Saturday, January 28, 2012

$.02 On the Donovan-Dempsey Debate

Much has been made in recent weeks of  the Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey debate. The debate began as a casual conversation while trying to design the perfect US National Team lineup. It seemed at the time, there would be no way to pin down which player was truly better. Donovan plies his trade in Major League Soccer whereas Dempsey produces his magic in the English Premier League.

The idea that the two would face each other was obsurd. But that changed when Donovan accepted a two month loan deal to EPL side Everton, which would see the team take on Dempsey and Fulham in the FA Cup.

As the highlights show, Everton prevailed 2-1 over Fulham and Donovan shined with two assists. Dempsey did not. That means very little in the "versus" conversation.

It is extremely difficult to compare the two players. While they both are capable of playing midfield and forward, there are many differences between them. Stylistically, Donovan is much more a two way, team player. His attitude on the field is that of a fast, direct and supporting player. His passes are as deadly as his shots. He uses his speed to put the opposing team off and is happy to dish the ball off to others for a better chance.

Dempsey on the other hand approaches the game differently. He prefers to hold the ball, dribble opposing players, and be the player to put the ball in the net. He is as deadly in the air as he is opportunistic with his feet. His face is an eternal statue of focus and a smile is rare.

<a href='^foxsports_en-us_videocentral&src=FLPl:embed::uuids' target='_new' title='FA Cup: Everton/Fulham' >Video: FA Cup: Everton/Fulham</a>

The inevitable question that arises from USA fans eager to discuss them is "who is better?" The reality though, is that it is almost impossible to determine. The two players are simply too different and lend themselves to two very different team mentalities. Some are quick to point out that Dempsey is in the English Premier League while Donovan plays in MLS, a 'lesser' league. Those arguments are null though. Donovan has proven himself time and again at the World Cup, against teams like Spain and Italy as well as performing exceptionally well on loan in England.

Donovan has nothing to prove, to anyone.

Dempsey is of course no slouch himself. He has turned from a decent midfielder, to an all out goal scorer who simply demands attention by opposing defenders. Scoring against major teams, keeping Fulham relevant to the likes of Chelsea, Man U and Arsenal is no small feat. Dempsey is a fantastic player.

Dempsey has things to prove, but only to himself. He wants Champion's League soccer.

The notion that the two are competing with one another is ridiculous outside of casual competition. There is no hostility over who is better. No angst or disassociation between the two has come out. Some media outlets have made it out that way, but is there evidence? No. The two are teammates on the one team that matters above all else: the US Men's National Team. As long as they push each other to perform on that stage, we will all reap the benefits.


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