Tomorrow (March 7) marks the anniversary of what turned out to be Landon Donovan’s last goal for Everton when he came off the bench to score in a 5-1 home win over Hull City in what was the Blues 5,000e competitive play in 2010.
Although more than a decade has passed since then and the US international’s two loan spells at Goodison Park were short-lived, Donovan, who describes himself as “a lifelong Evertonian” remains an extremely popular player among the United States. club supporters base.
Over the next few days, ECHO produced a three-part special celebrating the Blues’ special bond with the California native.
Before embarking on an exclusive two-part interview with the man himself, Chris Beesley begins our miniseries by finding out what makes Donovan such a special person.
He spoke to Kevin Baxter, who has covered five World Cups, three Olympics, six World Series and one Super Bowl for the Los Angeles Times.
Landon Donovan is a “person of the people”.
In terms of longevity, the Blues have never been a big part of Donovan’s playing career.
He is a man who has made 426 appearances in Major League Soccer and has proven to be for the United States national team 157 times.
He has never been owned by Everton and over two loan spells he has only totaled 22 games, but those bare stats don’t do justice to the impact the two sides have had on one. ‘other.
Donovan and the Blues were in many ways soul mates.
Kevin baxter of the Los Angeles Times said to ECHO: “You know, I’ve written a lot about Everton and in order to write about an English team in the United States you have to find some more reason beyond the football itself.
“Everton do so much charity work in the mile near Goodison Park, things like sleeping with the academy team to raise awareness.
“A lot of teams fundraise and donate to charity and that’s really good, but I think Everton has taken it to the next level by participating so players can see what it’s like to be without- shelter.
“It’s kind of where Landon comes from too. He goes beyond writing checks, going to supermarket openings and doing that sort of thing – Landon saw it. “
Baxter believes Moyes’ demands to play for Everton have helped improve Donovan’s skills.
Blues fans are known to overlook those they deem to dodge and the intensity of the Premier League has forced the man from Ontario, California to take his game to another level by embracing what is needed to succeed at Goodison Park.
Even if his concentration on the matches would have made him miss one of the peculiarities of the field!
Baxter said: “A memory that tells me about Landon and his time at Everton, short as it was, but it made him a better player.
“There was an MLS game and I was talking to one of the club officials and he said, ‘Look at Landon right now’ and he wasn’t running after the ball and was conserving his energy.
The guy then said, ‘He can’t do that to Everton. Do you think the fans are going to let him get away with this? If he goes to Everton he will have to play 110% for the full 90 minutes and that will do him good.
“I think it was okay. Landon played on a different level at Everton. Not because he didn’t respect MLS, but that’s what he was asked to do and I think his Everton spells helped him as a player.
“It’s still funny, because I was talking to Landon once and I said to him, ‘How is Goodison Park? They have the church there and it’s part of the stadium.
“Landon said, ‘Is there a church in the stadium? He had no idea. Guess when he got to the stadium he was focusing on football!
Back in the US however, Donovan’s credentials are clear and for now at least, Baxter insists he’s far from the only one who sees him as “the goat.”
He said: “Landon is widely regarded as the best American player in history.
“He ties Clint Dempsey with the most goals for the national team and has the most assists.
“He was the leader of the team that advanced to the 2002 World Cup quarter-finals, the best modern day performance for an American team in the tournament.
“People are talking about this new generation that we have now and whether Christian Pulisic is going to be the better player or Weston McKennie, but maybe it’s that we just don’t know what’s going to happen with these guys yet.
“Until someone knocks him off the perch, he’s the best player in American history and I don’t think there is any debate on that, everyone will agree.”
Asked what made Donovan such a great player, Baxter added: “He has won six domestic Major League Soccer titles – no other player has won so many – and until last season he had scored. the most ton of help too.
“I think what made him a great player was his versatility. He could play on the wing, he could be a central midfielder, he could be a 9 or a false 9, and do just about anything.
“Landon also had real leadership qualities and often the fans don’t always see him.
“I spoke to a number of his Los Angeles Galaxy and National Team teammates and they mentioned how much of a leader he is.
“A lot of players were upset when American coach Jurgen Klinsmann excluded him from the squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He may not have been a starter at the time, but his leadership in the locker room was really important.
Such qualities served Donovan well in his latest endeavor.
After hanging up the boots in 2018 after a brief stint with the Mexican team Leon, Donovan, who is still a year from the big 4-0 after having celebrated his 39e anniversary Thursday, is now the owner-manager of San Diego Loyal where he also holds the title of Executive Vice President.
Donovan and his team made headlines last season for taking a stand against opponents who abuse their players – even though it has had an impact on their fortunes on the pitch.
Baxter said, “Landon is now a coach in the USL Championship – the second tier of football in the United States, like our version of the Championship (but without promotion or relegation with MLS) – and was a freshman coach last season. .
“His team didn’t make the playoffs and the reason they didn’t is because they lost their last two games.
“In the first game, a player from the opposing team made racist comments to a player from Landon’s team and even though they won the game, Landon took his team off the field and forfeited rather than continue playing against a team whose players used racist comments.
“In the next game Landon’s team had to win, he took his team off the field at half-time after a player from the opposing team made a homophobic comment to an openly gay player on the team by Landon.
“Landon took a vote from his players at half-time in the locker room and they decided not to play the second half if that opposing player wasn’t sent off – and he wasn’t – and they have lost their last two games. “
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Baxter added, “There’s a lot of talk about why it was, but I think it sealed Landon’s reputation for leadership and being a guy who would do the right thing rather than the easy thing and so on. is another channel for him that could be overlooked.
“There was the whole Black Lives Matter movement at the time and it was very big in California with a lot of protests, but when the first incident happened, Landon’s comment was like, ‘No one has. he paying attention? “
“Are we just going to pretend to talk about this stuff?” We kneel down before the game, but aren’t we going to follow through on what that represents? The game starts and we throw racist epitaphs? So it was really a principled position.
It remains to be seen whether Donovan will continue to coach at the elite level after his own career as a top player, but given the scope his current role offers him and the past conversations they have had, Baxter is not so sure.
He said: “Landon has said over and over as a player that he wanted to be a coach but never wanted to be a professional coach.
“He said he wanted to coach kids because it’s people who play because they love the game.
“When you become a pro you have ego and all that goes with it.
“Sometimes if you have a GM or a sporting director above you you might not like the players they choose, but I think Landon wanted to have full control of the whole thing. operation if he were to be responsible for the results on the ground. “