Why I Don’t Like Landycakes

 Let me start by saying a few positive things about Landon.  He has undoubtedly been a good player for the United States.  He may very well have been the most talented player we have ever had at a time, and his 46 goals in 136 appearances for the stars and stripes is nothing to be ashamed of.  My problem with Landon did not come until long after his brilliant performance in the 2002 World Cup.  As a young talent he was brilliant in the tournament, netting 2 goals and playing with a fire that has long since flamed out.  His desire to prove himself was evident, and he worked incredibly hard for the team, bought into the system and produced, in the US’s best ever team.  That however, is when Landycakes peaked. 

Reason 1:  How it began
My problem with Landon really starts in 2004 when he was a part of the biggest conspiracy in MLS history in my opinion.  What basically happened is the league conspired to get Landon out of the small market of San Jose and put him in LA, a move that changed the course of the MLS permanently (I feel the MLS has been trying to get a huge LA NY rivalry for many years, by basically cheating to stack each of those teams).  How was such a conspiracy pulled off, well it wasn’t very well hidden, but I’ll try to break down what happened. 
First of all, Landon Donovan starred for the San Jose Earthquakes, scoring tons of goals, playing incredibly well, and being named America’s best player 2 years in a row, all while on loan from German club Bayer Leverkusen.  He played 87 games and scored 32 goals.  He loved being a big fish in a small pond so much, that when he went back to a superior team in a superior league, his poor attitude wouldn’t allow him to compete for a spot.  Despite getting minutes, he demanded a move from Leverkusen citing homesickness, and his wish was granted.  Donovan however never had plans to return to the Earthquakes (Who were moving to Houston, to now be known as the Houston Dynamo). 
The move to the Galaxy was easy, because AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group) owned the three teams the move involved.  Alexi Lalas, well known soccer personality, was the “general” of the move but I don’t doubt people higher up than him were involved.  Before Landon demanded publically to come home, the plan was already in the works, and Alexi had traded away Donovan’s rights…to no one (When they were Leverkusen’s rights in the first place).  Leverkusen didn’t even want to allow Landon back to the MLS because they received a better offer from English Premier League Club (at the time) Portsmouth.  Landycakes however, would refuse to personal terms, and because he wasn’t going to play in Germany he forced his move back to the states. 
Step 2 was how LA was sure they were the ones to acquire Landon.  They traded then leading goal scorer Carlos Ruiz (The worst diver in the history of Major League Soccer) to FC Dallas to move up to the top of MLS’s allocation order.  The move didn’t make much sense for Dallas for many reasons.  1 they obviously have an affiliation with a large group of Mexican fans, being so close to the Mexican border, so bringing in the much hated Guatemalan Ruiz wasn’t a smart marketing decision.  Also why wouldn’t a team in the MLS want the two time “Best American Player” on their team for free? 
Step 3 was getting Alexi away from responsibility.  He didn’t want to go to Houston either, so as part of the deal AEG “rewarded him for trading Landon’s rights” by moving him to the GM position at the New York Metrostars. 
Step 4 Ultimate Destination for both Landon and Alexi.  After 1 year of working for the New York franchise, Alexi resigned, only to find a job as the GM of none other than the LA Galaxy, who was also owned by AEG. 

Basically that’s the first reason I started to dislike Landon.  No one is an inherently better person than anyone else, and I don’t believe the league should have given him special treatment in choosing his club, let alone move mountains to make it happen.  That’s step one to me not liking Landon.  (And people hate LeBron when he moved to the Heat after his contract ran out…he didn’t have to organize a league wide deal to get it done).

Reason 2: Perception,
Part of the reason I admittedly don’t like Landon is through (practically) no fault of his own.  Ever since his time at Leverkusen, he has been dubbed the golden boy. He was American soccer’s savior, the kid who could do no wrong.  He’d escape criticism after a bad play, bad foul, bad game, bad stretch, bad season, all because he was supposed to be great.  This title was simply given to him, because he was so heavily hyped.  He didn’t do enough to earn a free pass for the rest of his career in my opinion.  He has been a fantastic MLS player, but if he’s our best ever, he should have moved on.  The league was never as good as he is supposed to be, our true golden boy should be competing against other countries bests.  If he’s our representative as our best ever, why has he never attempted to prove it?  He should have been trying to outscore Thierry Henry in his prime, not waiting to face him after Henry’s effectively retired.  He should have been trying to pry silverware away from David Beckham, not crying when he doesn’t pick up the check for an expensive dinner (Donovan is making 2.3 million dollars a deal he shouldn’t expect another man to buy him dinner, that’s Bianca’s job).  Finally, he should have never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever been a captain of the US Men’s National Team (or even a vice captain for that matter).  He’s not a leader.  Never has been, never will be.  A leader is someone willing to go out there and sacrifice all he is to help the teammates around him.  There has never been a game where Landon has come close to doing this.  All this admittedly gets to me, and angers me, and just makes me dislike him a little bit more.  It’s frustrating that most people just see the numbers, and hear what other American announcers (ironically, Lalas a lot of times) who know nothing about the game on a global level say, and think Landon is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  You don’t have to dislike him, but make up your own opinions after watching him, don’t let the media force-feed you an opinion.  AND PLEASE DON’T LET THEM TELL YOU HES OUR BEST PLAYER OR ONE OF THE BEST PLAYERS IN THE WORLD.

