In-form Landon Donovan leads MLS Week 21 Best XI with two top games
Look out, MLS. Landon Donovan is back in a big way.
After being left out of the United States’ squad for the 2014 World Cup, Donovan finally broke the Major League Soccer regular-season goalscoring record, but then he started to fade a little, whether it was due to the disappointment of being left at home or a simple lull after working himself up to be in shape for selection. However, he busted his personal slump with two good performances last week.
First, he scored a goal and assisted the other two in the LA Galaxy’s 3-0 shellacking of the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field. He followed that up with a quieter performance at home against the Portland Timbers, still recording an assist on Robbie Keane’s game-winning goal and creating a whopping eight goalscoring chances overall.
“I felt like I haven’t played well lately, and that’s bothered me,” he told reporters after the match in Seattle. “I got myself to the point in early May where I was playing very well, and I was at the top of my game. The last month or so has been difficult for a lot of reasons, and I think my performance dropped off. I wanted to get back to getting to the top of my game, and I felt that way tonight.”
It’s hard to argue with him. A return to the flat 4-4-2 that has been so successful historically for the Galaxy helped, as did Robbie Rogers’ overlapping from left back that allowed Donovan to pinch in as he desired.
Donovan, an MLS All-Star for the 14th straight season, joins 10 others in this week’s Best XI selection:
Planet Fútbol MLS Best XI — Week 21
• Bill Hamid (D.C. United): Hamid turned in two solid performances before he flies to Portland to join the MLS All-Stars. He earned his 25th career shutout in a win over Toronto FC before keeping D.C. in the match for 90 minutes in Houston, losing another clean sheet to a mistake from Steve Birnbaum in front of him.
• Carlyle Mitchell (Vancouver Whitecaps): In a scoreless draw in Chicago, Mitchell played well on both sides of the ball, making eight clearances and distributing at a 94-percent clip. He only failed to connect on two passes and anchored a back line that kept a shutout on the road.
• Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake): Borchers’ leadership was again evident and necessary in closing out a one-goal victory in Colorado, as RSL played the second half a man down. Nine of his 12 clearances came in the second half.
• Aurélien Collin (Sporting Kansas City): Collin was strong in 1-on-1 battles in a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia, also spraying the ball for 91 percent pass completion. Most of his distribution was wide to the advancing Kansas City fullbacks, which is a vital facet of the team’s attack.
• Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls): Besides his sublime chipped finish to kickstart New York’s comeback against New England, McCarty completed 90 percent of his passes and recovered 14 loose balls. The Red Bulls played down a man for a half but still won, due in large part to McCarty’s effort in front of the back line.
• Michael Bradley (Toronto FC): Speaking of distributors, Bradley set up both Toronto goals and completed 90 percent of his passes in a 2-0 away win over Montreal. He changed the point of attack to Dominic Oduro, who crossed in for the first goal, and then he found Oduro again with a perfectly weighted through ball, who again crossed in for the second goal.
• Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy): This week’s star played part of each goal in a 3-0 win over Seattle, also assisting on Robbie Keane’s first goal against Portland with a neat stop-and-go move down the left flank. Donovan looked energized in both matches, showing more of the form that left many scratching their heads when he wasn’t named to the U.S. World Cup roster.
• Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution): Nguyen drew a red card from Matt Miazga in New England’s second game of the week after carrying the Revs through the first match, busting their winless streak. He scored twice and added an assist in the 3-0 win, including a powerful goal directly off a free kick.
• Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy): Zardes scored against Seattle and Portland, making it four goals in four games for the second-year player. After an inconsistent first season, he’s starting to show some of the skill he promised after leaving college early to play in MLS.
• Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes): As a shadow striker underneath Yannick Djaló, Wondolowski acted as San Jose’s primary playmaker and assisted the only goal of the game against Seattle. On the other end, he cleared Chad Barrett’s header off the line with five minutes left to seal the result.
• Federico Higuaín (Columbus Crew): Another vital Higuaín performance helped Columbus claw back a point in Chicago. He scored off the second-half kickoff and completed three key passes — and a nice dummy through his legs that also led to a shot on goal, making it four chances created for his teammates.