MORELIA, Mexico – The locals claim that if you ask anybody on the streets of Morelia about Landon Donovan, they’ll all say the same thing: He is not a good guy and he doesn’t like Mexicans. Typically some obscene adjectives are tossed in to describe the LA Galaxy’s captain.
Moments after Galaxy players hit the field at Estadio Morelos on Monday, an onlooker from outside the stadium yelled: “Donovan! [Blank] you [blank]. Your ass is mine [blank]!”
Fans will come out in droves for Tuesday’s CONCACAF Champions League match here between the Galaxy and Monarcas Morelia (Tuesday, 8 pm ET, Fox Soccer) in part, say the locals, to boo against a player who is very much Public Enemy No. 1 in these parts.
“What I realize is that, when you’re on the field, they all yell at you and support their team, but when you see them on the street, everyone is respectful and nice,” Donovan said. “That’s how it should be.”
Still, his image among fans here in Morelia is not favorable. Donovan has never played in the state of Michoacán before; his visits south of the Rio Grande have mostly been limited to Mexico City, and the colors he’s defended have been those of the United States.
That may be where the severe dislike of Donovan stems from, but it very much carries over into club matches and, in this case, international club championships.
What’s not necessarily surprising is that the inaccurate perceptions about his feelings toward Mexicans have taken on a life of their own.
“That’s normal [to have those] kind of inaccurate views on things,” LA manager Bruce Arena said. “It’s stuff that snowballs sometimes. I’m sure there are a number of Mexicans that don’t like Landon and I’m sure there are some who do. That would be the case with [Cuauhtémoc] Blanco. There were a number of Americans who didn’t like him. That was probably the case with [Rafa] Márquez after he took a shot at Cobi [Jones] in the  World Cup.”
Donovan has been villainized before and shrugs it off.
“There’s nothing I can do about that, it’s beyond my control,” Donovan said of how the Morelia fans perceive him. “I got friends that are from all parts of Central America and Mexico. It is ignorant because there is no knowledge beyond it, but it is what it is.”
Dislike of Donovan is common; the jeers raining down upon him in practice on Monday can attest to that much. But there is a flip side to infamy.
“I’ve also seen a lot more [people] that have wanted his autograph, that have wanted his picture,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said. “There are always going to be some fans that are thinking [negatively]. Whatever. You can’t do anything about that.”
Even without David Beckham, the match has drawn quite a bit of attention in Morelia. While Arena, and players like Frankie Hejduk and Robbie Keane have received attention, Donovan’s presence has made this match into a special event, outshining previous CCL matches.
While the setting at Estadio Morelos – a stadium that holds slightly more than 30,000 – is quite different than the mammoth and intimidating Estadio Azteca, being so close to the supporters and hearing their vituperative dislike may be enough to rattle any player.
But Donovan, who’s been deep in the trenches of the USA vs. Mexico rivalry over the past decade, should be able to handle it.
“Fans have the right to like or dislike,” Arena said. “They should behave in somewhat a civil manner, and if they do that and they object to players they don’t like, it’s all part of it. That’s what we do. It happens every day.”