Reason 3 wouldn’t sacrifice for his team:
Landon Donovan is not a worker.  This is perhaps the biggest reason I dislike him.  He’s happy to take all the set pieces, all the penalty kicks, and all the headlines, without giving enough credit to those guys around him, and without truly paying his dues.  If anyone has video of Landon Donovan winning a tackle, I’d love to see it.  He is the US’s all time leading goal scorer (which needs an asterisk because at least 1/3 of his goals are from penalties), but he also has another distinct accolade.  He is the only millionaire soccer player, who has been to multiple World Cups and won multiple individual awards, without ever winning a single 50 50 ball.  As a team, we’re not good enough to outclass opponents with superior talent.  Now that Mexico has quite obviously surpassed us in terms of skill, we’re not going to win a single tournament without everyone committing to the game, and committing to their teammates.  We have to work hard, pressure hard, defend, tackle, fight, and stick to the game plan if we’ll have a chance.  Instead Landon leaves his teammates out to dry on many occasions, doesn’t defend, can be seen walking around when he should be closing down opponents, and is too scared to get into a tackle.  I absolutely hate that kind of player.  The only other guys in the world who don’t work hard defensively to win the ball are either not playing professionally because no great coaches want that on their team, or are named Arjen Robben.  Landon Donovan is nowhere near the player Arjen Robben is, so he shouldn’t get to slack like he does for 85 minutes a game.  If I saw someone take out Clint Dempsey on a nasty tackle in a game, and 5 minutes later Landon put the same guy through the sign boards that surround the field maybe I’d believe there was hope for him as a leader, but I’ve never seen him do anything to have his boys back.  That, pisses me off.

Reason 4 He’s a Huge Wuss:
Landon, seriously, you COULD HAVE BEEN great.  When you were scoring all those goals in MLS, winning headlines worldwide during World Cups, and winning MLS Cups with San Jose (before ditching them for no reason) you could have gone to many good teams in Europe.  Let’s be honest, that’s where the best soccer is.  But instead, you were scared.  Look at everyone else’s golden boy.
Argentina-Messi-Barcelona (Spain)
Brazil-Kaka (or your pick of many others-Ac Milan/Real Madrid
Costa Rica-Brian Ruiz-Holland
Honduras-David Suazo-Inter Milan
Canada-Julian de Guzman-Hannover (Germany)/Deportivo La Coruna (Spain)
Mexico-Rafa Marquez-Monaco (France)/Barcelona
Mexico-Chicharito-Manchester United
Mexico-Andres Guardado-Deportivo La Coruna

And that’s just to name a few from North and South America who haven’t settled, and who have gone on to bigger better things.  Those guys carry their national teams, and have carried the team on their backs.  When not on national team duty their trying to prove their great against the best competition they can get, and are over there fighting for the respect of the world, not just settling for their hometown team.  Let’s be honest, the MLS is miles behind any of the leagues where those players play.  They are all arguably the “Golden Boy” of their teams, and they go out every week and prove it.  They don’t’ hide in a small pond back home where they can pick on players from opposing teams pretending he's a big dog (Donovan vs Luke Rodgers http://www.majorleaguesoccertalk.com/luke-rodgers-vs-landon-donovan-war-of-words/12577).  Apparently Donovan enjoys talking trash to players on the field as well, which is seriously, not something that is cool to do in this sport.  Materazzi did it and Zidane (one of the top 5 greatest players ever) put his head through his chest.  If Landon had the balls, he would have been in Europe long ago, and when he found life a bit tough, he would have grinded it out like any other player would have to, instead of running home to the MLS. 

I know the counter argument to this will be that Landon did well at Everton.  Yes, yes he did do well at Everton, and proved he’s a good player at the highest level.  I’m not arguing that, I’m just asking why didn’t he stay?  Fans loved him, the team loved him, he was playing well, and he had experience organizing a change of teams with the leagues cooperation, why not head over there?  Why? Because he was scared.  He had a good spell, and probably feels he proved himself.  Now he doesn’t have to work as hard, and he can return to the comforts of his southern California home.  Clint Dempsey, in contrast fought for his move.  He is in my opinion our greatest ever player.  I’ll talk more about him in a future article where I compare he and Donovan, but he was denied his move to Europe by MLS, but he wanted it so bad that he went toe to toe with the league to get clearance to move to Fulham when they came calling.  He’s never looked back and become a much better player than Landon, and one who more importantly plays with heart. 

