Monday, November 21, 2011
MLS CUP: Donovan's right place
By Scott French
CARSON -- How'd you like to see more of Landon Donovan up front?
If the Galaxy are looking for a legacy from their MLS Cup triumph Sunday night over the Houston Dynamo, that might be it, and it could be meaningful.
Donovan, whose late-season slide coincided with a quadriceps injury that lingered until the week of the final, was good on the right flank, teaming with Sean Franklin to terrorize a Dynamo wing missing star Brad Davis. He was marvelous after joining Keane up front in the 57th minute, creating a mobile combination that ran roughshod at Houston's backline and connected for the game's only goal.
Donovan is the best forward this country has produced, has spent most of his career up top -- he's the U.S. national team's all-time goals leader (with 46) and No. 3 on the MLS list (with 115) -- and provides dimensions on the frontline that he can't when he's positioned on the right flank. He and Robbie Keane, who was marvelous in the final, would be the most dynamic front duo in MLS.
Donovan transitioned to midfield last season, and he's among MLS's elite attacking midfielders -- and has shown himself a more-than-capable defensive presence, too. He always had a knack for providing his teams what's needed, whether or not it requires his greatest gifts. Dynamo forward Brian Ching, Donovan's former U.S. and San Jose Earthquakes teammate, talked about his selflessness during the postgame news conference.
“That’s the thing about him. He’s not going to complain as long as he’s on the field,” Ching said. “It’s his unselfishness at times. Maybe he’s too unselfish at times. But he’s a great player and, of course, if he probably played up front, he’d probably score a little bit more goals, but you don’t see him complaining about not playing up front.”
Donovan had not scored from the run of play since Sept. 9, and with Chad Barrett sidelined because of a dislocated foot, coach Bruce Arena's plan was to move him to forward about an hour in. Chris Birchall's energy was a boost on the right, Donovan was a clear upgrade over Adam Cristman up front, and L.A.'s command grew more pronounced.
Houston coach Dominic Kinnear has heard the mutters that Donovan's effectiveness is waning and doesn't buy it. Neither should fans.
“He's a great player,” Kinnear said. “I think the questions about Landon and whatever really seem silly to me. What he’s done for American soccer, domestic and international, we all benefit from it. The guy’s a fantastic player. He’s a model person off the field. Any team in MLS would want him.
“When you have a guy like that in your team, you have a good chance to win games. And he tries hard defensively, which is all you can ask of someone.”
As we see more and more of Keane, who in some quarters was a clear winner of the title-game MVP award that went to Donovan, we're seeing how massive are the subtleties to his game. He's a superb passer, makes astounding space-opening runs, combines and can go 1-on-1 at defenses. What might he do lined up next to Donovan?
WORTH NOTING: No news yet on a championship celebration. Expectations were for something Tuesday at HDC or L.A. Live downtown, but the only word we've heard is that there's no word. Something Wednesday is likely. ... The best figure from the Galaxy's triumph is $12.2 million: the combined compensation for Donovan, Keane and David Beckham, the pivotal figures in L.A.'s victory over Houston. That's three times what the entire Dynamo team is paid. ... Most intense moment in the postgame news conference might have come after Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl asked Beckham whether people in Europe understood how difficult it is to win a championship in MLS. Beckham, who was unhappy with Wahl's treatment of his 2008 season with the Galaxy in The Beckham Experiment, finished his answer by staring at Wahl, seated in the front row (next to me, actually). “It's always nice to have doubters along the way,” he said, “and it's always nice to prove them wrong.” ... Some 48 Dynamo fans traveled 28 hours by bus to watch their team in the final. ... The Galaxy depart this weekend for their three-game postseason tour of Indonesia, Philippines and Australia. These will be the final games for defender Gregg Berhalter, who is retiring as a player -- and perhaps Jovan Kirovski, too? He is expected to continue as an assistant coach for L.A.