Jun 8, 2012, 9:39 PM EDT
Landon Donovan’s racked up a lot of miles. He started playing professionally at the age of 17. In the 13 years that’ve followed, he’s made 141 appearances for his national team. Having gone through so many battles, you can forgive him if, at times, he doesn’t look like the same spry attcaker we saw at World Cup 2002.
But every once in a while, Donovan can turn back the clock. For 90 minutes, he can be the quickest man on the field. Add that to his ability to read the game and you have a combination that can define games in this part of the world.
It would be a stretch to say Donovan defined tonight’s 3-1 win over Antigua and Barbuda, but with most of the U.S. Men’s National Team struggling to impose themselves (on an opponent that insisted on being an imposition), the U.S. surprisingly needed one of Donovan’s turn back the block nights. One step ahead and two steps faster than everybody else on the field, Donovan played in part in all three goals as a flat United States took full points from their World Cup 2014 qualifier.
It began in the eighth minute, with Donovan drilling a corner to just outside the six. The play that followed ended in Carlos Bocanegra’s 13th career international goal. While most of the work was done after the kick, the play foreshadowed a night of good service from Donovan, who whipped in a vicious first half restart that Clarence Goodson nearly hammered home.
With the U.S. struggling to find a second goal before half, Donovan made his most significant contribution of the night. Working with Clint Dempsey on the left side, Donovan burst past Antigua and Barbuda’s defenders onto a ball in the left of the penalty area. A panicked Marvin McCoy took him down, leading to Clint Dempsey’s (ultimately) game winning goal.
After the visitors pulled one back, Donovan started the play that led to the U.S.’s final goal. Breaking through the left side of Antigua and Barbuda’s defense, Donovan got behind the line, turned the defense and cut a ball back to the top of the box. The ball eventually found its way to Herculez Gomez, who gave the U.S. its final margin of victory.
It wasn’t a perfect night for Donovan. On a couple of clear second half chances, Donovan bought into the team’s frustrating refusal to put the ball on goal. Two times he demurred, playing the ball into the six. Two times he made life easy on his opponents.
But late in the game, in a similar situation, Donovan’s instincts served him well. Forced to take a ball toward the line, he put a ball back into the six that nearly forced an own goal.
Donovan didn’t need a perfect night to be the team’s best man. In a game where his teammates underwhelmed, he was one of the few players who showed a desire to dominate his opponent. Be it on the right, left, or standing over dead balls, the U.S.’s all-time leading scorer led by example. Had the rest of the team match his effort, the U.S. would have posted the lopsided result fans were expecting.
With apologies to Carlos Bocanegra (who scored an played a strong emergency left back), Donovan was the U.S.’s best player. Again.
Mar 9, 2014, 10:40 PM EDT
It likely means very little, but it’s a narrative we’ll be watching all year… and the first salvo belongs to the Western Conference.
Mar 9, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT
He’s in Barcelona. She’s from Colombia. Their kid is named Milan.
Mar 9, 2014, 9:38 PM EDT
It was a small sample size for the Premier League, but that didn’t stop some stars from shining in Round 29.
Mar 9, 2014, 9:02 PM EDT
With Levante already trailing Real Madrid 2-0, David Navarro took a red card for a harsh foul on the international star.
Mar 9, 2014, 8:23 PM EDT
Aside from the Gunners, there shouldn’t be too many hurt feelings amongst the other giants of Europe.
Mar 9, 2014, 7:33 PM EDT
The Old Lady beats Fiorentina to extend lead atop Serie A, dismiss opponents’ threat to third.
Mar 9, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT
Knee ailment sees Dutch midfielder out of match after 12 minutes.
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Mar 9, 2014, 6:56 PM EDT
The Blues are seven points clear, Fulham moves clear to the second tier, and Manchester United illuminate the depths of West Brom.
Mar 9, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
It was Valladolid’s first win over Barcelona since October 2012, and “boosted” their record in the rivalry to 4W-5D-23L.
Mar 9, 2014, 5:35 PM EDT
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Mar 9, 2014, 5:07 PM EDT
Wilmer Cabrera gets a win in his debut as boss of Chivas USA.
Mar 9, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT
This Johannsson kid is easily the best Icelandic-Alabaman we’ve seen in a long time.
Mar 9, 2014, 4:01 PM EDT
Meyler capped off a long run with a left-footed finish to score the second of Hull’s three goals in a shutout win over Sunderland on Sunday.
Mar 9, 2014, 3:26 PM EDT
It’s a horrifying story, and one that is sure to have severe repercussions throughout Ghana’s soccer structure.
Mar 9, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT
With Pique picking up his fourth yellow against Real Valladolid, he could sit next league match to ensure his availability against Real Madrid.
Mar 9, 2014, 2:05 PM EDT
At least one of Wigan, Hull City or Sheffield United will make the FA Cup final as the quarterfinals are complete and the semifinal draw is out.
Mar 9, 2014, 1:37 PM EDT
In the midst of a 4-match winless skid in the Bundesliga – 5 if you include the Champions League drubbing by PSG – Bayer Leverkusen now lose a key midfield component.
Mar 9, 2014, 11:54 AM EDT
An offshore Swiss bank account has betrayed the 62-year-old as he faces 10 years in prison.
Mar 9, 2014, 10:23 AM EDT
Jozy Altidore was left out of the Sunderland squad today thanks to a knock he picked up in training, but this season as a whole has been a train wreck.
Mar 9, 2014, 9:26 AM EDT
According to the player’s agent and brother, an English club – and possibly multiple – made a large offer for the defender, but he is happy at Real Madrid.
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