By Kevin Koczwara
The Landon Donovan Premier League experiment has started off well for both Everton and Donovan. The United States “premier soccer player” and MLS all-star has been tearing up small-time soccer in the U.S. Now he is trying his hand with the big boys in England and so far so good.
Donovan picked a good club to go on loan to until March in Everton. The Toffees play a hard-working style of soccer and needed some pace and skill up their wings–exactly what Everton has been looking for. They have been missing a play maker this season with the absence of Mikel Arteta.
David Moyes, Everton’s manager, has been searching the transfer market for some skill on the outside of his midfield to move the ball forward and link play with the Toffee’s powerful and skilled striker Louis Saha. He has been looking for a good deal on a player too because money is tight. And Donovan has impressed in his first few games, putting in good time on the flank and creating havoc for opposing defenders.
But that doesn’t mean he has transitioned seamlessly from the Pizza Hut of soccer, the MLS, to the Upper Crust in the English Premier League. Donovan still looks bewildered on the pitch, confused and a little overwhelmed at times. Watching Everton’s shellacking of Manchester City on the weekend, I saw Donovan make huge strides forwards but his defending at times was suspect. He couldn’t find the proper position, his placement on the field or the ability to stay with the constant flurry of talent around him, but at other points he locked down and stifled more than a few crosses.
The best sign out of the game came when Robinho had to be subbed off because Everton was too much for him, he looked like a lost boy –a 30 million pound lost boy–at times, and his opposite in the midfield was Donovan. Donovan outshone the Brazilian play maker who looks to be out of favor with Manchester City Boss Mancini. And that says a lot for the American star, he is finally showing his true potential to not just the states and the select fans here, but he is showing it off to a worldwide audience. He is also getting a much needed tune up for the World Cup in June.
Now for the bad news for the MLS and the LA Galaxy. If they want to become legitimate league, they need to show they can develop talent and have open relations with the rest of the world when it comes to transfers. Donovan is looking to extend his stay in the Premier League, and why blame him? The League isn’t the best in the world, and it still doesn’t follow the same policies as the wrest of the world when it comes to breeding young talent and signing players.
Trying to keep homegrown talent in the states is great for the game, but when a player of Donovan’s caliber wishes to leave for more promising pitches they should let him, allow his former team to recoup the money from the transfer and then turn it into future prospects. This allows the league to get a good rep for youngsters to start in and it gives teams more money to spend on fresh faces. Players outside of the MLS want to know the league is willing to move players when the time comes and that clubs are open to transfer moves. And extending Donovan’s loan with Everton through the end of the season or on a permanent basis would be good for all sides.
Donovan needs to play outside of the US and gets top-flight experience at Everton. Everton gets a good player with the skill that they need to help them create havoc in the Premier League. And the MLS needs to open its doors when it comes to transfer policies keeping it in line with the rest of the soccer world, making it a more attractive for international players, giving the league a world view.
Oh and the MLS needs to set up a consistent schedule for its small but dedicated viewership.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow The Soccer Guys on twitter @TheSoccerGuys and follow Kevin @kkoczwara.