Landon Donovan breezed through Manhattan on Wednesday, dressed to the nines and a few thousand miles from where his Galaxy teammates were prepping for their biggest game of the young 2010 season.
Donovan’s mission? It wasn’t exactly clear. He was either promoting a new Gillette razor or satisfying the wishes of a few jittery FIFA 10 savants, who evidently got the chance to wallop on their hero in a virtual soccer world while Donovan’s mind was fittingly planted elsewhere.
But the grinning, glamorous soccer spokesman is Donovan’s role in the waning days before the World Cup, and one he seems to be embracing with delight. He’s been media-savvy for years, but the public’s gaze is decidedly as strong now as it’s ever been.
Everton. The World Cup. Sticking to the bromantic-comedy script about teammate David Beckham. He’s already perhaps the most relevant American player outside of the insular and inclusive world of soccer fans, and it’s only going to steamroll as the Americans near their World Cup opener on June 12.
The Galaxy captain has been at ground zero for some of the biggest moments in American soccer history over the last eight years. And somehow, the media exposure he’s gained over that time makes him able to brush off the most curious questions in the business time and time again.
On Wednesday he was back at that finely rehearsed gig, calmly fielding a slew of interviews [WATCH: Weekender chats to Donovan] in the basement of a posh Manhattan club and time and again explaining the importance, the significance and even the format of the World Cup.
Wayne Gretzky was sipping drinks at the event, too, and Derek Jeter strolled in fresh off a 2-for-4 day against the Angels at Yankee Stadium (No Minka Kelly sightings, unfortunately). Think anyone asked The Great One to explain what a best-of-seven series was, or if Jeter could please expound on what winning the World Series means to George Steinbrenner?
No matter. Nothing seems to make a dent in Donovan these days. He and his Galaxy teammates are playing perhaps the best soccer in MLS this season, and all eyes will certainly be on the Home Depot Center for Saturday night’s match with Real Salt Lake, easily the most enticing game on this weekend’s card.
The Galaxy’s comments all week have been predictably bent towards revenge. A bad taste in their mouths. Wiping the slate clean. Erasing the memories from 2009, when RSL crashed the league’s prom and stole the tiaras from Donovan and Beckham just before the coronation ceremony.
Players and coaches hate the idea of a statement game, but this truly is the first one of the 2010 season. If Donovan & Co. can win this one, they’ll clear the first four weeks of the year unblemished and vault eight points ahead of the suddenly struggling reigning champs.
And Edson Buddle? Donovan’s calling him the best forward in the league, thanks to a red-hot start that’s seen him already match his scoring totals from an injury-plagued 2009.
So many questions. Can Buddle continue his torrid pace? Can the Galaxy overcome their 2009 disappointment? How about that new Gillette Fusion razor? What is the World Cup, anyway?
Landon, you’re wanted on the set.
We’re Watching: Manchester City vs. Manchester United
The Manchester Derby is easily the most intriguing game of the weekend abroad. The hype and the heat belong to Carlos Tévez, who scored three goals over two Carling Cup matches against his former Red Devils mates earlier this season. Was Sir Alex Ferguson right to let him go? Watch for Tévez to sink or swim with all eyes in England fixed on this one.
At the Theater: Kick-Ass
Times are tough at the box office if we’re talking about a teen superhero caper film that first caught a buzz at last year’s Comic Con Festival. But it’s April, and we’re still three weeks away from Iron Man 2. For now, Nicolas Cage pilots a relatively young cast that includes Christopher Mint-Plasse (Superbad, Role Models) while comic-book geeks harness the power of awkward teenage anxieties to battle evil-doers.
Listen Up: Foreign Born, Person to Person
In honor of the Galaxy’s big game on the West coast, try this 2009 release from a curiously named LA band doing an admirable job to sound anything like an LA band. The sense of Afro-pop here is inescapable, with a touch of glam and fuzzy vocals from lead singer Matt Popieluch that has critics comparing them to The Walkmen or a favorable likening to White Rabbits. The best track is “Early Warnings,” a fitting theme song for Galaxy fans to blare at the HDC if Donovan & Co. can stay on course.
Nick Firchau is a new media editor for MLSsoccer.com. “The Weekender” runs every Friday.