How much will Everton miss Landon Donovan? Ask Phil Neville.
The Toffees' captain praised Donovan as his loan spell with the Liverpool club came to an end, telling the team's website that the Galaxy star, in his second loan stint to the club in three years, was a “breath of fresh air.”
“Last time he came here, he lit the place up,” said Neville, a former England national-teamer. “He came back this time a couple of years older and with more expectation on his shoulders. He was really on a hiding to nothing, and I think this time he's performed even better.”
Donovan had six assists in nine matches -- seven games in the English Premier League, two in the F.A. Cup -- was selected the club's Player of the Month for January (just as he was in 2010) and added a dimension to the attack as Everton, struggling before he arrived, knocked off powers Manchester City and Chelsea and advanced to the F.A. Cup quarterfinals.
Donovan, who returned Sunday to Southern California, was forced to miss his final game, Saturday's F.A. Cup fifth-round triumph over Blackpool, because of a bout with flu.
“I know how he felt when he had to miss the game. He was devastated,” Neville said. “It was just nice that he could thank the fans for a tremendous two months. He was a breath of fresh air around the place. He immersed himself in the whole club -- not just on the pitch but off the pitch as well. We will miss him.”
WORTH NOTING: The Galaxy traveled Tuesday to Tucson, Ariz., and will open the Desert Diamond Cup on Wednesday night against the New England Revolution. Kickoff is at 5 p.m. PT, and New York and Real Salt Lake tangle at 7 PT. Both games will be streamed on Major League Soccer's website. ... The Galaxy plays Real Salt Lake on Saturday at 5 PT, New York on Feb. 29 at 7 p.m. PT, with the consolation and final set for 5 and 7 PT on March 3. All of the tournament games will be show at mlssoccer.com. ... Omar Gonzalez will appear Saturday from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the Galaxy's booth at the Cal South Soccer Nation Expo at the L.A. Convention Center.