Ball So Hard… Americans wanna find me.
In roughly three hours from my first key stroke, yes I’m “deadlining” here… The ball will be kicked off in the most anticipated soccer game revolving around Americans, either the WOmen’s World Cup Final, or the debut of new USMNT Coach, Jurgen Klinsman. No, I’m not talking about an international game, to Qualify for a spot in this Summer’s Olypmpics, like the US Women’s National Team compete in (but you should check that out too) – or even another International Friendly for the US Men’s national team. Like they one they won Wednesday night in a tune up for Olympic Qualifying.
No sir… or ma’am. This game that has US Soccer fans buzzing at louder pitch on this late January Friday is about these two men.
The two most: popular, successful, and talented men to play the beautiful game for the United States. So what brings this clash of US Soccer Titans to guysnation today?
The FA Cup. A knockout tournament run in England that encompasses many divisions/levels of soccer, including the 20 members of the Barclay’s Premier League (English Premier League) – of which both of their clubs are members. Fulham (Dempsey) and Everton (Donovan) will meet today, at 3pm (est), and will be one of the few times where American’s will be garnering most the headlines, even in England.
Dempsey joined Fulham in December of ’06, and has had great success in the Premier League He has become the highest scoring American ever in the League, and one of Fulham’s all time leading goal scorers. He’s a finisher. He scores goals. He plays physically, and with a chip.
Donovan is playing at Everton on a 2 month loan from his MLS Club, LA Galaxy. This is Donovan’s 2nd stint in England with Everton, where he is teammates with fellow USMNT member, goalie, Tim Howard. Also a goal scorer, but more of a distributor. Less physical, more cerebral, and super clutch might be low balling it. In game where its hard to quantify it because the opportunities might not come, he’s scored some amazingly big, clutch goals. Maybe THE guy you’d want on the ball with time running out in a crucial stage.
So, now we know HOW they got together. Why is it a big deal to US Soccer fans? These are two fantastic players, again, arguably the best two field players (we’ll keep goalies seperate) the US has ever produced. Who are both arguably the best players on their respective (full time) clubs. Most casual sport fans know Landon Donovan thanks to his heroics, and that he plies his trade states side, so you see more of him. He gets comercials. He does interviews. Clint, affectionately known as “Deuce”, playing oversees has played out of the USA’s sports’ media spotlight. I’ve had Fox Soccer for a couple years, and while I’ve always been a big fan, I’ve only been religiously watching and following for a year and half. I hadn’t heard much on how successful Dempsey was in England, up until I started watching last season. But he is playing as well as he ever has. He just won 2011 US Soccer Player of the Year, his 2nd. Celebrated by becoming the First US Player to score a hatrick in a Premier League game. Donovan, a four time US Player of the year in his own right (’03, ’04, ’09, ’10) is coming off a good, but injury affected season with the Galaxy. He scored the winning goal (something, if you recall his 100 yard run in South Africa, he has a knack for) for his side that won the MLS Cup.
Its an incredibly intriguing matchup. Twitter has been buzzing with “who you got” discussions. Who you would pick for you team? Who is taking the game winning penalty? ESPN analyst, and former USMNT member Alexi Lalas even posited who he’d rather have next to him in a bar fight.
The added intrigue is the added pressure and grand stage of the knockout tournament. Lose and you’re done. So its an opportunity for each of these stars to put a stamp on the FA Cup Tournament. Not to mention the ability to further increase interest here for a game that has been making great strides the last 2 or 3 years, but still has a lot of room for growth. Its a great showcase for these teams who will have a strong US contingent tuning in, some, for their first time to English Football. Its a great showdown between the two best (probably three best if you throw Tim Howard into the mix) players the US has produced.
Ultimately, with Donovan only in england for a few months, this ends up being very fortuitous for the two to play against one another. A very rare occurrence considering Clint plays in England and Landon plays in the USA. So today we’ll treated to that rarity. Who knows if either will factor into the decision. Its very possible that neither will, but in this campaign for Fulham recently “They go how Clint goes”. Landon should now be pretty comfortable with his Everton teammates, and again… the guy LOVES a big stage, and a chance to shine and move Everton into the next round of the FA Cup, on top of the added personal rivalry high level teammates can have. Especially considering each’s standing in the US Soccer publics eye. I feel like one of them, if not both, will end up playing a big roll in this afternoon’s game.
If you’re interested, the game will be broadcast on FoxSoccer. If you have Fios, and their extended sports package that gets you the NBA and NHL channels, its in that block on your cable box. If you have another carrier?? I can’t, personally help you. You can probably find a stream if you google it. I know I’m incredibly excited to check this game out, and if this whets your soccer appetite? The US Women play tonight for a spot in the Olympics. They win this game and they get a spot. They lose, and they’re out. So its a pretty big game. They play Costa Rica at 8pm. You’ll find that game on cable (UniversalSports), and online in two locations. Universalsports.com, and concacaf.com.
I suggest you tune in… even if its just for kicks. (see what I did there?)