Saturday night an MLS-based US squad beat an Allsvenskan-based Sweden team 2-0 on the strength of goals by first time cap-winner Eddie Robinson and newly crowned all-time scoring leader Landon Donovan. Both goals came off set pieces: Robinson’s from a rebound from a dangerous Brad Davis corner that was flicked on by Pat Noonan; Donovan’s from a penalty that was drawn by Jozy Altidore from a clever Noonan pass. For most of the US players the game was the first in several months and it showed: there was a lack of cohesion and understanding between the players that made the game uneven and a bit of a chore to watch. In Carlos Bocanegra‘s absence, Donovan’s captaincy was restored and he responded with an excellent match: he was clearly the best player on the field, playing a step ahead of his opponents and teammates. The one other player who played particularly well and boosted his chances of signing on with Celtic was goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Sweden pressured the US and seemed destined to score during a 10-minute flurry in the first half. Guzan made three excellent saves in that span and again displayed why so many coaches and scouts are high on him.
The day belonged to Landon Donovan. Setting the all-time scoring record is an amazing achievement; it is especially incredible that Donovan achieved the record as a 25 year old who doesn’t play forward most matches. The record is a testament to his skill, endurance and hard work. Donovan is often criticized for not wanting to play in Europe. Sure I’d love to see him playing in the Champions’ League, but I also respect his decision. Work-life balance apparently should not be a concern to world-class athletes. If he’d rather live in Manhattan Beach near his family, with a supermodel wife then good for him. Since a disappointing World Cup, Donovan has re-asserted himself as the best US player. His teammates also have uncompromising respect for him.
Newcomer Jozy Altidore blogged about Donovan:
…he’s more than just a good player. He’s really something special, and I think he can get better as well. He’s accurate with both feet, he’s really fit, and I’ve been impressed seeing him against guys one-on-one.
After training with the LA Galaxy for a few weeks, David Beckham was asked who impressed him and he immediately said Donovan because of his ability to read the game and play at a faster speed than most. Michael Parkurst named Donovan one of the top three US players of all time. From the perspective of a US fan, I count myself lucky to have a player of Donovan’s quality to wear the 10 shirt. I look forward to seeing what he will accomplish in his next eight years with the national team.