By Andrea Canales
The Landon Donovan bandwagon has pulled into town after his performances for the USA at the Confederations Cup.
I'm not getting on that celebratory bus, however. Call me cynical or jaded, but I don't believe much has really changed.
Ok, a few things are different. Not to name names (cough-Shane Evans-cough), but a lot of people have had a conversion of nearly biblical proportions on Donovan.
"Did you see his goal?" They tell me. They laud Donovan's breakaway speed, his pinpoint passing, that clever first touch and precise finish.
I shrug. It's not as if I haven't seen that before, I tell them. In fact, I was getting a little deja vu, thinking of February of 2007, where Donovan took another Rico Clark pass down for more than half the field to score against Mexico's Oswaldo Sanchez.
"That doesn't count," people say. "That was just a friendly."
"Man, he's fit," others marvel. "I can't believe the way he was running at people at the end of the matches."
I roll my eyes, thinking back to the Galaxy's last game before Donovan left to the Confederations Cup. They'd gone a man and a goal down, and Donovan was running all over the field, pushing his team to a late equalizer despite the odds.
"You really don't watch much MLS, do you? If there's one thing that league is, it's athletic and hard running. If Landon's always one of the fittest players there - and he is - then yes, he's really fit and has been, for a long time."
They roll their eyes back at me. "Please! MLS, that's worthless."
"He knocks those penalties in like nobody's business - maybe that little ritual even helps him?"
I nod. "Ever heard of Jeff Hornacek? He - oh, well, never mind. No, he doesn't play American football, basketball. He's retired now, but he had a free throw ritual that was for his family. So is Landon's."
They sniff. "It looks silly, though."
"He's got spirit, that one - wonder what gave him the belief to keep fighting when it looked so hopeless before that Egypt game?"
I sigh. "Well, in 2003, Donovan's Earthquakes were down four goals in the playoffs -"
"Earthquakes? Are you talking MLS again? Stop that, I'm not listening."
"You know what surprised me the most?" One person tells me. "He's not a big guy, but he was out-jumping others for headers."
I raise an eyebrow. "World Cup? 2002? The header goal versus Mexico? You saw that, didn't you?"
A smile. "Of course. I thought back then, 'Impressive'. But that was so long ago."
My point exactly. Before the valiant, though losing, effort against Brazil, there was the courage versus Germany in 2002, the gutsy play against Italy in 2006, the steely resolve versus Argentina in 2008. Regardless of how people rate the three championships Donovan has won in MLS, they required a lot of the skill and effort he displayed in this recent FIFA tournament.
I'm neither shocked nor particularly impressed to see what I've seen before. Others could view the same things themselves for a long time now if they weren't blinded by its-not-Europe-so-its-meaningless-itis.
I don't, then, have any new-found respect for Donovan, even if many others do. Not that he really cared about that, nor should he.
"We are at the point where we don’t want respect," Donovan told the press in South Africa."We want to win."
That's probably where the years of being scoffed and reviled put things into perspective. Respect comes and goes on the whims of people's fads and fancies. Wins, however, are forever.
So when that bandwagon pulls into town to celebrate some famous victory - well, then, that will be something new to get excited about.
Andrea Canales is the Chief Editor of Goal.com North America
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