Landon Donovan's last game in an Everton uniform, at least for the time being, arrived a week ago, it turns out.
A bout with flu forced the Galaxy's captain to miss Saturday's F.A. Cup fifth-round clash with visiting Blackpool, but the Toffees' sparkplug wasn't required. Roysten Drenthe provided a lead after 48 seconds and Denis Stracqualursi doubled the advantage five minutes later en route to a 2-0 victory.
Donovan, Everton's Player of the Month for January, heads back to California on Sunday after the final game of his loan deal, next Saturday against Liverpool, was postponed because Everton's archrival is playing in the League Cup final the following day.
“Of course, I'll miss [being at Everton]. How would you not want to be part of this?” Donovan told English broadsheet The Guardian last week. “But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited about laying on a beach on Monday.”
He also has a Galaxy medical exam on Monday and will join teammates later in the week in Tucson, where the final stage of the club's preseason includes four games in the Desert Diamond Cup exhibition tournament. L.A. opens its season March 7 in a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg at Toronto FC, then meets Real Salt Lake in a March 10 Major League Soccer opener at Home Depot Center.
Galaxy teammate Robbie Keane finishes his loan deal with Aston Villa with next week's English Premier League game at Wigan Athletic.
Donovan, who had a successful loan to the Toffees two years ago, was again outstanding in blue, contributing six assists in nine appearances in two competitions -- he assisted six of 10 Everton goals heading into Saturday's match -- and adding a needed dimension to a struggling attack from his spot on the right side of midfield. The highlights were EPL victories over first-place Manchester City and Everton, then in fourth.
(ESPN Stats & Information's Paul Carr and Albert Lacarda offer an statistical analysis of Donovan's time at Goodison.)
“I think Landon's done terrific in his spell here,” Everton manager David Moyes told media this week. “He's been involved in assists, good team performances, and I think it was a bit like the last time he was here. We won some big games at that period, and he's come in and done the same.
“We'll be sad to see him go, but we'll be thankful for him the way he's conducted himself off the pitch and how he's performed on the pitch.”
Donovan told The Guardian that the biggest thing he brought to Everton, which hasn't lost in seven games after a difficult spell to start the campaign, was his attitude.
“I think I came with a fresh perspective,” he said. “The team had struggled a bit in the first part of the season. Even when I was watching the games back home, the energy seemed a bit down. It was almost like we're going to dominate possession, create chances, and then let a goal in. It was almost as though people were waiting for that to happen. But [new arrival] Steven Pienaar came with a fresh perspective, so did [Darron Gibson], and that kind of changed the way the team has functioned.”
Donovan, who will be 30 next month, has two years left on his Galaxy contract, but he acknowledged last week he might be interested in joining Everton on a full-time basis. He told The Guardian he'll take whatever comes.
“I know in the short term I will be in L.A. for the next year,” he said. “So for the next 12 months, I will be doing the best that I can there. I will then have a conversation with my manager and the owner and see which direction we are going in. If it means I play in L.A. for another year, another five years, whatever, I am going to turn up and do the best that I can every single day.
“If it means I go somewhere else, I will do that. I don't have this crazy desire to go to this team or that or play in that league. I just want to enjoy what I do and be successful. I suppose human nature is that you always want bigger, better, faster, stronger. But I let the world take me where it is going to take me. I'm enjoying it.”
THE BOSS' JOB: Donovan addressed with The Guardian the possibility manager Moyes could move to Tottenham if Spurs boss Harry Redknapp is appointed England's national team coach.
“I think sometimes players fit a club and sometimes managers fit a club,” Donovan told the newspaper. “I don't think anyone would blame him for going somewhere like Tottenham, but I guess everything depends on who would come in his place instead. It would be a very sad day if he ever left this club, that's for sure.
“I don't think I could overstate his importance. When you look around the league and you look at the salaries, as well as what teams are spending in the transfer market, against this team, it is almost a miracle that this team finishes as high as it does every year. He gets the most out of every player. He gets the most out of every signing. He has been fantastic. I can't imagine the things this club would do with some of the budgets that the other clubs have. The easiest place to look is across the road [at Liverpool]. If he could spend £50 million or £35 million on a player, think where this team would finish.”
GAME BY GAME
Jan. 1 at West Bromwich Albion (W, 1-0)
Did not dress
Jan. 4 vs. Bolton (L, 1-2)
Started, 90 minutes
Jan. 7 F.A. Cup third round vs. Tamworth (W, 2-0)
Started, 90 minutes, one assist (Heitinga)
Jan. 11 at Tottenham (L, 0-2)
Started, 90 minutes, yellow card
Jan. 14 at Aston Villa (T, 1-1)
Started, 90 minutes, one assist (Anichebe)
Jan. 21 vs. Blackburn (T, 1-1)
Started, 90 minutes
Jan. 27 F.A. Cup fourth round vs. Fulham (W, 2-1)
Started, 90 minues, two assists (Stracqualursi, Fellaini)
Feb. 1 vs. Manchester City (W, 1-0)
Started, 90 minutes, assist (Gibson)
Feb. 4 at Wigan Athletic (T, 1-1)
Started, 90 minutes
Feb. 11 vs. Chelsea (W, 2-0)
Started, 90 minutes, assist (Sttracqualursi)
Feb. 18 F.A. Cup round of 16 vs. Blackpool (W, 2-0)
Did not dress
EPL: 7 games, 7 starts (630 minutes), 3 assists, 1 yellow card, club record 2-2-3
F.A. Cup: 2 games, 2 starts (180 minutes), 3 assists, club record 2-0-0
All competitions: 9 games, 9 starts (810 minutes), 6 assists, club record 4-2-3