          • CoconutMonkey

            February 25, 2010 at 12:31 am

            Ha ha. Nah, that was a reply to somebody else on the MLS on the Brink thread. Actually, I completely agree with you with regards to our Champions League. I really wish it mattered more too.

            And while we’re on the subject, I’d really like to see the US Open Cup have a higher profile too.

  6. TR

    February 22, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    The author is wrong about Landon peaking. If he spent as year playing in his current set-up, he would develop as a player.

    • Lars Lowther

      February 22, 2010 at 10:46 pm

      Most players peak around 27 years of age. The body starts to plateau and is in decline by the early 30s. He /might/ develop more mental/tactical sense of the game but his physical abilities are as good as they’re ever going to be, and won’t be getting better, regardless of how much EPL he plays.

      • CoconutMonkey

        February 23, 2010 at 2:01 am

        “He /might/ develop more mental/tactical sense of the game”

        Sounds like improvement to me.

        • Lars Lowther

          February 23, 2010 at 1:31 pm

          Might is a big word.

  7. Peter

    February 22, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    I agree almost entirely with Three Lions’s last post. However, while Donovan may not be irreplaceable for the Toffees, I do not think it is a coincidence that Everton’s brilliant run of form has taken place with Donovan on the team.

    They say, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Such will be the case with Lando. His menacing runs have opened up Everton’s right in a way that wasn’t there before and his defense against Ashley Cole and Gary Neville was superb. He hasn’t been flashy, but he has been deadly effective. And, if he stays the goals will start to flow – he’s got a lot more in him than he has yet shown.

  8. David

    February 22, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    The idea that players come to MLS to make more money than in Europe is ridiculous and shows a basic ignorance of soccer’s international wage structure. The average salary in England’s second division Championship is well over $400,000. You can count on your fingers the number of players in MLS making that kind of money. Dempsey went from making $80,000 in MLS to well over $1 million playing at Fulham; Everton, a much bigger club than Fulham, apparently offered an almost 50% raise as part of their attempt to lure him last summer.

    Heck, the Mexican league pays much, much better than MLS.

  9. JM

    February 22, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Landon is not a game changer? Have you watched Everton’s season?

    Everton were awful the first half of the league — really unwatchable. Since Donovan’s introduction, Everton have the most points in the Premiership.

    Let’s see how the Toffees do after he goes back to California. My guess is backwards, since his pace, passing and work rate provide them something they don’t have on the rest of the roster. When Landon leaves, Everton are back to having two slow guys who can’t cross the ball on the flanks.

    • The Three Lions

      February 22, 2010 at 8:44 pm

      I think it is fair to say that Donovan has improved this Everton side, he has also proved to many non-believers (myself included) that he can do it in the best league in the world.
      However, I don’t see Everton going backwards just because he leaves, you’re talking about a club that finished 5th last season. The likes of Saha, Felaini, Pienaar, Arteta and Cahill will continue to take Everton forward this season.
      The real reason Everton did so poor early in the season was due to injury to key players and a lack of confidence.
      Everton will certainly miss Donovan when he goes but this is not L.A and Everton are not a one man team. I think you should be proud of what he has done though, the likes of Donovan and Dempsey are proving to many English fans that Americans can produce good outfield players and not just goalkeepers. I think it will only open the door for more to come in as English managers and scouts will start to take an interest in other players playing in the MLS
      I think Donovan will be back in the premiership after he goes back to the U.S because with out trying to sound disrespectful, who would want to play in the MLS wih the players and the crowds they have when you have had a taste of the Premiership.

      • Charles

        February 23, 2010 at 9:51 am

        How about Holden ?
        He will be out of Premiership next year either way. As appealing as going to England and sitting on the bench while your team is losing 15 games is…Playing on a good Houston team for a very good coach is a little more appealing to me.

        • The Three Lions

          February 23, 2010 at 10:07 am

          What about him? if he isn’t good enough then back he goes.

        • David

          February 24, 2010 at 12:49 am

          Holden was making about $35,000 last year in MLS. He will make a major multiple of that this season, which I’m guessing is “more appealing” to him. You do realize these guys are professionals, right?

          Even if they’re relegated, Holden will play against far superior competition in the Championship, and make more in a couple weeks than his annual salary in MLS.

      • totoro

        February 23, 2010 at 11:57 am

        Small correction: Fellaini’s out for the season, right? (Or at least for months.)

        Arteta started against Manchester United, though. I assume he’ll be back full-time, which should help as he rounds into form.

  10. Peter

    February 22, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    I don’t agree totally with Mark. I watch a lot of soccer – MLS, Prem, WC games, Seria A. I think Mark’s point is that MLS has more parity and thus is more competitive. That’s true in a way because there are not as many “fluff games”, however the standard of play and the quality of athlete is higher in the Prem than in MLS. I’d still rather face Real Salt Lake than Hull City. There’s just no question about the superior level of play in England. And how could it be otherwise given the money? MLS average salaries are $85k, while in the Premiership it is $1.2M.

