August 12, 2009
By Michael Lewis
'BEST I'VE EVER PLAYED'
Donovan on his performance
Mexico City -- We just might be witnessing the blossoming of a U.S. international soccer player.
|Landon Donovan: "Walking through the [Mexico City] airport, everybody's friendly. They take jibes at us when they have the chance, but they're all friendly. On the field, I don't expect a lot of r
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
We all knew that Landon Donovan was good, very good. Heck, he has scored a U.S.-record 41 goals in 117 international appearances. But in recent months, he has taken the level of his play to new orbit.
"This is clearly the best I've ever played," Donovan said during a Tuesday night press conference on the eve of Wednesday's 4 p.m. World Cup qualifying between the U.S. and Mexico. "I want to stress that's not something that's going to come in a stretch and go away. I'm really happy where I am right now. This is me now. This is how I play. I'm proud of that."
This season we have seen a different Donovan -- for club and country. He has scored nine goals (and five assists) for the Los Angeles Galaxy, including a world-class far post in the 2-1 win over the New England Revolution this past weekend.
During the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa in June, Donovan was magnificent, playing from penalty area to penalty area.
U.S. teammate and defender Carlos Bocanegra noticed the difference during the Confederations Cup.
"You could see he had a chip on his shoulder," he said. "That's nice for us. When Landon's flying on the field, he pulls the rest of the team along with him. I was really proud. He's a big part of this team. He stuck up for big games. It makes you happy how he played in the Confederations Cup. He had an excellent tournament down there.
"He set the standard for himself real high. He's a top player. He'll continue it."
When asked about his superior play, Donovan replied, "It's a loaded question. There's a lot that goes into that. I've spend time working, working on myself. It's nice to see it come to fruition."
There are some theories why. One is that he is showcasing himself for a possible transfer to a European team. Livorno of Italy's Serie A has expressed interest, although a Spanish La Liga club might be better for his talents.
Another reason could be his recent separation with his wife, Bianca Kajlich, who stars on the TV show, Rules of Engagement. He could very well have more time to focus and concentrate on his job more.
Donovan has been a human lightning rod, especially when it comes to playing the Mexican National Team.
He has dished out criticism and has taken it as well, playing the villain to this country of 109 million. He doesn't seem to mind it.
"It used to be a little intimidating," he said. "What is knew there is a mutual respect. Walking through the [Mexico City] airport, everybody's friendly. They take jibes at us when they have the chance, but they're all friendly. On the field, I don't expect a lot of respect from their players. They're not bad people by any means. They're always friendly away from the field."