Donovan’s MLS Price Tag Is Not Ridiculous

There has been a lot of outraged reaction to Martin Rogers reporting that Landon Donovan’s price tag by MLS was $16 million. In my mind that seems pretty much right on the money.

The point made by many is that $16 million for a 28 year old, who therefore has little resale value, makes little financial sense. Others note that Donovan is not good enough to merit that price tag. There are a few things worth point out here.

First, we are talking dollars not pounds. 16 million dollars is just 10 million pounds. Now 10 million pounds is a lot of money, but when you look at the outlays of the previous years – Robbie Keane at 28 to Liverpool for 20 million, Gareth Barry to Man City for 20 plus at 28 – this sum appears quite reasonable.

Second, buying Donovan gets a team access into the US market. Any purchase of Donovan isn’t just about how he performs on the field, it is about gaining a foothold into the growing US market. After the World Cup, he is by far the most recognized American soccer player and has become somewhat of a celebrity. The World Cup increased his value, especially to the league. This is why a team like Man City showed interest in Donovan. And why a league like MLS values Donovan highly.
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Time To Panic Over Benny Feilhaber’s Club Future

Lyle Yorks, Benny Feilhaber’s agent, needs to get cracking. Feilhaber is on the cusp of having to stay with his Danish club, who got relegated to the Danish second division. The inability thus far for Feilhaber to secure a move is evidence of an incredibly slow transfer market, in which cash-strapped clubs are unable to get financing to bring in new players. But playing second division Danish soccer should not be in the cards for Feilhaber, who was one of the shining stars for the US in the World Cup.

I have long praised Feilhaber. In my view, he is the best American passer of the ball and is a true play making #10. In the World Cup, he demonstrated his technical quality and was a hugely important attacking influence.

Feilhaber did have an unsuccessful spell at Derby County, who quickly crashed out of the Premier League. One could point to that to say he couldn’t cut it at the highest level. That is nonsense. Derby County not only sacked the manager that brought him in, but Feilhaber was a luxury that a team like Derby county could not afford. Relegation battlers are focused on survival and often adopt negative defensive tactics to eke out draws. Feilhaber is a creative force, not a midfield battler.

The problem now for Benny is that this is the moment where his value should be highest. He proved his quality on the World stage and at 25 he is in his prime. While it is not all doom and gloom as his Aarhus are likely to be promoted this year, playing second division Danish league soccer for a whole year is still a major set back in his development. With just a day left in the transfer window lets hope something happens, but there is thus far little chatter in the rumor mill and the fact that he played 90 minutes over the weekend probably indicates he won’t be sold.

Also, one aspect about having a well connected foreign coach like Klinnsmann, is that they are better able to talk up their players and put them on the radar of European club managers.

Assessing Altidore’s Year

I see that Martin Rogers at Yahoo is concerned about Altidore’s allegedly poor season at Hull with the head butt the “final embarassment.” I touched on the “head butt” incident yesterday, but is Rogers’ right that Jozy’s year was a disappointment:

Bradley goes into soccer’s greatest tournament with a first-choice forward who has managed just two goals this season and who failed to lock down a permanent starting role with one of the worst sides in the EPL.

I think, contrary to Rogers conclusion, that Jozy’s time at Hull was largely positive and that Bob Bradley going into the World Cup has a young player that took big strides this year and is much more of a complete player.

Let’s be clear, Jozy never set the league alight. He burst on the scene with an amazing first game, where he did everything but score. He then struggled to find his footing a bit in the fall, as he was in and out of the starting lineup and seemed to find his groove a bit just when Phil Brown got sacked. The last month of the season saw the new manager changing things up a bit.

