These days, Everton needs Landon Donovan a lot more than the Los Angeles Galaxy captain needs the Premier League club.
What a difference a couple of years makes.
When Donovan last set foot at Goodison Park, he had yet to have success in past attempts in Europe, he had not won an MLS Cup in five years and he was months away from the Algeria Moment that will likely be the lasting image of his U.S. Soccer legacy.
Two years after scoring two goals and being an all-around catalyst while on loan with Everton, the Toffees' favorite American rental is headed back to Merseyside a more polished player with all of those achievements under his belt, and a player that will be counted on to get the club out of its scoring and performance slump.
Everton has been shut out in four of its last seven matches -- going 1-5-1 in that time -- and will have Donovan's services for a brief two-month loan starting as soon as the winter transfer window opens at the turn of the new year. His return also keeps the American player quota at Everton at two, as he'll replace one of U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard's backups, Marcus Hahnemann, whose short-term deal with the club expires come the new year.
While the loan prevents Donovan from participating in Jurgen Klinsmann's MLS-heavy U.S. training camp and ensuing two friendlies next month -- meaning that the United States will have played seven straight matches without its all-time leading scorer -- Donovan will still be staying fit in a highly competitive environment, and he won't be completely alienated from the U.S. scene, either. Everton goalkeepers coach Chris Woods doubles as one of Klinsmann's national team assistants, and Donovan is obviously well-acquainted with Howard.
The loan does provide an opportunity for great theater in U.S. Soccer circles as well, as Everton's Jan. 11 match against Tottenham at White Hart Lane will pit Donovan against former U.S. goalkeeper Brad Friedel about a month after the Spurs netminder stirred the pot with some scathing remarks.
In Friedel's now-infamous interview with BBC World Service earlier this month -- the contents of which he later clarified as a misunderstanding -- he answered a question about Clint Dempsey and his success in the Premier League by choosing to compare and contrast the career paths of Dempsey and Donovan. Friedel's coldest remark implied that Donovan took "the easy road" by choosing to play out his career in MLS instead of trying to make it in Europe a la Dempsey. Needless to say, Everton's trip to North London remains a must-see for all U.S. fans.
Even though Donovan and Dempsey continue to be used as each other's measuring stick despite both being among the best field players the United States has ever produced (can't we just leave it at that?), the former will certainly aim to match the latter in terms of producing to help his club escape the relegation zone.
Dempsey scored in each of Fulham's two games this past week to bring his season total to eight goals in all competitions. He has scored in three of his last four games, helping supply Fulham with four crucial league points to put the club five points clear of dreaded 18th place. Everton, meanwhile, is a point closer to the drop zone than Fulham and faces the likes of top-six teams Tottenham, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool during its next 12-match stretch, when Donovan will be looked upon for the leadership and production that have become hallmarks of his career.
In what turned out to be quite a notable week for Americans abroad both on and off the field -- including goals for Carlos Bocanegra and Sacha Kljestan and a debut for West Ham's 17-year-old English-American left back Daniel Potts -- here is a closer look at how everybody fared (season statistics encompass all competitions):
Clint Dempsey, M, Fulham -- Started, played 72 minutes and score the opening goal of Fulham's 2-2 draw with Odense BK in their UEFA Europa League group stage finale on Wednesday. Dempsey took a layoff pass from Bobby Zamora and laced a right-footed blast into the net in the 27th minute. With Fulham needing a victory to finish in second place in its group, Odense scored a last-second equalizer that shockingly eliminated the Cottagers from the competition. Dempsey also started, played 90 minutes, scored a goal and assisted on another in Fulham's 2-0 victory over Bolton in league play on Saturday. Running across the penalty area to meet a cross from the right, Dempsey flicked a header from near the penalty spot toward the lower left corner of the goal to open the scoring in the 32nd minute. Two minutes later, he fed Costa Rican international Bryan Ruiz with a splitting through ball for Fulham's second tally. SEASON: 23 games, 23 starts, 8 goals
