|New – Landon Donovan’s best goals. You’d have to say that Landon Donovan will go down in MLS history as the best player ever to play. And Donovan has won the most MLS cups.|
By Andrew Winner
He may be MLS Player of the Week, but Landon Donovan didn’t earn any style points with his ridiculous antics over the weekend. Here’s the video clip – you can see it right after the first L.A. goal. There’s Donovan, screaming at his marker who has fallen on the play.
Now the defender wasn’t some scoundrel, it was Patrick Ianni. The same Patrick Ianni who would be a priest if he wasn’t playing professional soccer. And there he was, on the receiving end of a remarkable verbal lashing from the man considered to be the best active American soccer player.
So what are we to conclude from this? Is Donovan hoping to cast off the shackles of “Landycakes,” the moniker given to him by his critics, in favor of a new, tougher image? Has he been taking tips from Kobe Bryant on how to play the villain? What other manifestations of his newfound toughness can we look forward to – Allen Iverson-esque neck tats? Pit bulls? A bad-ass chain or a hip-hop anthem? One could only hope.
Was Ianni marking him tough? Of course. Wouldn’t you be? And was there a little contact? Granted. But Donovan’s tirade so far crossed the boundary of acceptable sportsmanship I was shocked he wasn’t cautioned by referee Mark Geiger. However, MLS referees are trending away from punishing shocking behavior during the game.
(Not everyone is appalled with Donovan’s behavior. The Galaxy soccer fans on the Big Soccer message boards had some fun with it.)
A hyped-up Donovan wouldn’t be denied a second chance at post-goal foolishness. After notching the equalizer, Donovan sprung to his feet and jumped into David Beckham’s arms.
David Beckham was not amused.
You could almost hear the Brit’s thoughts: “Settle down Landon – act like you’ve been there before. PS: Don’t touch the face.”
While I can understand that uplifting moments are seemingly few and far between for the Galaxy, Donovan would have done well to emulate Franco Caraccio’s simple yet entertaining celebration.
But Donovan’s hysterics underline yet again how little foresight Donovan has gained in his many years of the spotlight. Surely he understands his team will play the Dynamo again – and when they do, he will have a giant bull’s-eye on his ankles.
The Dynamo defense, though ineffective so far this season, is the tightest-knit group in MLS, so don’t expect them to afford Donovan any special treatment. For a guy who left Europe because, among other reasons, it was too physical, one would think his self-preservation instinct would be kicking in.
At the very least, Donovan could have saved the theatrics for a game that mattered. Los Angeles only managed to tie a floundering Dynamo squad on the road, and looked likely to lose for other stretches. Should Donovan opt to act the fool in the postseason, he’s entitled to. But for now, he should stick to playing the game.
Update: Via BigSoccer, appears as though Landon was taunted and Ianni messed with Beckham prior to all this. So respect to Landon Donovan for sticking up for his teammates. Ianni it seemed had a rough day keeping up with the Galaxy: 1. Shoved Beckham to the ground from behind away from the play, 2. Hip-checked Donovan to the ground when he realized he was going to lose a foot race with him and 3. Tried to bear-hug Donovan when Donovan dove past him to head that ball in the goal.
Notes: While any goal celebration that forsakes the silly chest-pounding we have seen in the past, Donovan really needs to step his goal celebrations to the next level. Perhaps he could fly Chad Johnson in for a brainstorm? For the player who is considered to be the face of American soccer, some post-goal charisma could go a long way in increasing his endorsement income.
In a broader sense, one way to differentiate MLS from the other major leagues, including the NFL (No Fun League), would be to encourage lavish goal celebrations. Not only would some creativity get MLS on SportsCenter, it would also give the league a marketing gimmick to lean on. During MLS Cup, fans could vote for the season’s best goal celebration. The winner could get a car or a pizza party or something. Can we make this happen?
STI Comments: The local news here in San Francisco even made fun of Landon running and jumping on Beckham after the goal. The news anchor saying Beckham would be telling Landon, ‘This isn’t Manchester United, take it easy Landon.’ But Landon is an amazing player, as it’s said time and again and he shows time and time again, albeit in the MLS. The truth is, he will have to go to Europe if he wants to really set himself apart and he’ll have to choose an established player to talk trash to after he’s scored a goal.
I don’t know how David Beckham is handling the MLS, must be just a cruise control ride and taking in Lakers games, cause the real action he could be a part of is the Champions League. He’s showing he’s worth his pay on the field so far this season, what a great back door run for the last goal, but he’s not playing in the EPL.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s been a superb addition to the league, he’s just made a big sacrifice in a way, I guess we should all be more appreciative in some ways.
Andrew Winner is a freelance soccer writer based in Seattle, Washington. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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