Landon on the mark - Edmonton Sun

Galaxy striker thriving from Beckham feeds

By DEREK VAN DIEST

LOS ANGELES -- Forget David Beckham. How good is Landon Donovan?

Better yet, how good is Donovan going to be for the L.A. Galaxy with Beckham feeding him the ball?

"David's a good soccer player so it makes it a lot easier for me," Donovan said.

"We've had quite a bit of time to get used to each other. And aside from the goals that go in, there are a handful of other chances that we're missing that are just a few feet off. But it's good that we have that connection."

In Saturday night's 5-2 victory over city rivals Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center, Donovan scored a hat-trick, increasing his Major League Soccer-leading goal total to eight through the first five games. He could have scored five, having been left on the doorstep twice by Beckham in the second half.

"The strengths of my game are running off the ball and I know that if I made a good run, more often than not he's going to put the ball in the right spot," Donovan said.

"It's a good combination and it's worked out so far."

Donovan, 26, a local California product, is considered by many to be the best American-born player of all time. He was the youngest player in MLS history to score 50 goals. He's also the U.S. national team's all-time leading scorer with 35 goals in 98 games and has played in two World Cups.

"Landon's positioning at the moment is excellent," said Galaxy head coach Ruud Gullit.

"He's going to the right spaces and he finishing his chances. He's a star player and David is a star player and right now both of them are doing what they need to do and I'm happy for them."

Prior to Beckham's arrival, Donovan was the brightest star in the Galaxy's locker-room. He was also one of the marquee players in the league. Now he's been overshadowed by the Beckham circus.

"He's maybe the most famous person on earth, so I understand that part of it," Donovan said.

"But when I'm on the field I express myself the same way and so does he, so I don't worry about that. Off the field, he's a famous guy and he's going to get a lot of attention and that's fine - he deserves it. It's never an issue.

"Just having him out here practising with us helps a lot," Donovan said.

"Last year he wasn't at 100% so he couldn't practise with us and would just come on and play a few minutes in the games he did play. "Now just practising with him you're able to develop a connection on the field that we can take into games."

This season, Beckham has played every minute of the first five regular-season games for the Galaxy, as has Donovan. Together they have the Galaxy battling for top spot in the Western Division.

"Obviously it's helped statistically already, but there are other things he does as well," Donovan said.

"He puts balls in places where you put pressure on defences so I know that even if I don't get to the ball, if you put pressure on it, eventually it's going to go in."

At his current pace, Donovan's star may rival Beckham's in the U.S. one day, although worldwide he's still a relative unknown.

"At first, I don't think we realized just how famous he was," Donovan said.

"With him in the locker-room and on the field everything seems normal. But then the first time we travelled we saw the way people look at him and follow him, it's incredible.

"It's calmed down a little, but when we go to a place that we haven't been yet, it strikes back up again and it gets crazy ... it's still crazy, but not as crazy."

© Edmonton Sun 2008