Brad Friedel, GK, Tottenham -- Not in the 18 for Tottenham's 4-0 victory over Shamrock Rovers in their Europa League group stage finale on Thursday. Tottenham did not qualify for the knockout stage and is out of the competition. Friedel started, played 90 minutes, made four saves and earned the clean sheet in Tottenham's 1-0 victory over Sunderland in league play on Sunday. SEASON: 15 games, 15 starts, 68 saves, 18 goals allowed, 5 clean sheets
Brad Guzan, GK, Aston Villa -- Started, played 90 minutes and made five saves in Villa's 2-0 loss to Liverpool on Sunday. SEASON: 4 games, 3 starts, 16 saves, 3 goals allowed, 1 clean sheet
Marcus Hahnemann, GK, Everton -- Not in the 18 for Everton's 1-1 draw with Norwich City on Saturday. SEASON: 0 games
Tim Howard, GK, Everton -- Started, played 90 minutes and was not credited with a save in Everton's 1-1 draw with Norwich City on Saturday. SEASON: 15 games, 15 starts, 33 saves, 18 goals allowed, 2 clean sheets
Eric Lichaj, D, Aston Villa -- Not in the 18 for Villa's 2-0 loss to Liverpool on Sunday. Lichaj has returned to light training following fall hip surgery and is expected to be completely cleared next month, according to reports from England. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start, 1 goal
Zak Whitbread, D, Norwich City -- Started, played 90 minutes in Norwich City's 1-1 draw with Everton on Saturday. SEASON: 5 games, 5 starts
Conor Doyle, F, Derby County -- Not in the 18 for Derby County's 1-0 loss to Ipswich Town on Saturday. SEASON: 5 games, 1 start
Robbie Findley, F, Nottingham Forest -- In the 18, did not play in Nottingham Forest's 0-0 draw with Bristol City on Saturday. SEASON: 19 games, 11 starts, 5 goals
Daniel Potts, D, West Ham -- Started, played 90 minutes in West Ham's 1-0 victory over Barnsley on Saturday. Potts, who signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with West Ham on Friday, was thrust into the starting lineup after an injury to West Ham's regular starting left back. Two years removed from a bout with leukemia, Potts, who has U.S. Under-20 experience under his belt but is still internationally eligible for both the United States and England, is suddenly a first-team option for a team with legitimate promotion hopes. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start
Jonathan Spector, M/D, Birmingham City -- Started, played 90 minutes in Birmingham's 1-0 victory over NK Maribor in their Europa League group stage finale on Thursday. Birmingham did not qualify for the knockout stage and is out of the competition. Spector also started and played 90 minutes in Birmingham's 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace in league play on Monday. SEASON: 25 games, 25 starts
Mike Grella, F, Brentford -- In the 18, did not play in Brentford's 1-1 draw with Bury on Saturday. SEASON: 14 games, 3 starts, 4 goals
Frank Simek, D, Carlisle United -- Started, played 90 minutes in Carlisle's 2-2 draw with Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday. Simek returned from a four-month absence caused by hip and calf injuries and went the distance in a bit of an emergency move after Carlisle's back line was hit by a last-minute injury crisis. SEASON: 2 games, 2 starts
Anton Peterlin, M, Walsall -- Started, played 120 minutes in Walsall's 0-0 (3-2 in penalties) loss to Dagenham & Redbridge in their FA Cup second-round replay on Tuesday. Peterlin also started and played 90 minutes in Walsall's 1-1 draw with Chesterfield in league play on Saturday. SEASON: 19 games, 13 starts
Jemal Johnson, F, Southend United -- Not in the 18 for Southend's 1-0 loss to Oldham Athletic in their FA Cup second-round replay on Tuesday or for Southend's 1-0 loss to Bradford City in league play on Friday. SEASON: 7 games, 2 starts
Jon-Paul Pittman, F, Oxford United -- In the 18, did not play in Oxford's 2-0 victory over Northampton Town on Saturday. Pittman's emergency loan to Crawley Town expired, and he returned to Oxford prior to the weekend's match. SEASON: 11 games, 1 start, 1 goal (4 games, 1 goal with Crawley Town)
Terrence Boyd, F, Borussia Dortmund -- Not in the 18 for Dortmund's 4-1 victory over SC Freiburg on Saturday. Boyd is currently at U.S. Under-23 camp in Florida, trying to earn a place on Caleb Porter's Olympic qualifying squad. SEASON: 0 games
Timmy Chandler, D, FC Nurnberg -- Not in the 18 for Nurnberg's 3-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday. SEASON: 18 games, 18 starts, 1 goal
Steve Cherundolo, D, Hannover 96 -- Not in the 18 for Hannover's 3-1 victory over Vorska Poltava in their Europa League group stage finale on Thursday. Hannover advanced as the second-place team in its group and will meet Club Brugge in the first knockout round. Cherundolo was in the 18 but did not play in Hannover's 1-1 draw with Kaiserslautern in league play on Sunday. SEASON: 15 games, 14 starts
Fabian Johnson, M/D, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim -- Started, played 90 minutes in Hoffenheim's 1-1 draw with Hertha Berlin on Saturday. SEASON: 15 games, 12 starts, 1 goal
