Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

Breaking Down 57 Goals for Dempsey and Donovan

July 22nd, 2017 · No Comments · Football, Landon Donovan, soccer, World Cup

Not long after Landon Donovan was pushed into giving up international soccer, by U.S. national soccer’s blundering coach Jurgen Klinsmann, I took a look at Landon’s record 57 goals for the U.S. national soccer team and broke them down by categories.

That parsing of his production appeared on this blog on August 9, 2014 (along with this link to a video of all 57 of his U.S. goals) and, no doubt, represented what I thought would be some of my last observations on the matter.

I believed Landon’s goals record was safe, certainly over a 5-10 year horizon. I wrote: “No one else is close, unless you consider Clint Dempsey, trailing by 18, to be close.”

Donovan was only 32 when he announced his international retirement, later in 2014. Dempsey was 31, which is considered “old” for forwards, these days, and I discounted his chances of catching the attacking midfielder perched at 57 goals.

Turns out, Dempsey was just getting warmed up, and his output in the ensuing three years has been remarkable — to the point that he caught Landon at 57 goals tonight in a 2-0 Gold Cup semifinals victory over Costa Rica.

(This item has a list of Dempsey’s 57 goals, and the file features individual links to each of them. Meanwhile, here are Landon’s 57 goals.)

Barring something strange, Dempsey will break Donovan’s record, perhaps as soon as Wednesday, in the Gold Cup final versus Mexico or Jamaica.

But at this moment the two of them are sitting on the same big number, so let’s compare what they have done, with their 57 each.

Donovan: Leaving penalties out of this, he scored 24 goals with his right foot, 14 with his left, 4 with his head.

Dempsey: Ignoring penalties, he scored 28 with his right foot, 11 with his left, 6 with his head and 1 off his right hip (vs. Portugal in the 2014 World Cup).

(Seems clear Donovan was more comfortable with his “off” foot. Dempsey was particularly right-footed early; 11 of his first 12 kicked goals came off his right foot, but he worked to improve himself; 10 of his past 27 foot-propelled goals were struck by his left.)

Donovan scored four headers and 15 penalties; Dempsey has 11 headers and 6 penalties.

(Donovan is 5-foot-8; scoring in the air was never going to be his forte; Dempsey, at 6-foot-1, took advantage of his size and liked a ball in the air. Meantime, Landon got a break on the PK side; his ninth goal was a PK, and he took pretty much all of them for the U.S. from 2007 through 2011. Dempsey did not have a penalty until his 26th goal.)

Of Donovan’s 42 non-PK goals, 35 came inside the box, 7 outside.

Of Dempsey’s 51 non-PK goals, 47 came from inside the box, only 4 from outside.

(This surprises me. A lot. Donovan outscoring the taller and heavier Dempsey from distance? When I think of Dempsey I see a guy with a shot heavy enough to score from 25-30 yards but to look at his goals on video is to see one after another coming on short shots, many inside the 6-yard box. Actually, two of his four (ever) from outside the box came in his three most recent goals, including the goal against Costa Rica tonight. Have a look. That is a rarity, friends.)

Donovan got his 57 goals in 157 U.S. national team matches. Dempsey reached 57 goals in 135 appearances, thanks to a torrid streak.

(On August 9, 2014, Donovan had scored at a higher rate than had Dempsey. For each match he played, Donovan had scored .365 goals; Dempsey was at .356. But the Texan was about to turn into a scoring machine as he headed into his mid-30s. He has scored 18 goals in his past 26 appearances, including hat tricks versus Cuba and Honduras, and his career rate is now an impressive .422 goals per match after his startling, three-year surge of .692 goals per game.)

Other stats:

–Landon has 5 World Cup goals in 12 appearances; Dempsey has 4 in 10. Edge to Donovan.

–Landon had 13 goals in 40 World Cup qualifiers; Dempsey has 18 in 38. Edge to Dempsey; you want to see a guy turn it up when a World Cup berth is on the line.

–Donovan had 18 goals in 34 Gold Cup appearances; Dempsey has 13 in 22. Edge to Dempsey.

–Donovan scored 19 goals in 63 friendlies; Dempsey has 16 in 51. Edge to Dempsey; a higher pace but not so many it feels like he should have saved them for a competitive match.

–Donovan scored against 26 countries. He was most prolific against Cuba (8 goals) and Mexico (6) and Honduras (6). Dempsey has scored against 29 opponents; he has been most successful against Honduras (7 goals), Guatemala (6) and Cuba (5). Edge to Donovan for scoring six against Mexico, the greatest U.S. rival and, by the way, Dempsey has never scored against Mexico. Not in nine matches.

–By confederations … Landon scored 37 against fellow Concacaf members, 10 against Europe, 6 versus South America, 2 versus Africa and 1 against Asia; Dempsey has 35 versus Concacaf, 12 against Europe (including 2 each against England and Germany), four against South America (2 versus Brazil) and 2 versus Asia.

Edge to Dempsey because he has outscored Donovan 12-10 against European sides and didn’t pillage Concacaf quite as often as Landon.

Taking all the numbers into account we are tempted to use them as building blocks in an argument over “which guy was more important?” Who was the greatest U.S. attacking player?

However, it is more than a little “apples and oranges” situation.

Dempsey has played in an advanced position throughout his career and spent a lot of time in the opposition’s box. To watch him score his 57 goals is to see a man who profits from passes sent his way by his teammates. Taking advantage of scoring chances, that’s huge; few players can do it as well as he does, and we can’t really expect forwards to create their own opportunities.

But he has taken it to a bit of an extreme. In 57 pieces of video showing his 57 goals, only once did he take as many as four touches before letting the ball fly (against Ghana in the 2014 World Cup.) He is a specialist; a very good one, but he is not doing the box-to-box work of a top-tier midfield-oriented player like, say, Landon Donovan, who also scored a lot of goals.

Let’s wait and see what Dempsey does, going forward. He has had some issues with an erratic heartbeat, which appears to be under control; he certainly is playing like a man who is feeling good and enjoying himself.

Maybe he has another 20 goals in him, including some at the World Cup next year. If so, that will change the discussion again.

Dempsey and Donovan made for a good pairing; they were the key U.S. attacking players from about 2005 till 2011.

U.S. fans remember each scored a goal as the U.S. took a shocking 2-0 lead over Brazil in the 2009 Confederations Cup final (which ended 3-2 to Brazil), heretofore the closest the Yanks have come to a Fifa trophy and, thus, the zenith of American soccer.

Fans remember that Donovan and Dempsey were part of that desperate, four-man charge to the scoring end in the Algeria game at the 2010 World Cup. Landon started the rush, Dempsey took a shot that was deflected, and Landon tapped in the winner that gave the Yanks the top place in their group.

Now, it’s just Dempsey, with Landon in the TV studio asking him to “stop now” so they can “share” the record.

He was kidding. In theory.




0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment