Donovan's wonder strike against New England impresses his peers
Before it happened, Shalrie Joseph knew what was about to unfold.
The New England Revolution midfielder was about 10 yards away when the goal was struck, but he knew what the end result was going to be. It was the 21st minute of the New England-Los Angeles tilt on Aug. 8 and the Galaxy's David Beckham found teammate Alan Gordon on the right flank. Taking a touch to the inside, Gordon sent in a weak cross with his left foot, a hopeful ball in search of Jovan Kirovski. The Revolution's Darrius Barnes touched a poor clearance that fell to Landon Donovan on the right side of the box.
Instead of settling, Donovan one-timed the poorly cleared ball with his left foot. The ball dipped and curved, knuckling through the Foxboro air.
The Revolution's Matt Reis, perhaps the league's most unheralded goalkeeper, sprawled for the shot. The ball tucked neatly inside the post. A hush came over the stadium.
"As the ball came down, I had mixed thoughts about whether to shoot or not but decided to pull the trigger," Donovan said. "I knew I had hit it perfectly but from my angle, I wasn't positive that it was going to go in."
Joseph just looked on, not sure how to respond.
"When I saw him touch the ball, I knew it was going in," Joseph said. "It was brilliant. It was the perfect shot. Everything about it was just right. It was pure brilliance."
The movement of the ball was the the stuff of legend. The shot swerved and curved, reminiscent of the bending free kick taken by Roberto Carlos in the Tournoi de France in 1997. Except Donovan's strike was in the run of play with the weaker of his two feet. It was, in one word, amazing.
Of course, it came with some controversy.
There was some question as to the ball striking New England's Emmanuel Osei en route to finding the back of the net. In postgame comments and according to members of the Revolution organization, the ball did not deflect or graze Osei. Joseph thinks it did but even if it did, he said the contact would not have significantly changed the shot, sentiments Donovan also shares.
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"To this day, I can't really tell from the replay whether it hit Osei's head or not," Donovan said. "My feeling when I hit the shot was that it nicked off his head a tiny bit, but it's hard to know for sure."
Though there are still a couple of months of soccer left in the season, one would have to think the highlight will be the Sierra Mist Goal of the Year. It was that good, and that unique. Joseph believes so.
"It was, to me, the goal of the year," said Joseph, who one week before saw Toronto FC's Dwayne De Rosario strike a long-distance ball that won the Sierra Mist goal of the week. "Not to take anything away from DeRo's shot, but just the way [Donovan] took the ball in the air and hit it with his left foot -- from that distance and with that placement -- it was amazing to see."
It was the start of a busy week for Donovan, who scored the goal that night then headed off to Mexico City to play in the United States' 2-1 World Cup qualifying loss to Mexico. Somewhere along the way, he contracted the swine flu virus, which severely limited him during the game. He says his recovery is strong, and he made a second-half appearance this past weekend in the Galaxy's 2-0 loss to Seattle. Donovan, for his part, sees more significance to the goal then just an end-of-the-year award. Even after this breathtaking goal, he still considers his goal in the 2001 MLS Cup as one of his all-time favorites, and he hopes the goal from Saturday night and the Galaxy's win will help carry the team into the playoffs this year.
"I'm not really concerned with it being goal of the year," Donovan said. "It was a big goal for our team that helped us win an important road game."
And while you can't necessarily practice wonder goals, the little things in practice go a long way toward creating the type of moment we saw at Foxboro.
"When I first came up with the national team, I remember Landon always did a lot of work after practice. Working on his finishing," said U.S. national teammate Sacha Kljestan. "In particular, he did a lot work with his left foot. I guess it paid off."
Quote of the week
"Beats me. It's a good secret to have, though."
-- Chicago Fire forward Chris Rolfe, when asked the secret to the team's success on the road this year. The Fire are 5-2-4 as visitors this year, tops in MLS. Rolfe scored in Chicago's 2-0 victory at Kansas City on Sunday.
• Former Revolution turned former Seattle Sounder turned former New York Red Bulls midfielder Khano Smith is back in New England and training with the Revs. Smith is looking to sign with a playoff-bound team, and the Revs are at the top of his list.
• Last week, it was reported that United States U-20 and Napoli midfielder Vincenzo Bernardo was interested in coming to MLS. While there has been contact between Bernardo and the New York Red Bulls -- Bernardo was a member of their fantastic youth system -- nothing has come of those talks. This past week, Napoli has offered Bernardo a two-year contract extension, contingent upon them finding a team willing to take him on loan.
• Early last week, former New England Revolution midfielder Clint Dempsey signed a four-year contract extension with Fulham, which will make him one of the club's highest-paid stars.
• Not one player on the Chivas USA roster has played in every game this year.
• Second-half wonders? Not so much. The Red Bulls are 0-15-0 that is 15 losses this year, when trailing at halftime.
Kristian R. Dyer is a freelance writer for ESPNsoccernet. He is the associate editor of Blitz magazine and also writes for the New York City daily paper Metro. He can be reached at KDyer@RutgersInsider.com