Jermaine Jones, M, FC Schalke 04 -- Not in the 18 for Schalke's 3-0 victory over Maccabi Haifa in their Europa League group stage finale on Wednesday. Schalke had already clinched the group prior to the match and will play Viktoria Plzen in the first knockout round. Jones started and played 90 minutes in Schalke's 5-0 victory over Werder Bremen in league play on Saturday. SEASON: 15 games, 11 starts
Alfredo Morales, D, Hertha Berlin -- Not in the 18 for Berlin's 1-1 draw with TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on Saturday. SEASON: 3 games
Daniel Williams, D, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim -- In the 18, came on as a 66th-minute substitute in Hoffenheim's 1-1 draw with Hertha Berlin on Saturday. SEASON: 13 games, 8 starts (1 game, 1 start with SC Freiburg)
David Yelldell, GK, Bayer Leverkusen -- In the 18, did not play in Leverkusen's 3-0 loss to FC Nurnberg on Saturday. Leverkusen got the honor of being drawn against defending champion Barcelona in the first round of the UEFA Champions League knockout stage. Yelldell, though, figures to see nothing more than backup duties -- barring injury or suspension -- against the recently crowned FIFA Club World Cup champions. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start, 1 save, 4 goals allowed
Edson Buddle, F, FC Ingolstadt 04 -- Not in the 18 for Ingolstadt's 1-1 draw with Ezgerbirge Aue on Friday. Buddle was sent away from the team by coach Tomas Oral through the league's month-long winter break for undisclosed reasons. According to his agent, Richard Motkin, Buddle will train with West Ham in London for a week in the meantime. SEASON: 19 games, 11 starts, 6 goals
Ricardo Clark, M, Eintracht Frankfurt -- Not in the 18 for Frankfurt's 2-0 loss to St. Pauli on Monday. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start
Luis Robles, GK, Karlsruhe -- In the 18, did not play in Karlsruhe's 3-1 loss to 1860 Munich on Saturday. SEASON: 5 games, 5 starts, 14 saves, 13 goals allowed
Matt Taylor, F, SC Paderborn 07 -- In the 18, came on as a 90th-minute substitute in Paderborn's 3-2 victory over Fortuna Dusseldorf on Friday. SEASON: 15 games, 5 starts, 4 goals
Michael Bradley, M, Chievo Verona -- Started, played 90 minutes in Chievo's 2-0 victory over Cagliari on Saturday. SEASON: 14 games, 13 starts
Quentin Westberg, GK, Evian Thonon Gaillard -- Not in the 18 for Evian's 2-1 loss to Lyon on Saturday. SEASON: 3 games, 3 starts, 8 saves, 3 goals allowed, 1 clean sheet
Jozy Altidore, F, AZ Alkmaar -- Started, played 90 minutes in AZ's 1-1 draw with FC Metalist Kharkiv in their Europa League group stage finale on Thursday. AZ finished second in its group and will play Sacha Kljestan's RSC Anderlecht in the first knockout round. Altidore also started and played the first half of AZ's 2-1 victory over NAC Breda in league play on Sunday. SEASON: 26 games, 22 starts, 9 goals
Oguchi Onyewu, D, Sporting Lisbon -- Started, played 76 minutes in Sporting's 2-0 loss to Lazio in their Europa League group stage finale on Wednesday. Sporting had already clinched the group prior to the match and will play Legia Warsaw in the first knockout round. Onyewu also started and played 90 minutes in Sporting's 1-1 draw with Academica de Coimbra in league play on Sunday. SEASON: 15 games, 15 starts, 2 goals
Sacha Kljestan, M, RSC Anderlecht -- Started, played 90 minutes and scored a goal in Anderlecht's 5-3 victory over Lokomotiv Moscow in their Europa League group stage finale on Wednesday. Kljestan settled a clearance attempt and curled a right-footed shot into the far netting to level the score at 1-1 at the time. Anderlecht was the only team to get a maximum of 18 points from the group stage and will face Jozy Altidore's AZ Alkmaar in the first knockout round. Kljestan also started and played 90 minutes in Anderlecht's 3-2 victory over Lokeren in league play on Sunday. SEASON: 25 games, 25 starts, 3 goals
Alejandro Bedoya, M, Rangers FC -- Started, played 52 minutes in Rangers' 2-1 victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday. SEASON: 25 games, 19 starts, 4 goals (16 games, 15 starts, 4 goals with Orebro SK)
Carlos Bocanegra, D, Rangers FC -- Started, played 90 minutes, picked up a yellow card and scored the opening goal of Rangers' 2-1 victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday. After making a run to a more advanced spot up the field than he's accustomed to doing, Bocanegra got on the end of a headed down ball and finished with his left foot from the edge of the 6-yard box to give Rangers a 1-0 edge. SEASON: 17 games, 17 starts, 3 goals (1 game, 1 start with St. Etienne)
Maurice Edu, M, Rangers FC -- Started, played the first half of Rangers' 2-1 victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday. SEASON: 22 games, 22 starts, 2 goals
Dominic Cervi, GK, Greenock Morton -- Greenock Morton's game against Hamilton Academical scheduled for Saturday was postponed because of a frozen pitch. SEASON: 5 games, 5 starts, 25 saves, 7 goals allowed, 1 clean sheet