    No matter how much MLS silverware Donovan wins it won’t compare to similar accomplishments in England. And Everton are not a third-rate side. Given their youth prospects, who were scoring goals against Man U, and the total quality once people are back from injury, I do think Everton is a potential Champions League threat with Donovan and I think it is better for US soccer and LD if he stays there. I live in LA and am a Galaxy fan, btw

    • Lars

      February 22, 2010 at 12:34 pm

      I don’t think Everton will make Champions League.

      Probably Europa League, yes, but not Champions League. At this point, I think they’re too far out. But hey, they may prove me wrong.

      I’ve tapped Tottenham to finish fourth.

    • Charles

      February 22, 2010 at 12:56 pm

      Galaxy fans are a strange lot. IF you are a Lakers fan, are you rooting for Kobe to leave ?

      It would definitely help our National team for him to get some playing time with LeBron….

      • totoro

        February 23, 2010 at 12:16 pm

        Do you suppose Donovan/Galaxy and Kobe/Lakers might not be analogous? Maybe these folks are fans of US soccer in general and of Donovan as much as they are of the Galaxy. They want to see an American succeed in a top league.

        Perhaps more analogous would be the early days of Europeans in the NBA, and rooting for club stars to make it in the NBA, like Drazen Petrovic.

  11. Mark

    February 22, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Why Donovan would want to leave MLS, where he is marketable and playing for titles? Everton may finish 9th in the Premier League. WHOA! Break out the Champagne! The teams in MLS at the bottom end are more competitive than Portsmouth, Hull City, Bolton and Burnley, so MLS actually provides a more competitive atmosphere night in and night out.

    MLS should not sell under any circumstance. I am tired of eurosnobs saying any player is better off in Europe. In reality, no player is better off in Europe unless they are on a Champions League club. When it comes down to it MLS is the most competitive league on the planet, where you have the greatest chance of winning titles and face the toughest competition night in and night out. For all the love of the EPL among American fans because of the common language and clever propaganda, MLS is top to bottom a much better league where our teams are not threatening to shut its doors midseason because the salary bill is too high.

    Landon, prove you really love America and stay at home in our league, MLS.

    • Charles

      February 22, 2010 at 12:52 pm

      YES !!!!
      ..and just like that we doubled the number of people that rather watch Toronto versus LA ( with LD )
      than Stoke City versus Everton ( with LD, on illegal internet stream at 4:30 in the AM )

      • Erich

        February 22, 2010 at 5:36 pm

        Charles – for the last time, no one has to watch EPL matches via illegal internet streams. They’re on networks called ESPN2 and Fox Soccer Channel. You may recognize these networks, as they are the same ones that broadcast MLS games.

        And you’ll just have to forgive some of us for having a preference of watching EPL matches over MLS matches. The quality is just better and they have many of the world’s best players. It would be like criticizing a European basketball fan for preferring the NBA over his country’s basketball league.

    • The Three Lions

      February 22, 2010 at 1:06 pm

      What a load of shit.

      ‘MLS is top to bottom a much better league where our teams are not threatening to shut its doors midseason because the salary bill is too high’

      Pompey would hammer your best team. Your league has no relagation and therefore nothing to fear, the top team in the league (LA) has to go into playoffs and then gets beat by a team they have already finished ahead of, What? Crazy!!

      No proper title winner and no relagation to fear, What do these teams have to play for? it’s a nothing league with nothing to fear by finishing bottom and nothing to win for finishing top. It has got to be the biggest joke league in the world.

      • Charles

        February 22, 2010 at 2:25 pm

        Three Lion,
        Please stay focused on who is finishing on fourth or seventeenth in the EPL, it is very important.

        One, He was not saying MLS was better in terms of EPL. So don’t get so excited. It is a better run league. Maybe you disagree, but many logical people don’t.

        Two, LA was not the top team 2/3rds the way through the season ( called regular season ), Columbus was, but they lost to Salt Lake 3 out of 4 times. You want them as champs ?? Salt Lake then finished the season with more wins, and a better record than anyone in soccer…THEY ARE CHAMPS.
        Do you realize that Man U has a losing record versus Chelsea. 11 titles versus 2 or 3…regular season only is boring and isn’t neccessarily the best.
        Champs beating perenial losers for titles is a problem.

        Three, relegation/promotion is the single dumbest idea in all of sports.
        One bad season and you play for 21st the next year ?!?!
        My Seahawks were in the Super Bowl 4 years ago. Now I have to watch them play minor league ball with no chance of winning ? NO.

        • DCLee

          February 22, 2010 at 4:01 pm

          It nice to see someone stand up for their own domestic league Charles and Mark. Keep up the tough work. For the record…I agree with both your points.

          • Charles

            February 22, 2010 at 5:11 pm

            Reminds us all of the days.
            I should have asked Three Lions to get that Pompey-MLS game scheduled quickly, I don’t think the 20th place team is going to survive more than 6 more days.

        • Lars Lowther

          February 22, 2010 at 7:24 pm

          I would have to say that without a doubt, the bottom feeders of the EPL would dominate the MLS sides.

          Most Championship sides would too.

