Donovan making Premier mark

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:34 PM ET

There must be mixed emotions throughout MLS at the moment.

Landon Donovan, the league's reigning MVP, has been nothing short of a revelation for Everton since he arrived in the English Premier League.

Outside of one missed open net this past weekend against Tottenham, the Los Angeles Galaxy forward has been arguably Everton's best player over the last two months. He's run rampant against Arsenal, and assisted and drew a penalty against Chelsea. He scored in a win over Sunderland.

Had Donovan played the full season in England, there would be debate over which player has made the biggest impression in his first year of EPL football — the MLS man or Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen.

And, with each passing minute of excellence, he improves the international reputation of MLS.

Up to now, you'd have to forgive any English fan for thinking all that the MLS did was produce decent goalkeepers; as most of the decent talent North America's top league has sent to England, outside of Donovan and Fulham midfielder Clint Dempsey, have come in the form of goalkeepers, from Aston Villa's Brad Friedel to Tim Howard, Donovan's Everton teammate.

Dempsey, unlike Donovan, needed time to adjust to England, and slowly built his reputation. Donovan, after a series of failed attempts to stick in Germany, has kicked down the door.

But, as Donovan proves the worth of MLS to fans around the world, with each performance he increases the chances of leaving the league. Despite signing an extension with the Galaxy in the off-season, there have been hints he would like to extend his loan —and Toffees' fans want him to stay.

Yes, there are other MLS players who have done well in Europe — in places like Germany, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and, ahem, Scotland. Heck, former Toronto FC midfielder Maurice Edu scored a last-gasp match-winner for Rangers last weekend, beating their bitter rival, Celtic. But Edu has been plagued by knee problems — and comparing Scotland to England would be like comparing being an Argo to playing for the New Orleans Saints.

As of Tuesday, a Facebook group called “Keep Landon Donovan at Everton” had 9,206 members. Remember, he’s only played in the EPL since January. And, if the uneasy peace between MLS owners and the union breaks, it would give Donovan the perfect opportunity to stay in England's northwest. Right now, despite contract talks breaking off, the union has told players to stay on their jobs while the league has pledged not to lock them out. But the union has made no long-term guarantees.

According to Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, Donovan is expected back on March 15, so he'll be ready for MLS season to open two weeks after that.

MLS must be pleased that its star is doing so well internationally, but also knows will lose its most marketable U.S. star, the poster boy of the national soccer team. It wouldn't be nearly as severe as the NHL losing Sidney Crosby or the NBA losing LeBron James — Donovan isn’t that head-and-shoulders above his contemporaries — but there's no denying that Donovan is one of the few MLS players non-soccer fans may recognize from ESPN's SportsCenter.

At the same time, with each deft cross or clever run that Donovan makes, the stock of MLS goes up — and the Eurosnobs who look down at MLS are forced to admit that, maybe, just maybe, the league does more than produce goalkeepers.


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