But Jozy, contrary to Roger’s claims was a Hull mainstay. Jozy started 16 games and appeared in 12 others as a substitute. Remember he also missed a few games at the beginning of the year with visa issues and took a brief leave during the Haiti earthquake. Despite Rogers claim that Altidore couldn’t lock down a spot, he had started more games than Jan Vennegor of Hesselink. This is a lot of PT for a 20 year old Premier League newbee. I think that in and of itself is quite an accomplishment.
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Overreacting to Jozy’s Red

Jozy Altidore received a red card at the close of the first half against Sunderland for “head butting” Scotsman Alan Hutton – queue the commentary of Jozy as an immature thug that is wasting away his talent.

Please.

The red card came after a mêlée in sued following Hutton provocatively picking up the ball and throwing it at Jozy as he laid face down on the ground. While Hutton’s act caused no bodily harm it was a deliberate effort to both disrespect and provoke. If this were baseball Hutton would have gotten a fastball in his ear the next time up. Jozy proceeded to get up and aggressively push Hutton and when leaning forward clashed heads with Hutton. Now by definition this was a “head butt” as the English media have pointed out. Steve Bruce went so far as to describe Jozy’s act as a deliberate effort to inflict “grievous bodily harm.”

I think this is bogus. Altidore did “head butt” Hutton, but from my viewing this was entirely unintentional. As Jozy started pushing Hutton he leaned forward and they clashed heads, with Jozy’s head lowered the contact had the effect of a head butt and Hutton went down as if he were shot. Now of course, only Jozy knows if it was intentional or not, but I find it hard to believe that Jozy, an American, would instinctively head butt someone. We aren’t Scottish after all. So in my view the red card offense, was not a deliberate act of aggression.

This doesn’t make Jozy’s red card stupid. Jozy got duped into losing his cool and that sense showed his immaturity. Could he have handled it better? Yes. But assuming the head butt was unintentional, Jozy had every reason to get in Hutton’s face and if heads did not clash both would have likely received yellow cards – something that would have been quite advantageous to Hull since a defender on a yellow means much more than a striker.

Alas things went poorly and Jozy deserves criticism. But a few have gone way over the top, such as Eric Altshule at MLS Talk, who wrote that:

Jozy Altidore is a wonderful soccer player from the neck down. Unfortunately, he is gaining a deserved reputation as a player with a million dollar body and a ten cent brain. Jozy needs to put away the twitter, stop with the silly antics on the field and become the outstanding professional he has the potential to be. Otherwise, he is destined to become another American journeyman player in Europe whose only honors will be the Clint-Mathis-Memorial-What-Could-Have-Been Award.

Now Eric writes some great stuff, but this is asinine.
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US injury crisis deepens: Dempsey could miss World Cup with knee injury

Dempsey deepens US injury crisis; Photo by Nick Sarebi

Clint Dempsey injured his knee in Sunday’s match against Blackburn and now could miss the World Cup. The Fulham player won’t know the extent of the damage until Monday, but the prognosis, according to manager Roy Hodgson, “is not good.” Dempsey brings to three the number of US starters who have gone down with serious injuries since the team qualified for the World Cup Finals, following Charlie Davies’ car accident and Oguchi Onyewu’s ruptured patella tendon. Onyewu could be back in time, but Davies is out of the tournament and with Dempsey also now questionable at best, the depth of the US squad will be tested like never before. This hurts. 

Dempsey’s injury comes at a terrible time for him, Fulham, and the US. He had been having a fantastic season for Fulham, had won the full confidence of his manager, and was making a name for himself as an all around player who also can score some fantastic goals. In fact, he smashed an overhead kick off the bar in today’s game and was arguably Fulham’s best player before he was forced off. A matchup with England must have been a dream come true for all Americans in the Premier League. And with Davies going down, the US needed all its top attacking players to help fill the void. Continue reading

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’. Continue reading

Even with Everton loan, Donovan unlikely to move to Europe permanently

Donovan's European dream unlikely to be permanent; Photo by W. Jarrett

Its finally official, Landon Donovan will join Everton on loan in January. Donovan will return to MLS in time for the season opener on March 27. This move is great news for Donovan as he comes into a side that can and will use him. The move is great news for our World Cup hopes because Everton plays all the top teams during Donovan’s stay and he will get on the field experience against opening foes England. Despite this very positive step, Donovan is unlikely to ever make a permanent move to Europe because it’s hard to imagine a big club willing to meet MLS’s valuation on a 28-year-old attacking midfielder that is the only American star playing in America.