          Comparing the all-stars (most of which are European washouts) to teams in Pre-season featuring trialists from the Championship and League 1 is hardly a fair comparison.

    • David

      February 22, 2010 at 10:09 pm

      Please stop trying to argue that MLS teams could beat some EPL teams. The top MLS teams can’t beat teams from the Houdouran league, for example.

      You comment that “nobody” is better off outside of MLS unless they are at a Champions level club is silly. The groundskeeper at Fulham probably makes more than half the players in MLS. Dempsey makes 7 figures playing there, and made less than a tenth that as a top player at New England.

      • SSReporters

        February 25, 2010 at 3:53 pm

        Clearly the Honduran teams are better than the Premier League teams. 😀

  12. Peter

    February 22, 2010 at 10:16 am

    I think most of the free world is in agreement that LD should stay at Everton, including LD and Everton themselves. The question is the business negotiation going on between Moyes and MLS. How about some intel on that? Now that would be journalism.

    • Charles

      February 22, 2010 at 11:11 am

      99% of the 300 million living in the US, don’t know he is on loan….and I will say almost all of South America/Africa/Europe doesn’t give a rip.

      I think the LD arguement really shows where soccer in the US is:

      The commentator of a site called MajorLeagueSoccerTalk calls MLS third rate and a joke.
      Most posters on the site want the league’s best player to leave to another country. ( Can you imagine another scenerio more bizzare…I hope Peyton Manning retires early, seeing him play in person was so great )

      Not hard to see why the National Team really still only has flashes of being somewhat good and the attendance at games ( and TV ) is pathetic.

      • Lars

        February 22, 2010 at 12:32 pm

        I did indeed call the league a joke, but you’ve taken it out of context. I don’t think it’s a joke. I think it’s serious business, but lots of people view it as a joke.

        It is third rate. I would put most MLS teams in League 1, and perhaps one or two of them in the Championship, at the bottom end. This doesn’t stop me from watching it.

        Fact is, the league doesn’t pay enough to the people playing there, and the talent level is generally low.

  13. Eric in Baltimore

    February 22, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Lars, you have framed this piece in such a way that it appears you think Donovan has some ability to “decide” to stay in England. It’s not really up to him, is it? Everton will have to pay up if they want to keep him, it’s that simple.

  14. Charles

    February 22, 2010 at 9:50 am

    I thought this was the best article on Landon leaving/staying that I have seen. I don’t agree with the final conclusion, but it was balanced and wasn’t filled with Euro-worship and US Soccer inferiority complexes ( well, maybe a little ).

    One, Landon leaving US will hurt MLS, no doubt about it. How much versus other gains is the question ? I don’t think there is much to be gained, and I want to watch him play ( and not on TV….at 4:45 AM), so I think he should stay.

    Two, he makes a LOT more money by staying. Unless he can get to a top tier team ( top 4-5 EPL, top 2 LaLiga, etc ), he will do much better here.
    If he has a huge World Cup, that changes his endorsements situation obviously, but outside of that he can rake in dough here that he will not over there. I read a very good article about Beckham type moves and how much the Henrys of the world stand to gain by moving here. It blew my mind, doesn’t even seem possible given that MLS average attendance is like a large high school gridiron game.

    • David

      February 22, 2010 at 10:02 pm

      Dude, NOBODY is making more money in MLS than they would in Europe (other than old out of contract has beens). The average wage in England’s second division is over $400K. See my post below.

  15. C-bus

    February 22, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Sorry but I just can’t continue reading after “A game changer, a Rooney or a Crynaldo. Landon Donovan is neither of those”. Not because of the grammar but because this is just blatantly false. I can’t count how many LA games I’ve seen Donovan single-handedly turn from losses to wins.

    • Lars Lowther

      February 22, 2010 at 9:48 am

      Ok, he’s a game changer in a third rate league in a country that typically doesn’t care very much about soccer. Any other key points for him being a game changer in the English Premier League?

      • Charles

        February 22, 2010 at 9:56 am

        I will agree he is not a game changer, but his addition has been a season changer for Everton. Without him that team ( while they do have some injuries ) has played terrible.
        It is another reason for the “US soccer gains respect” folk should want him to come back. IF Everton tanks after he comes back, and then LA, a team capable of winning it all, starts very slow like they did last year…man, that would be hard not to compare his impact on the two leagues.

  16. CoconutMonkey

    February 22, 2010 at 12:18 am

    I’d definitely like to see Donovan stay at Everton too, but I can’t see why a permanent move would be bad for MLS.

    While I’m not an expert on how international transfers work for MLS players and their clubs, Donovan would have to go for at least 10 million. That’s money that the club/league can use to buy new players, improve grounds, etc. The more money coming into MLS the better.

    Call it a backlash against American Exceptionalism, but we’re always going to have a little bit more to prove than everybody else when it comes to footy. We, as fans, shouldn’t have to worry about the image of the league and its players every time a player gets transferred to or from an MLS club. Somehow I doubt that the Mexicans worry about their league’s image when a player crosses the pond. Why should we?


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