Clint Dempsey vs. Landon Donovan: Who's Better and Why?Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
It's the debate that will have a room full of U.S. supporters arguing for hours. Who's the best U.S. footballer: Clint Dempsey or Landon Donovan?
For years, the answer was obvious. Landon Donovan is the national team's all-time leader in goals, assists, games started and second in total caps. He's been named Honda U.S. Player of the Year seven times and deserved it every time.
Since being named "Young Player of the Tournament" during the 2002 World Cup, Donovan has defined U.S. football.
But statistics can be deceiving and times are indeed changing.
Dempsey announced himself by winning the 2004 MLS Rookie of the Year in his first season with the New England Revolution. Two years later, he was the only U.S. player to score during the Nats' disastrous 2006 World Cup in Germany. He is currently destroying defenses in the Premier League.
They are arguably the two best players the United States has ever produced. But who's better? Let's break it down.
Dempsey is lots of things on the football pitch, but he is not particularly fast. The Fulham man survives on other traits. He pops up in dangerous areas, scores bags of goals and almost never seems to take a single step at a full sprint.
By contrast, Donovan can run step-for-step with almost anyone. Even at age 30, he can fly when it's required.
Donovan is no slouch with the ball. He is one of the most technically proficient players in U.S. history. But Dempsey is a cut above.
When the ball finds Dempsey's feet as he's bursting into the area, there isn't another player that pulls on the national team jersey who is as dangerous and unpredictable.
Both players link short passes effectively. Both have an eye for a dangerous ball. The difference lies in their openness to playing it in the final third. Dempsey picks out the final ball from time to time, but he is more often than not looking to get his shot away.
Whether in club or international play, Donovan keeps his options open until the last moment. As a result, he picks up assists like they've stopped making the things.
Donovan averages almost eight-and-a-half assists per season over his decade in MLS. He also tallied three assists in just seven Premier League games with Everton this season. By contrast, Dempsey has managed just five in 33 for Fulham in 2011-12.
No goalkeeper is happy when his defenders allow either Dempsey or Donovan to get a shot away. Both players score regularly and put the ball on target more often than not.
Dempsey shoots more for Fulham than Donovan does for the L.A. Galaxy. He is also slightly more accurate and wildly more brash. He gets the nod for goals like this one against Juventus and this one against Stoke.
In the Air
Donovan isn't an aerial warrior. He's small, quick and the last thing he wants to do is leap into the air and crash into an opponent as they battle for a high ball.
Dempsey revels in the physical side of the game. He wins 1.5 aerial duels per match in the EPL. He gives and takes the blows that come with that statistic in equal measure. That aerial ability also gives him another weapon in his significant scoring arsenal.
Weighing Their Club Careers
Before the arrival of David Beckham, Landon Donovan was the face of Major League Soccer. He is the one U.S. player that even the most disengaged American will recognize. He's torn up MLS defenses for more than a decade and shows no signs of slowing down.
But until two recent loan stints with Everton, Donovan had never succeeded in Europe. Two stints at Bayer Leverkusen early in his career failed to pan out. A loan spell at Bayern Munich in 2008-09 was a little better, but still pretty underwhelming.
Donovan looked like a complete European failure until spending two of the last three MLS offseasons at Everton. The first saw Donovan play spectacularly and earn the club's "Player of the Month" honor. Everton tried to extend the player's stay, but the Galaxy's refusal brought the player back to MLS.
The second found Donovan appearing in seven matches, tallying three assists and earning his second Everton "Player of the Month" honor in January 2012.
By contrast, Clint Dempsey got a much later start to his professional career after attending college at Furman. He made a quick start with a 2004 "Rookie of the Year" campaign for the New England Revolution.
After two more stellar years in MLS, Dempsey earned a move to Fulham. At the time, Dempsey's $4 million transfer fee was the largest ever spent on an MLS player.
Dempsey was a solid first-team performer during his first three full seasons at Craven Cottage. Last season, he stepped his level up significantly. This term, he has been the undisputed king of the roost in Martin Jol's side.
In the end, the argument at club level comes down to a question of quality over quantity. Donovan has been a star performer for longer, but at a lower level. Dempsey has reached greater heights faster and looks set to climb even further.
Impact for the U.S. National Team
Donovan has been the Nats' dominating player at two World Cups (2002, 2010). Dempsey was the best player in a miserable U.S. performance in 2006.
No one has done more in a United States jersey than Donovan; no one is really all that close. But while Donovan has been largely absent under Jurgen Klinsmann due to injury and illness, Dempsey has continued to stake his claim in the national side.
Dempsey created the most memorable moment in recent U.S. history when he notched the game's only goal during a February friendly win against Italy.
But international play is about the big competitions. In World Cup play, as Donovan goes, so goes the United States. His form in 2002 and 2010 pushed the Americans into the knockout rounds. When he was largely uninspiring in 2006, no combination of other players could make up the difference.
Dempsey might yet overhaul Donovan as the main man in the national team, but he's not there yet. Dempsey is a star for the U.S., but Donovan is the talisman.
Clint Dempsey is wrapping up his best season as a professional with Fulham. Twenty-two goals across all competitions has transfer talk bubbling all around the midfielder. As far as the media is concerned, a move to a top EPL club is a matter of when rather than if.
Only three men have scored more in the EPL this season: Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero. Dempsey is also the only non-forward among the league's top 10 goal scorers this season, although he has been playing up front more often lately.
For his part, Donovan's loan spell with Everton showed again that he has reached a point in his career where he can be a significant contributor in a European league. The L.A. Galaxy have had a miserable start to the MLS season, but Donovan has been solid.
But let's be honest—Clint Dempsey is one of the hottest players in world football at the moment.
Donovan has done more for longer than any other American outfield player. While the strength of Donovan's resume lies in his time with the national team, Dempsey has done it at the highest level for both club and country.
I'm not one who doubts Donovan's ability to succeed in the world's best professional leagues. I think at this point in his career, he could play well anywhere in the world, but it will take more than a few loan spells to prove it.
He doesn't appear to have the appetite to take on that kind of challenge. At club level, Donovan is comfortable.
Dempsey, by contrast, has welcomed challenge throughout his career. He fought his way through MLS and is in the process of fighting his way to the very top of the EPL. Unless nearly everyone is wrong, he will play in the Champions League next season. And if Dempsey plays, he excels.
Clint Dempsey Is the Best U.S. Player on the Planet(All statistics from Whoscored.com, Fulhamfc.com, USsoccer.com, MLSsoccer.com and FIFA.com)http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1148443-clint-dempsey-vs-landon-donovan-whos-better-and-why?