Getting To Know The Enemy (Don Ward)

By: Don Ward
By: Don Ward

I wrote several soccer blogs last year and they were not the most popular. Read this one, it will help you be ahead of the curve when the whole world starts talking soccer for the World Cup.

A U.S. Star Is Going To Get Better


Landon Donovan is the key to cup success for the U.S .  He’s the best player we have.  He’s the MVP of MLS for the LA Galaxy…and now he’s on a new England.



The fleet-footed midfielder made his debut Saturday for a team called Everton Football Club in the English Premier League.    Everton is based in the city of Liverpool, England (yeah, the Beatles home town - maybe I should have said "yeah, yeah, yeah!")  Liverpool has another team…Liverpool Football Club.  The two are bitter rivals, they play in stadiums less than a mile apart.  (It's much more than something like a Yankees/Mets thing because they’re both in the same league…and I think it’s the best league in the world.)


Liverpool is my favorite team so I’m officially not allowed to like Everton, but I do, just a little, just for now.


Donovan is on loan to Everton now that the MLS season is over. He'll be with them until the MLS season starts again in late March.  His U.S.A. team mate Tim Howard is Everton’s goalkeeper, maybe that’s how this deal happened. 


In his first game he started on the right side of midfield as Everton took on North London powerhouse Arsenal.  Within 15 minutes Donovan’s perfectly flighted corner kick was headed home by Leon Osman.  In a shock at Emirates Stadium (the English sell naming rights too) Everton was up on the home team. 


Donovan was slippery down the wing.  He held things up when he needed to and surged forward when he could.  One of the English commentators said he’s a “tricky little player.”  He helped Everton go on to hold Arsenal to a 2-2 draw (tie).  It’s a strong result for Everton, the Mersyside team, the “Toffees” as they’re called.


But this isn’t about helping Everton in the Premier League.  It’s about helping the U.S. in the World Cup.  Donovan controls much of the game for our national team.  As a midfielder it's his job to receive the ball from the back line and distribute it to the attackers.  Many times he'll become a vital part of that attack as he moves the ball forward himself.  The U.S. team does what it does through Landon Donovan.  He's played for his country 120 times and scored 42 goals.  To put that in perspective, the world's most famous footballer, David Beckham, is also a midfielder who runs the team when he's on the field.  He's played 115 times for England. He's also Donovan's MLS teammate with the L.A. Galaxy. 


Here's why this whole loan things is so crucial.  With every minute Landon Donovan spends in England on a football pitch (soccer field) he will get better - simply because of the level of the opposition.  Saturday he played with and against top players from 8 or 9 different nations in one game…and he held his own . 


He’ll play against 11 top players from one nation on June 12th.  That’s the day Team U.S.A., with an improved Landon Donovan, will play its first 2010 World Cup match. 


Oh yeah, the opponent that day.....England. (yeah, yeah, yeah!)


We’ll talk again soon.


Don Ward


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