LA Galaxy captain Landon Donovan was named Major League Soccer's Most Valuable Player on Thursday, as he picked up the award for the first time in his career.
Landon Donovan was named Most Valuable Player on Thursday. Donovan led the Galaxy with 12 goals and six assists in 25 games and was an instrumental part in the Galaxy's rise to prominence. The LA Galaxy captain beat out FC Dallas' Jeff Cunningham and New England's Shalrie Joseph for the honors.
Donovan said the award is something tangible he can point to for efforts he's made to move past a wretched summer in Germany three years ago.
"This has been kind of a reclamation project for me since the 2006 World Cup," he said. "Always as an athlete to be honored individually is great."
What makes the award more special to Donovan is the way the award is selected.
"When your peers name you best player, that's special," said Donovan, who garnered the most votes among players, coaches, general managers and media.
Donovan will lead the Galaxy into MLS Cup 2009 Sunday at Seattle's Qwest Field against Real Salt Lake, and to have the award come at a time when his team is preparing for a final brings another element to the award.
"Last year was for me my best year from a statistical standpoint but when the team doesn't do well, it doesn't matter a whole lot," Donovan said on Thursday. "But I can look for myself in the mirror this year and say 'I really worked hard and earned this.'"
The MVP nod is the first of his career. Donovan became just the fourth American-born player to win the award, and first since Taylor Twellman walked away with the honors in 2005.
That Donovan was able to focus on the Galaxy while helping the U.S. qualify for the World Cup and compete in the FIFA Confederations Cup seemingly makes his season stronger. While missing only five games this season due to national team committments, Donovan nevertheless dealt with international travel and the pressures of fighting for a World Cup berth.
Donovan, for instance, played for the Galaxy in New England on Aug. 8, played for the United States in Mexico City on Aug. 12 and returned to Home Depot Center for a match against Seattle Sounders on Aug. 15 - all while having the H1N1 virus.
Overall, he was a key contributor in nearly every game he played. He had either a goal or an assist in 16 of the 25 games he played in. He also spread out the goals, as his only two-goal effort was in a season-opening 2-2 draw against DC United.
Donovan was one of three players nominated but beat rivals from FC Dallas and New England for the honor.
Cunningham led MLS with 17 goals but gained recognition with the manner in which he scored them. Cunningham had one goal when FC Dallas moved Kenny Cooper to Germany, and the veteran goalscorer took over. Cunningham had a four-goal game against Kansas City in a 6-0 rout and proceeded to reel off an impressive goal-scoring stretch. With 14 goals in FC Dallas' last 15 games, Cunningham helped bring the club to within one game of a playoff spot.
Shalrie Joseph finished the season with eight goals and eight assists and was the rock that held New England together. With Michael Parkhurst lost in the offseason and Taylor Twellman battling through injuries, the Revs were left with Joseph and Steve Ralston to help guide the club forward. But Ralston was also battling injuries of his own, and was lost for the season on Sept. 26 when he blew out his knee. New England, though, managed to qualify for the playoffs regardless, in large part to Joseph's influence.
Donovan became the third member of the Galaxy to win individual honors this season. Bruce Arena was named MLS Coach of the Year while Omar Gonzalez was named MLS Rookie of the Year.
Luis Bueno and Andrea Canales, Goal.com
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