It's reunion time for Landon Donovan, who on Wednesday will see American Brad Friedel, next weekend likely reconnect with Galaxy teammate Robbie Keane -- and now he's got a matchup with fellow U.S. national team attacker Clint Dempsey.
Everton was drawn Sunday with Dempsey's Fulham for the fourth round of the F.A. Cup, which will be played the weekend of Jan. 28. Dempsey scored a hat trick in the Cottagers' 4-0 rout of fellow Londoners Charlton Athletic in their tournament opener Saturday.
Donovan played a key role in Everton's 2-0 victory over non-league Tamworth, in which he got to visit with former Galaxy teammate Kyle Patterson. It was his second 90-minute appearance since his eight-week loan to the Toffees began on New Year's Day.
“I feel great, cardio-wise. My legs are a little tired, so hopefully I'll get a few days to kind of come down and recover a little bit, and then a really big game that I'm excited for,” Donovan said after Saturday's win, on video posted on Everton's website. “I think the team struggled a little bit [in Donovan's first game, a loss Wednesday] against Bolton. I thought we played a little bit better today.
“We're going to need a big effort against Tottenham [on Wednesday], but it's been nice to be back. I've enjoyed the couple games so far and just want to keep going.”
Tottenham, which sits third in the Premier League standings with a 13-3-3 record, features former U.S. national-teamer Friedel in the nets, and this will be the first meeting since the former UCLA All-American's comments last month to the BBC's World Service that appeared to slight Donovan.
Friedel was praising Dempsey, a Texan who has been outstanding for Fulham this season, and added: “You get a player like a Landon Donovan, who in my opinion chose to take the easy road and stay in the States. It’s much harder to ply your trade over here.”
It echoed criticism that Donovan has faced throughout his Major League Soccer career, that he won't test himself in a better league -- the EPL is widely considered the league's best -- but the goalkeeper quickly apologized for what he called a “misunderstanding” and clarified his remarks.
“At no time did I want to disparage or demean Landon Donovan in an way, shape or form,” he told MLS's website. “At no time would I ever speak publicly in a negative way about another American player and mean it and actually go out and have a go at the guy. That’s not me. That’s not my personality.”
Donovan, who has played on the right flank in both appearances for Everton (7-9-3), likely will be matched with Tottenham left-winger Gareth Bale.
“Gareth Bale might be the best left-sided player in the world at the moment,” Donovan said. “It's going to be a challenge if I play there. If I play, it's going to be a challenge, but I like those kinds of challenges. It will be fun.”
Next weekend, Everton takes on Aston Villa, which hopes by Monday to complete a transfer deal with the Galaxy to bring in Irish striker Keane for seven weeks.
“There is a bit of red tape with L.A. Galaxy,” Villa manager Alex McLeish told reporters Saturday, “but if we can get through that, he should be with us in the next 24 hours.”
Villa, which beat Bristol Rovers, 3-1, in its F.A. Cup opener, was drawn away for the fourth round against the winner of Monday's Arsenal-Leeds United match.