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Thursday, August 2, 2007

How good would Landon Donovan be if he played in Europe? by Dan Leo

by Dan Leo for World Football Commentaries.

With recent discussion about young Americans, such as Freddy Adu (Benfica) and Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal), pursuing careers in Europe, let me pose a hypothetical discussion about Landon Donovan. Recently, during an interview with Sky Sports (that was referenced by the excellent soccer blog, du Nord), he mentioned that he may pursue another European experience in the future.
  1. He is a very good player as it is but I doubt he would have had the same long funk period that he went through for about two years under Steve Sampson (in LA) and Arena. Which is not to say he hadn't had good games under both, but that he did disappear a lot. I recall many of his staunchest fans blamed Steve for playing Landon "out of position" in one ESPN game when the Galaxy went to San Jose. And what did Steve do so horribly? He played him as a right midfielder, which is the same thing that Bob Bradley is doing. Except Donovan is not shying away from the ball anymore, and is performing very well on the right flank.

  2. I think he would have become a much better striker of the ball. His corners have gotten a little better since Bradley took over (and Bob dropped Landon when he needed a left-footed curve and put in Beasley) but I bet he would not have hesitated to pull a trigger on more chances when he's marginally open at the top of the box.

  3. He would probably finish tons and tons better. He's been getting chances in MLS and with the National Team but, outside of the Ecuador game, he had blown a slew of sitters. Which is why I think he is not the best American player at the moment (Tim Howard is). Finishing is more than about putting away side-foot sitters, obviously, if you look at someone like Juan Pablo Angel, his feel for just the right time to hit the ball or to spin around the ball or to let the ball roll into a spot before settling it is far superior to any US born player, including Landon. The closest to Angel, believe it or not, is Pat Noonan. That lack of finishing is the major reason why Landon has scored 2 goals in 7 MLS matches (before Copa America) while Angel scored 9. That's a huge difference, and definitely a weak spot for LD.

  4. He would learn to head and shoulder fake a lot more.

  5. He would have to actually challenge for high balls, even if his winning many would be a long shot.

  6. He would have a much greater ability to withstand a shoulder charge, an arm grab and a shirt pull. Now he either avoids it or goes down. But often, a proper play is to try to stay on your feet in order to gain further advantage.

  7. He would be better in traffic, both with the ball and without it.

  8. He would make better off the ball runs in the last third of the field.

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