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Everton the right fit for Donovan

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Nick Webster

Nick Webster has been the voice of the Barclays Premier League, FIFA World Cup's and UEFA European Championships in America since 2001. Insightful, provocative and entertaining, you'll always find him at the heartbeat of the action with stories that matter.
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Winter in Los Angeles isn’t for the feint-hearted.

On occasions the temperature drops into the 60’s. So just what L.A. Galaxy and MLS MVP, Landon Donovan, made of the sub-zero snow blizzard at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium on Saturday evening during his Everton debut is anybody’s guess.

As the blizzard heightened in intensity, it was a heartwarming sight to witness Donovan slaloming through the Gunners' midfield in the blue shirt of the Toffees.

For many SOCCER fans in the U.S., it was a moment we’ve awaited for years, because the perceived criticism of America’s greatest football hope has always been that he's too small, too soft and did not have enough ambition. In other words, he’d never make it in Europe.

Sixty-nine minutes of top flight action will not make those accusations disappear overnight, but to anyone with a keen eye for football and the Premiership in particular, there can be no denying that Donovan looked remarkably at Home.

For someone who has not played competitive football since the MLS Cup Final on November 23rd of last year, his touch looked assured and his movement was sharp. He’s obviously studied the style of the Premiership and what’s needed from a midfield player, because he popped up in the defending third of the pitch more than I’ve ever seen him do for the Galaxy.

What will also do his confidence the world of good is the assist to Leon Osman. To be entrusted with set -pieces so quickly is certainly a testament to the belief that Everton boss, David Moyes, has in the American. The corner was played with accuracy, pace and had a certain ‘Beckham-esque’ quality to it. Perhaps they have kissed and made up after all.

I’m sure it was a huge relief for Donovan to get that first match under his belt after all the will-he-won’t-he speculation. The question now is whether he can push on and become an impact player in a league that is not short of them.

With this move Donovan goes from being the biggest fish in one of the world’s smaller ponds to swimming with the sharks and is undoubtedly one of the hardest to achieve in sports.

Many have said that the brief nature of the move is simply a win/win situation for Donovan because even if he fails, he wins through the experience he’ll gain.

I disagree.

Lets go back to his previous spells in Germany where he carried far too much baggage. This surely left a scar on him because it’s never easy to deal with failure, especially after being such a big success in America. He must’ve felt the weight of the world at both Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich.

He would have known that all eyes were on him, waiting, whispering and pointing. It must’ve been intense. There is no doubt it impacted on him as a player and a person.

If this short stay on England is successful though, I believe it could be the catalyst for Donovan to develop the mental toughness for his game to succeed at the highest club level.

Yes, I know he just signed a four-year deal with the Galaxy but I think we’ve seen how much these contracts are worth in professional sports.

I also have an ulterior motive for Donovan to illuminate the Premiership. If he does well, Fabio Capello will be well aware of what he is capable of ahead of June and the Rustenburg shindig. If he does poorly, John Terry and pals may not look upon him as a serious threat and I think we’ve all seen what happens when LD pulls on the shirt representing the stars & stripes.

Ultimately, how well Donovan performs will have an impact on the National team and MLS and it could conceivably go two ways.

Either Bob Bradley gains from having his star player competing at a level that is considerably higher than he is used to or he’s handed back a player suffering from burnout.

MLS will either get a shot in the arm as a league that can develop players for the highest level or the old notion that its nothing more than a retirement home for aging stars will return.

Either way, I’m watching every minute of it and so should you.

Until then, I’ll see you at the far post.