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Opinion: Landon Donovan to RSL...?

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In which I try and make some sense of something that seems kind of crazy but I’m okay with it, I think.

MLS: LA Galaxy at Sporting KC John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Thought it might be fun to write a little reaction to all this Landon Donovan talk that has happened over the past few days. It’s crazy, let’s just all embrace it. Silly season being what it is something like this was bound to happen. Did I think that we’d be linked to a move for LD? Not in the slightest. When I heard the whispers a little bit ago was I excited? Yes and no. I feel like I went through a lot of emotions about it really quickly and have landed somewhere in an ambiguous “I mean, sure I guess” place with a side of OMFG THIS IS HAPPENING.

Here’s the deal. This move is layered and complex — especially considering the departures we’ve seen at the club this offseason. With Javier leaving, and more-so how he left, there’s a lot of emotion that is bound to be involved with any move the team makes. On top of that there’s all the normal considerations for a big name - DP signing. When we hear about these signings we usually run down the following:

  • Age
  • Successes and failures/Club and National Team experience
  • Contract terms and Salary
  • Potential impact on the team

The Landon thing, which looks like it’s got some credibility to it at this point, should be looked at through all those lenses but each one carries a little bit of a different hue because of who we’re talking about.

Age

This one is really fun. Landon is old. Let’s just get that out there. Normally I think most would write a player of his age off very quickly due to all of the assumptions we make about older field players in soccer. In fact I have said that one of the main reasons to be “okay” with the Javier decision was due to his age. There’s a lot wrapped into that very simplistic “age” statement that should be taken into account and it’s not really fair to say that all “Old” players are created equal.

**insert age is just a number cliche here**

Is Landon old? Yes. Does he play like it? There’s some subjectivity here, but last year we saw a refreshed attacking player come into the team for LA and immediately make an impact. We’re also talking about arguably the best American player in....ever -- and that should be taken into consideration.

Success and Failures/Club and National Team Experience

I tied these together after thinking about it a little bit. It makes sense to look at any players achievements along side the teams that they have played for.

247 appearances for LA Galaxy. 112 goals in all competitions. Winner of 6 MLS Cups, 2 Supporters Shields, and 1 US Open Cup. USMNT starter, captain, and hero.

And:

U.S. Soccer Young Athlete of the Year: 2000

U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year: 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010

Honda Player of the Year: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010

FIFA U-17 World Championship Golden Ball: 1999

FIFA World Cup Best Young Player of the Tournament: 2002

FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 2002 (Reserve)[84]

CONCACAF Gold Cup Best XI: 2002, 2003, 2005, 2013; Honorable Mention 2007

CONCACAF Gold Cup MVP: 2013

CONCACAF Gold Cup Top Goalscorer: 2003, 2005, 2013

Everton Player of the Month: January 2010, January 2012

MLS All-Time Best XI: Midfielder

Major League Soccer MVP: 2009

Major League Soccer All-Time Leading Scorer

MLS Best XI: 2003, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014

MLS Cup MVP 2003, 2011

MLS All-Star Game MVP: 2001, 2014

MLS Golden Boot: 2008

MLS Silver Boot: 2010

MLS Goal of the Year: 2009

Hard to argue against all that. But I will.

LA is the devil, we all know this. They build their team different than we would ever want to here and play a style that we called all sorts of names for years. Donovan was set up to succeed during those years and was surrounded by some of the best soccer talent not only in this league but from around the world. Though that doesn’t change how talented he is it should definitely be taken into account. He has, though, only played in 9 games in the last 2 years.

However, he’s been a stand-out on all of the teams that he has played on and was even a fan favorite during his time at Everton and his awards and accomplishments reflect that.

The question here is more around his current mentality toward not only the game but Salt Lake as a whole. He’s quit on the game before after running himself ragged for the better part of 10 years by basically playing for someone NON STOP during those years. Did the time he took off after “retiring” help him get into a better place? With regard to Salt Lake the question becomes whether or not he can fit into the locker room and not bring an ego into it based on all of his prior accomplishments. That bit is something that we all know is taken very seriously around here and should be even more important in this case.

Contract Terms and Salary

This one is a predicament. What is a player who did all of the things that are listed above really worth in the league right now? Matt Doyle broke something down on twitter today that I hadn’t really considered with any of the moves this year.

He goes on a bit about big contracts finally coming to the league and how those sorts of things are good for the growth of the league and what not (It’s a good read); and then he finishes by basically saying that any DP signing, no matter the actual contact amount, counts for the same thing: ~480k against the cap.

That bit is interesting to me. My gut reaction when we talk about players is almost entirely based on whether or not they are worth the x million dollars that they are probably worth. Now, there’s some value to that thought and discussion based on the fact that we are not a club that typically just goes out and spends 4-5 million on any one player. We’re the team that invests that money elsewhere in hopes that long term it pays dividends. I still think that the way that we’ve been approaching player development, especially lately, is probably better in the long term. Looking at whatever a DP salary might be through this perspective is interesting but the impact of not having that money to spend on other guys shouldn’t be overlooked.

There’s also the angle of where does he fit on the roster and does the salary match that expectation? If the thought is to have him come off the bench as a sub behind x new player or Jordan Allen (or whomever) does a lot of money make sense for that type of a role?

A player like Landon has kind of set his value in stone, to an extent, but the question becomes whether or not we see it as a worthwhile investment.

Potential Impact on the Team

SO MANY THINGS.

I already talked a little on the locker room and that’s really my biggest concern with any signing but especially with a signing like this. Landon has friends in the locker room so that’s a good thing but at the same time he’s been the enemy for so long would any wounds exist that might cause some strife? Will he be coachable and listen to what Jeff and the coaching staff have to say and ask of him?

Positive impacts could be an increase in jersey sales, ticket sales, and advertising revenue for the club. This, honestly, could be to a degree that we have yet to see at RSL. Could more national TV games be a consideration if he is added? The financial side of this deal could be really lucrative, hypothetically, for RSL.

Youth development should be another consideration. Is having a guy like Landon in your squad help Jordan Allen, Bofo Saucedo, Danilo Acosta, and Jose Hernandez worth a couple million? Does that pay for itself over time in both results and maybe more money if you sell those players?

Deep Breaths

All in all this is going to be an interesting saga to watch play out. This is a lot more complex than can be explained here and I’m sure that there will be groups of people that are adamantly for and against this as well as a group that’s sort of meh. If this happens and the details that we have so far are correct (2 years on a DP deal) we all have to take a deep breath and think about what the value of having a player like Landon Donovan on the team might be and whether or not it’s worth it for the club that we love.