06 December 2011
The most controversial story from Tuesday came from an unlikely source, Brad Friedel's mouth. Following Clint Dempsey's game winning hustle finish vs. Liverpool on Monday, Tottenham's quiet, humble goalie was quoted praising Dempsey and his magnificent EPL run over the last couple of years. However, while praising Clint, Friedel managed to throw Landon Donovan under the bus. Here is what transpired.
"Dempsey's work rate is second to none. In my opinion, Landon Donovan took the easy route to stay in the States," said Brad Friedel.
Friedel then want on to say, "Clint (Dempsey) came over to become one of the best. Not taking anything from Landon. He's magnificent."
I know Friedel's comments are not a big deal by any means, but there's definitely a story here. First off, Dempsey deserves all the accolades right now. He just keeps grinding it out on a very AVERAGE Fulham club and continues to get better while delivering big goal after big goal. Clint just never gives up and at this point deserves to be on a team with more quality players. I know it's not in his DNA but come January Clint should pull a Tevez and request a transfer to a Champions League side.
Now, the other side of the coin. Did Landon Donovan chicken out by not playing club ball in Europe later in his career?
Friedel did not intend to criticize Landon and his career choices but more so was congratulating Dempsey for being a baller; however, there is a legitimate question that he posed here...Did Donovan take the easy road to greatness? Can a player even be considered the greatest American of All-Time if he has not consistently competed against and defeated the very best?
Let's address one question at a time. Everyone knows about Landon's two unsuccessful stints in the Bundesliga. First, with Bayer Leverkusen when he was a mere child and then with Munich back in 2009. There were multiple factors that played into his lack of minutes and overall lack of success in Germany - immaturity, his style of play, dysfunctional front-offices, etc. - so let's not get too carried away with over analyzing this segment of his career.
Then Landon stood up to all the critics in the winter of 2010, showing elite form for an Everton squad that went on to beat a lot of the top EPL clubs (Man City, Chelsea, and Man U) during his reign on the wing at Goodison Park. However, didn't that leave you wanting more? Didn't you want to see Landon try and continue to excel on the big stage?
Yes, but coming off the World Cup and a crazy run of non-stop play (MLS Season-Everton-1st part of MLS Season-World Cup-2nd part of MLS Season), Landon had all the right to enjoy an actual offseason. Now, as he approaches 30 years of age Landon has arguably an even better reason to rest his legs ahead of a new World Cup cycle. Despite all of this, I do think Landon needs to give it one more go in the EPL. I know it's tough to leave sunny California and a championship side like the LA Galaxy, but it's time for him to move on and show the world what he's got.
As for the second question- can a player even be considered the greatest of All-Time if he has not consistently competed against and then defeated the very best? All the greatest competitors in sports history have aspired to reach the Mecca of their specific sport's world and have succeeded at the top level. I specifically say ALL because those who settle for mediocrity at any point in their careers are generally not considered the greats of their prospective sports. However this is not a normal sports scenario due to the interchanging relationship of club and international soccer.
So yes, Donovan has spent pretty much his whole career playing in the MLS against inferior competition to put it lightly. This is especially true since the quality of the MLS has only picked up dramatically over the last few years. Even with that his performances at the international level make up for all the MLS hate and more. He is the #1 goal-scorer and assist leader in the history of the US Men's National Team, he has played in 3 World Cups, he has the 2nd most appearances in US history and he has done all of this before the ripe age of 30. All you really have to look at is his clutch-ness in the 2010 World Cup. It couldn't get any bigger than the Algeria goal unless he did the same thing in the Ghana match, but wait he did score in that one as well to keep the Americans alive.
In conclusion, there's no doubt that Landon is the de facto American #1 but I'll say it once again he should MOVE to the EPL if he wants to go down as one of the greatest in the sport. Clint Dempsey has made it his top aspiration to measure himself against the best, where as Donovan has chosen a more comfortable path, which Friedel perfectly articulated whether he wanted to or not.
Please share your opinion on Donovan's career and his legacy in the comments...