Behind the Landon Donovan loan 

December, 29, 2011

In a topsy-turvy U.S. Soccer year, few national team players had a topsier or turvier time than Landon Donovan. The Face of American Soccer scored just one goal for the Yanks in 2011, with two assists -- his lowest totals since 2006. He started not one, but two, Gold Cup matches on the bench, and he played in just two of seven national team matches after Jurgen Klinsmann replaced Bob Bradley as coach.

On the club side, though, Donovan capped 2011 in triumph, scoring a deft game-winning goal in the L.A. Galaxy's MLS Cup victory over Houston to earn his first trophy with David Beckham.

Next week, he'll return to the site of another club success, again going on loan with Everton in the English Premier League. Donovan spent 10 games with the Toffees in the winter of 2010, scoring two goals in the midst of the team's 6-2-2 stretch. "Obviously, it was a storybook situation last time," said Donovan's agent, Richard Motzkin, "and it would be wonderful if that could be replicated this time around as well."

The move came amid plenty of questions about Donovan's plans for 2012. Among them: How much time would he need to recover from a series of injuries that slowed him in the fall? After missing so much time with the national team, would he show up for Klinsmann's January camp? And finally, was there still interest abroad in the soon-to-be-30-year-old Donovan?

Luke Cyphers is a former senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.