Landon Donovan explains Promise, Loyalty prevented him from staying in Everton

landon-donovan-evertonFor the past few years, there have been questions surrounding why Landon Donovan chose not to sign a long-term deal with Everton, despite two successful loan campaigns with the Liverpool-based club.

Donovan first crossed the pond for three months during the 2009-10 season, then he came back for another six weeks in 2012. In the 22 combined matches that he played for Everton, Donovan scored two goals and was highly popular among the fans at Goodison Park. Moreover, everybody around the organization appreciated the former USA Team star’s hard work and tough demeanor. The front office and then-manager David Moyes were quite interested in signing him to a permanent deal.

It only made sense that Donovan would want to sign with a solid English Premier League club and play against the best of the best, rather than return to the above-average Major League Soccer. But as Donovan recently explained to the New York Times, his loyalty is what led him back to the LA Galaxy:

I’m a very loyal person. I had promised Tim (Leiweke, the former executive with A.E.G., which owns the Galaxy) when he was here and Bruce (Arena, the coach) that I would come back, in exchange for letting me go there. And although things changed and they wanted me to stay, and there was a lot of potential talking to be done, immediately I said, “Thank you, but I promised that I would come back, and I want to go back.”
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As for if he regrets his decision to never sign a long-term deal with the Premier League team, Donovan said he has “zero” regrets. But that’s not to say he didn’t enjoy his time over there, describing the Everton fan based by saying the following:

I remember the first week I got to Everton, one of the old guys that played there — he was sort of a legend of the club — we had a quick conversation. He said, “I’ll just tell you one thing: if you work hard, if you run hard and give everything you have on the field, they will love you no matter what you do.” Not that people missed this, but I try to be a hard worker. Maybe it gets overlooked, but for me it was an opportunity to go, I’m going to run until I can’t do it anymore. And I loved it. Their passion and their energy was incredible for me to feel. It was just this perfect marriage.

Assuming Donovan had stayed in Everton, one has to wonder if his more-recent career would’ve turned out differently. Despite being America’s top international scorer ever (57 goals), he was left off the USA Men’s National Team for the 2014 World Cup. Given that Donovan is a 32-year-old attacking midfielder, it’s very likely that his international career is over.

But he still has a very prominent role for the LA Galaxy and is the top MLS scorer of all time with 136 goals. So perhaps he did make the right choice sticking with the Galaxy in terms of longevity and extending his career.

Why was Landon Donovan left off the US World Cup Roster?

landon-donovan-off-world-cupThis week saw the shocking omission of Landon Donovan from the 23-man, US World Cup roster. Many considered Donovan to be a lock for the national team’s trip to Brazil. After all, he’s one of the few Americans with World Cup experience and he still has something left in the tank.

But for weeks, US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann insisted that Donovan was not guaranteed to make the final cut. And while some saw this as merely coach speak meant to inspire everybody to work hard, it’s clear now that the German wasn’t bluffing.

Klinsmann could’ve waited until the June 2nd FIFA deadline to make the final cuts. However, he chose to cut the final seven players now, rather than wait. Donovan was joined by Clarence Goodson, Brad Evans, Terrence Boyd, Joe Corona, Maurice Edu and Michael Parkhurst. Klinsmann spoke about his decision to trim the roster as soon as possible by saying:

It is an exciting moment when you have narrowed the roster down as a coaching staff. These 23 players you have chosen can now focus purely on Brazil. We can go into more specific things about technical approaches and about the opponents. For the players, it is very important to know that they are now part of it and they can relax and know they are going to Brazil. After 10 days [in camp], we thought the point had come to make that decision.

Okay, so this explains why he got rid of the final seven players already. However, there’s still the issue of why he decided to include Donovan among them.

landon-donovan-off-world-cup-1Some fans are outraged by the Los Angeles Galaxy forward being given a pink slip. One only has to look at the stats to realize the impact that he’s made, scoring 57 goals in 156 international appearances and delivering 58 assists – both clear-and-away American records. Beyond the stats, Donovan has provided some electrifying moments for Team USA, such as when his energy and speed helped push the US into the Quarterfinals in 2002. Just four years ago, he provided a last-minute goal against Algeria in group play, which was the boost that America needed to reach the knockout round.

Given everything we’ve just discussed, it’s no surprise that many have questioned Klinsmann’s decision. Bruce Arena, who coached the 2002 and 2006 US World Cup teams, and currently coaches Donovan on the Galaxy, said, “If there are 23 better players than Landon, then we have a chance to win the World Cup.” Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl expressed his opinion by writing, “Cutting Landon Donovan will prove to be a mistake.”

Many fans have chimed in, questioning the selection of youngsters like Julian Green (18), DeAndre Yedlin (20) and John Brooks (21). USA fanatics also questioned Brad Davis’ inclusion, noting that he’s 32 – the same age as Donovan – yet his 14 caps are nowhere near Landon’s 156 international appearances.

So what reasoning did Klinsmann offer to quiet the natives? Well, he didn’t really provide much of a reason at all behind leaving Donovan off the team. What he did say was that other players were “a tiny little bit ahead of him.” Klinsmann also made vague references to Donovan no longer having the exceptional speed or unparalleled one-on-one skills that he once possessed.

landon-donovan-off-world-cup-2More so than his diminished skills – which are still good enough to be one of America’s top 23 players – what kept Donovan off the US roster was his motivation in recent years. In 2012, he publicly questioned whether or not he wanted to be on the Cup team in Brazil. Then Donovan took a sabbatical overseas, which included a lengthy stop in Cambodia where he found himself and regained the motivation to play soccer.

Unfortunately, he also missed two months of the Major League Soccer season and some time with Team USA during this sabbatical. Klinsmann dropped him from the international squad for a while and made Donovan earn his spot back. Once this happened, it seemed like Landon was rejuvenated and focused on Brazil.

But earlier this year, there were already more rumors about whether or not Donovan was 100% into soccer. Furthermore, his conditioning and drive were publicly called into question by Klinsmann in an attempt to get the forward back on track. In the end, though, it seems as if the coach came to the conclusion that Donovan’s heart just wasn’t as into the game anymore. This, coupled with Landon’s aging skills and physical attributes, were enough to leave him off the World Cup roster.