Everton Manager David Moyes worked hard to secure Donovan’s services for his side ravaged by injuries and stuck in the wrong half of the table. Moyes is looking for “players to come in and hit the ground running, not need a month or two to get ready,” so it looks like he intends to get Donovan on the pitch early and often. Donovan’s pace, experience, and versatility should allow him fit in pretty well with Everton’s other players; I can see him adding the attacking midfielder to compliment Tim Cahill the Toffees have been lacking since Mikel Arteta went down with repeated knee injuries.  Continue reading

World Cup 2010: Beasley resurgence could add important option for US squad

Beasley could be valuable weapon off the bench in South Africa

Few American soccer fans will have expected DeMarcus Beasley to be in Bob Bradley’s plans for the 23-man US squad headed to South Africa. His play over the last couple of seasons for club and county has been very disappointing, and he seemed to be losing his long running battle with injuries. Furthermore, new faces were emerging to take over from Beasley, especially Charlie Davies. But now Davies is almost certainly out for the World Cup as he recovers from a horrific car crash and Beasley is getting regular minutes and scoring great goals for Rangers. If he’s back to his best, his pace and experience would be a great asset to the US in South Africa.

We all remember shouting at the television as ball after ball seemed to bounce of Beasley’s feet as if he’d never played soccer before. Whether playing left wing or a more unfamiliar left back, he looked lost. After being substituted during the first-round Brazil game in the Confederations Cup last summer, it looked like his national team career might be over. Making matters worse, he wasn’t getting a kick at Rangers, stuck behind two players and seemingly on the outs with Manager Walter Smith. He even talked publicly about wanting to leave Glasgow in the January transfer window in the hope of getting some playing time and forcing his way back into consideration for the US squad. Continue reading

Interpreting MLS’s Offer to Stuart Holden – It’s PR

MLS offered Stuart Holden a considerable salary increase to lure him to resign with the league. Holden who was making just $35,000 this past season was offered an approximately 10 fold increase, ie $350,000 to resign with the league. What to think of this?

While this sounds like a good offer, this is really a public relations jester from MLS. Stuart Holden could have resigned at the beginning of the year but refused and played for a measly 35 grand so that he would be free to sign with a European club in the offseason. Holden has garnered a lot of interest from practically every club in Scotland, including Rangers. But since Holden could be signed on a free transfer it is likely he could be signed by a team from one of the bigger leagues. While $350,000 is a good salary for MLS, this is small beer compared to what he could get paid in Europe. If MLS were to offer to make him a designated player and pay him around the 1 million mark it could have a bit more appeal, but even with that Holden could still likely make more in Europe. So by offering Holden a new offer and having Holden turn it down this will enable MLS to save some face for losing such an up incoming star. This is similar to when the Washington Nationals sought to resign Alfonso Soriano – a move that bought some goodwill.
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What Donovan Could Have Been…

Steve Davis at Daily Soccer Fix gives his take on what Donovan could have been had he stayed in Europe. Steve argues that had Donovan continued on at Bayern Leverkusen he would have likely become another Eddie Johnson or Damarcus Beasley. In other words, a player who never gaining the trust of this European manager warms the bench and sees his skills stagnate and decline. Davis’ argument provides an important corrective to the constant Landon bashing asserting that he didn’t have the stones to stick it out in Europe. However, while the alternate scenario drawn up by Davis is certainly plausible, there is also another scenario that I think is equally plausible – that Donovan would have become an elite world class player, resembling an American Michael Owen.
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