Reason 5 He’s not what we need
Landon Donovan has never played like an American.  He’s never helped to grind out a game, or fight tooth and nail for a result.  Yes, let me point out he started the comeback against Slovenia and scored the winner against Algeria.  Slovenia, Landon doesn’t run at anyone for that goal, it’s a good hit, but the goal was created by the Slovenia left back misjudging a long ball and Landon going in without pressure.  Algeria, it’s the greatest goal I’ve ever seen emotionally, but it was a tap in.  Have you ever seen Landon run someone down?  Double someone in the corner to win the ball?  Make a chance saving tackle at the end of a game to preserve a lead?  He’s a midfielder now, and has been for a while so it should have happened.  It however, has not.  I’ve said before the US isn’t good enough to outclass opponents, instead we have to work together, and fight together for a win.  That means 11 guys playing offense and defense, and performing their responsibilities for 90 minutes.  This has not happened recently when it comes to Landon.  Let’s look at the Gold Cup game by game (in the key games).

 Jamaica: Bob realizes that Landon is a liability and shouldn’t be played for 90 minutes.  He brings him on in the 60th, and Landon is allowed to do what he does best.  Use his pace to attack a tired defense.  Jamaica was down to 10 men and in shambles, so he didn’t have to do any defensive work.  It was the perfect time for him.  Overall we put in a good workmanlike display, got out of a slump and beat a decent Jamaica side in our best performance of the tournament. 
Panama (part 2):  I’m the only one to call Landon not starting, and again it works.  The first half we play very well, unlucky to not score, but Panama have no chances and it looks like we’re doing fine.  We do however need a spark.  Insert a fresh Landon against a tiring defense and after a brilliant ball by Freddy Adu Landon gets the assist on Dempsey’s goal.  Again no defending required for his bit part role, and he thrives. 
Mexico (final):  Blew it.  Landon starts the game mayhem ensues.  It’s not just his fault, but he does deserve a fair amount of blame.  Landon was playing on the left side of midfield (Dempsey also played there and deserves blame as well) and provided absolutely no help to the left back.  Mexico’s attack came from their right side all day, because Landon, our left sided midfielder was not defending.  He put an already weak player in Johnny Bornstein on an island, and Bornstein drowned.  It’s hard for a below average national team player to play 1v1 with guys as skilled as Chicharito, Barrera and Dos Santos, 3v1 forget about it.  We could have used some more work from Landon; he didn’t give it to us. 

So yeah, we need 11 guys who can be counted on to do their job.  Not 10 and a sulking superstar who is only good on one side of the ball. 

I know this has been a long article, and very rant like because I didn’t plan it out properly beforehand.  I just wanted to get my views on Landon out there, and I’m sure there will be more discussion on it in the future.  I plan on writing an article on why Clint Dempsey is our best ever, and basically compare him to Landon who is in the minds of many his only competition.  Basically I think Landon is a wuss, too scared to try to excel at the highest levels who settled for mediocrity in the MLS because it’s not as good a league, and he could thrive in it.  This part of his personality also shows in his relationship with ex wife Bianca Kajlich, who left him, and who he’s been trying to get back ever since.  (She also convinced him to get a matching humming bird tattoo with her…humming bird…can I get a Chris Carter CMON MAN!).  He’s not a guy who gives 100 % every game, and at the national stage when you should be taking pride in your team and you country I think that is completely unacceptable.  He leaves his teammates out to dry too often, and expects of them what he won’t do himself.  On the field, why should guys pressure, close down, and make tackles if you won’t as a leader of the team and vice captain?  Off the field, why should Becks buy you dinner when you haven’t bought your teammates dinner despite making more than them for years?  Because he’s actually earned a lot of his money before he retired to the league you call home?  Landon you’re a talented player who never made the most of it because you were too scared to make the jump.  You had the chance to carry the torch for American soccer, and you passed it up because you were too scared to fail.  Despite the fact that you never earned it in the toughest leagues in the world you do think very highly of yourself, and show that in your la dee dah attitude on the field that leaves you not working hard and not defending in a huge amount of games.  I thank you for your service to soccer in this country, but as far as the national team goes, going forward you’re not needed as anything more than a supersub. 

Alright, start the hate and disagreeing.  Can’t wait to discuss this with the rest of you in the soccer community. 
Twitter: @sflanagan17
Stephen Flanagan.