Ahead of Friday afternoon's FA Cup showdown between Landon Donovan's Everton and Clint Dempsey's Fulham, MLSsoccer.com continues to break down which of the two players is the undisputed No. 1 American soccer star. Today, we look at how they have fared in Europe.
|3 (Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, Everton)||Clubs||1 (Fulham FC)|
|27||Matches (1st Div.)||211|
|2||Goals (1st Div.)||50|
|2/0||European Cup Matches/Goals||23/6|
|Everton goal in final '10 match before LA return||Magic Moment||Chip shot to eliminate Juventus in Europa League|
|Jan. 22, 2005 (Bundesliga)||1st Top-Flight Match in Europe||Jan. 20, 2007 (EPL)|
For one player, Europe became his new home. For the other, it's still unfinished business.
Clint Dempsey has reached legendary status at Fulham FC in the five years since he joined the club back in December 2006. Not only did his goal save them from relegation in 2007, but he has been Fulham's undisputed best player in recent seasons.
Not to mention that Dempsey is also the author of the Cottagers' single greatest moment in European competition with his goal against Juventus to oust the Italian giants in the spring of 2010. They made it all the way to the final of the Europa League.
The ex-New England Revolution player has left an indelible mark on what many consider to be the best league in the world and he's done it with a steady uptick in goals from season to season, easily eclipsing Brian McBride's mark for an American player in England.
It is a legitimate argument that Dempsey has had the greatest European career of any player in US soccer history. To think that few ever expected it from him.
Widely considered America's next great hope, Landon Donovan got to Europe well before Dempsey was on anyone's map. Bayer Leverkusen snapped him up as a 17-year-old, but he struggled mightily to adjust to his new surroundings and a new language at a young age.
A four-year loan arrangement with MLS allowed him to flourish stateside, but when it was up in 2005, things weren't any easier back at Leverkusen. After seven matches, including a disappointing showing in a UEFA Champions League elimination at the hands of Liverpool, Donovan and the German side parted ways just before the 2005 MLS campaign.
Despite his subsequent success in the US with the LA Galaxy, Donovan was always hounded by the questions of whether he measured up in Europe. That might help explain the loan stint at Bayern Munich in the offseason after the 2008 season. That spell was more remarkable for his goals in winter break exhibitions than the smattering of minutes he received in the official matches he played for Jurgen Klinsmann, who was a coach under pressure at the German giants.
But maybe the issue was the Bundesliga and Germany, because it was love at first sight the moment Donovan set foot in England to join Everton for a short loan in 2010. He left an immediate and positive impression, being named the team's Player of the Month in January 2010. It all made his most recent return a no-brainer.
The reality is, however, that Everton don't have much of a transfer budget and the Galaxy aren't exactly looking to transfer their captain with two years remaining on his contract. Nor is he willing to leave on a permanent basis, which means that Donovan's legacy in Europe may very well be limited to three-month spurts.
As he turns 30 in March, it's hard to see Donovan ever coming close to matching what Dempsey has accomplished overseas.
Get involved in the discussion on Twitter all week: #LDvCD