Perfect start: Donovan plays well and earns praise from Moyes

Donovan earned Moyes' confidence in terrific debut; Photo by Jason

For those longtime Landon Donovan watchers, his first performance abroad is usually heart in throat time. Whether it was his disastrous performance for Beyer Leverkusen in a Champions League game against Liverpool or last season’s scruffy debut for Bayern Munich, a poor start seems to haunt Donovan. His confidence then collapses as he eventually limps home. But not this time. Donovan was a serious threat down the right, put in the corner from which the Toffees scored their first, and almost netted himself. A terrific start that will boost the confidence of a player that so needed a positive beginning to his stay in the Premier League.

Too often, Donovan has failed to live up to his enormous potential. Two spells with Beyer Leverkusen and one in Munich only reinforced the impression that he could thrive in the small pond of MLS and the U.S. national team, but he couldn’t hang with the big boys. I recall reading the text commentary of his Champions League game when the writer said Donovan was playing so poorly he was afraid of the ball. It was so bad that for the remainder of the season, that commentator would note when a player seemed anonymous that he was ‘doing a Donovan’.

Nothing like that in today’s game. After a rather steady start, he puts in the corner to the back post that Leon Osman heads home to put Everton in the lead. Donovan hadn’t done much up to that point, but hadn’t done anything wrong either. The goal coming from his corner gave him a spark and as the half wore on he definitely grew in confidence, getting past Arsenal left back Armand Traore a couple of times. The second half began as the first ended, with Donovan becoming more and more of a threat down the right flank. His teammates were clearly also growing more comfortable with him, as he saw more of the ball in the first 20 minutes of the second half than he did in the whole first.

Donovan was subbed off in the midpoint of the second half – but only because he began to tire and cramp. His manager, David Moyes, was very pleased with his performance, “I’ve got to say he’s done really well today and I thought he was a threat to them all day and he contributed to a good Everton performance.” Moyes gave us a preview of what we might see next week:

“We’re only finding out about him. We played him on the right today, I thought he did a great job there, I was really impressed by him.  We may play him up front or off the front man as well so we just want to see if we can get the best out of him in the couple of months we’ve got him for.”

Donovan played well and earned the confidence of his coach and teammates. Just what he needed going into his home debut against Manchester City next Saturday in the early game on ESPN. You can bet the guys in Bristol will be hyping that match throughout the week, and I’m sure we’ll also have something to say about it before kickoff.

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