Canales Daily: Jersey Guys

Landon Donovan made his official debut for Bayern Munich, but's Andrea Canales argues that he's still the same guy who wore the Los Angeles Galaxy jersey.
By Andrea Canales

When Landon Donovan entered the field for Bayern Munich in the German Cup, he made his official debut for the Bundesliga club, though he is still on loan from the Los Angeles Galaxy. Donovan's earlier games for Munich were in friendlies - exhibition games.

About a minute into his period of play, Donovan took a pass from Franck Ribery and unleashed a shot that came close, but didn't result in a goal.

So some of the new jersey guys will have to wait to anoint their new hero with praise.

I use the term "jersey guys" in a nickname, gender-neutral fashion to designate those who have decided that the jersey a player wears is more important than actual player wearing it.

This doesn't refer, of course, to actual fans of Bayern Munich, a team with a storied history not only in Germany, but the world. Faithful fans of certain clubs are longstanding loyalists who are an integral part of the sport. They have helped the game grow by holding every player to one simple standard - that that person must perform and help the club win.

In the case of Donovan, and a few other players, though, it seems there is a significant number of people who don't bother with that objective criteria. Some have decided that as soon as he pulled the jersey of Bayern Munich over his head, Donovan instantly became a better player.

Scoring 20 goals in Major League Soccer last season for the Los Angeles Galaxy? Meaningless, according to the logic of the jersey guys, because they don't rate MLS at all. By virtue of his American status, Donovan's 37 goals for the U.S. national team are similarly rendered insignificant because of the country's failure to ever reach a World Cup final.

Expecting Donovan to suddenly improve now that he's at Bayern defies common sense. Does anyone go to watch a show that has just moved to the big time of Broadway and expect a different ending than when it was running in a smaller theater? The stage may have changed, and the supporting cast can be judged as more glittery than before, but Donovan is the same player.

At 26, it's unlikely that a permanent move to Bayern would change his skill set that much, either. Yet Donovan's performances have new legitimacy for those whose eyes light up reading the name of his new team as he runs on to the field.

Similar things were said by the same crowd about David Beckham when he joined the Galaxy - that he was on his last legs, that MLS was the only league that would take such a broken player, that he'd never earn a cap for England again, that he was only good for autographs, not assists.

Now that Beckham is playing for AC Milan, suddenly the groupies are fawning over his every move, as if he had just been resurrected from the Galaxy graveyard where they'd buried him as a player.

He didn't die. He's pretty much the same guy.

Granted, it's probably easier to respect anything a player does when it happens in the jersey of the biggest clubs in the game. But no one who claims to love and respect the sport can be blind to the fact that talent comes from every corner of the world. The skill to control a ball, elude a defender, shoot precisely and pass accurately are things anyone should be able to spot and appreciate, regardless of the colors involved.

What's a shame is how many jersey guys might have scornfully spurned the chance to watch Donovan live, playing with the Galaxy, or even earlier, for the San Jose Earthquakes, but now chase down Internet clips of his goals for Bayern as if they are rare treasures.

Donovan wants to be at Bayern, wants to play in Europe, wants to challenge himself among the best teams and clubs in the world. He's going to do that, however, with the skills he learned and honed in his years wearing those other jerseys.

Andrea Canales is the chief editor of