As he enjoys one of the most spectacular runs of form seen in Major League Soccer, Donovan is oozing aggression, cockiness and a hunger to further establish himself as the most dangerous player in the league.
But perhaps "enjoy" is not the right word. Because despite a match-winning hat trick in the Galaxy’s morale-boosting 5-2 victory over local rivals Chivas USA in Saturday’s Honda SuperClasico, the expression that crossed Donovan’s face the most was a defiant snarl rather than a self-satisfied smile.
The level of intensity the 26-year-old is currently performing at is too much for most MLS opponents to handle, and it is clear head coach Ruud Gullit is determined to keep his player locked into this present mindset.
Donovan is at his best when he has a point to prove, which perhaps explains why Gullit resisted the temptation to give great acclaim following the game. Gullit singled out youngster Sean Franklin as the Galaxy’s best player of the night despite Donovan’s remarkable performance.
"Landon is looking very sharp and fit," Gullit said. "But I have to praise the other players, too, and Franklin has been our best player the last two weeks."
Even Yahoo! Sports got caught in the Donovan crosshairs, as he demanded to know in the locker room whether he would still be at No. 11 in our next list of the MLS's top 20 players. The next rankings are not yet finalized and confidential, but I don’t think I’m giving away too many secrets by suggesting he may have climbed a place or two.
With eight goals in six games this season, Donovan is on course to bag 40 by the end of the campaign if he keeps going at this spectacular rate. So what is the difference? Is it a new Donovan or just a new attitude?
Donovan does have far better service at his disposal this year, especially in the form of a fully fit David Beckham, but even the England midfielder’s expert deliveries from the right side of midfield do not tell the full story.
Donovan is most effective when he is fired up and has the ability to channel that aggression into outstanding play. The flip side is that it makes him act in a way that is not particularly sporting. However, it is highly unlikely that Gullit or anyone else at the club will tell him to tone things down as long as he keeps terrorizing opposing defenses.
When he stood over Houston Dynamo defender Patrick Ianni to talk trash as payback following the first of his two goals last week, Donovan provided extra ammunition for the percentage of supporters determined not to like him, and the display prompted some criticism. On Saturday, his leap into the vicinity of the Chivas bench after his third goal infuriated head coach Preki, who described the action as "crap."
But Donovan is what he is, take him or leave him. He does not seem to care whether he is liked, although he does want his achievements to be appreciated and recognized.
Still, he did not back down to Preki after the match.
"If you don’t like me jumping to celebrate, then don’t let me score," Donovan said. "Secondly, I tried to apologize to him because he was upset about it and I didn’t mean anything by it. If he is not willing to accept my apology, then he is not much of a man."
So whether you love Donovan or hate him, the best advice right now is this: get out of his way.
- Ruud Gullit