Donovan, teammates bask in MVP award
A year which already has been filled with awards took on another dimension Thursday for the Los Angeles Galaxy's Landon Donovan, who was named Volkswagen MLS Most Valuable Player.
The announcement marked a first for Donovan, who was a finalist in 2008 (when the award went to the Columbus Crew's Guillermo Barros Schelotto) and was one of three finalists this year along with Dallas' Jeff Cunningham and New England's Shalrie Joseph.
Donovan earlier this year was named U.S. national team player of the year, he was named to the MLS Best XI, he helped lead the U.S. national team into the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa, where it lost to Brazil, he also helped the U.S. qualify for next year's World Cup and this week was honored for scoring the MLS Goal of the Year.
Galaxy teammate David Beckham said Donovan clearly deserved this latest honor.
"Landon's been exceptional," he said. "Scoring goals, working hard for the team ... not just the Galaxy but the national team as well. He's a very good player, everyone knows that. He does what he does best, which is score goals.
"Well-deserved, without a doubt."
Donovan finished with only 12 goals during the regular season and admitted it was not one of his best years from a statistical standpoint, but he takes greater pleasure in knowing he helped the Galaxy into their first MLS Cup Final appearance since 2005. They play Real Salt Lake on Sunday in Seattle.
Donovan called the year rewarding, not only from a personal standpoint but especially from the team's.
"I think rewarding is the right word," the 5-foot-8, 158-pounder said. "We've worked very hard to get where we are with this team. Sometimes you almost feel bad that we keep winning awards and keep getting this and that. When you think about it we deserve it. This team has worked really hard, but if we don't win Sunday these things aren't going to mean a whole lot."
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena feigned shock when asked his reaction to Donovan winning his latest award.
"Landon got the MVP? Isn't that a surprise," he said with a grin. "I think this year has been his best year in the league. Statistically it has not been, but I think he's demonstrated his value as a player on our team, and that's allowed him to be the MVP for the first time in his career.
"We've played him in every spot possible for our team and he's sacrificed opportunities to score goals to be in positions to help us. We've played games where he's gotten us a goal, then he's been given defensive responsibilities in the midfield to kill the game off.
"He's done an awful lot of good things, and he's truly been a most valuable player."
Midfielder Dema Kovalenko, who faced Donovan for several years until he was acquired by the Galaxy in January, knows he'd rather be with him than against him.
"I don't have to chase him around anymore," Kovalenko said with a grin. "He's special and he's always dangerous. I know teams are afraid of him, and anytime he's on the field he can make something happen.
"I like to be on this side than that side."
The Galaxy's Jovan Kirovski called Donovan "the best playmaker in the league."
"He can change a game at any moment," he said.
Donovan said he's proud of what he's accomplished this season because of the work he's put in
"I'm very proud of it and I know I've worked hard and deserve it," he said. "Last year for me was my best year from a statistical standpoint" -- he had a career-high 20 goals and 9 assists in 25 games -- "but when the team doesn't do well it does't matter a whole lot.
"I can look myself in the mirror this year and say I really worked hard and earned this and I'm proud of it. It's one thing to be voted a most valuable player by the media or be named an all-star by the fans, but when your peers vote for you it means a little bit more."