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Donovan Enjoys Soccer's Rewards

Redlands native is the first consecutive winner of the Honda Award, given to the national team's top player.

October 08, 2003|Jim Barrero | Times Staff Writer

Landon Donovan is such a cool customer that sometimes it's difficult to remember he's only 21.

But the national team forward, long-since branded the "future of U.S. soccer," continues to pile up the credentials that seem to put him on course to soon be the country's most decorated player.

Donovan added to his growing legacy Tuesday when he won the Honda Award for the second consecutive year as the national team's top player. It was announced at a luncheon in Beverly Hills after a vote by a nationwide media panel.

Donovan, a native of Redlands who also stars for the San Jose Earthquakes in Major League Soccer, is the first consecutive winner of the award and joins Eric Wynalda as the only other two-time winner.

"Our nickname for him is 'the Golden Boy,' " smiling U.S. and Chicago Fire defender Carlos Bocanegra said of Donovan. "We joke around with him a lot, but we know he's one of our top players every game and we always need to make sure he's involved."

Bocanegra, born in Upland and a former standout at Alta Loma High and UCLA, was a first-time finalist for the award and finished third in the voting with 130 points. Columbus Crew forward Brian McBride, also a first-time finalist, finished second with 194 points. Donovan had 396 points.

"Landon's a very deserving winner," said McBride, 31. "He's a great soccer player. I can't imagine how I would've handled all this at his age. Landon is so composed, gracious, and as a 21-year-old you can only hope to handle it the way he's handled it."

This year, Donovan scored a team-high seven goals for the U.S. and became only the fourth American player to score four goals in a game, a feat he achieved against Cuba in a CONCACAF Gold Cup game in July. Donovan already is sixth on the U.S. all-time goal-scoring list.

In 2002, Donovan helped spark the U.S. to a quarterfinal appearance in the Korea/Japan World Cup, scoring twice, in a 2-0 victory over Mexico.

Donovan said the strain of a busy year -- the U.S. played in the Confederations Cup in France in June as well as the Gold Cup -- and learning to deal with adversity had helped him maintain his consistency.

But does winning such an award two years in a row increase the pressure to perform?

"I don't think [it's more] pressure really," Donovan said, "but it makes me realize that when I went through a period where I slumped quite a bit ... that if you [come back and] perform consistently and you do the things you know you're good at, you can achieve things like this. So that's a little bit motivating."

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(Begin Text of Infobox)

Players of the Year

Past winners of the Honda Award, given annually to the best player from the U.S. national team:

*--* 2003 Landon Donovan 2002 Landon Donovan 2001 Earnie Stewart 2000 Claudio Reyna 1999 Kasey Keller 1998 Cobi Jones 1997 Eddie Pope

1996 Eric Wynalda 1995 Alexi Lalas 1994 Marcelo Balboa 1993 Thomas Dooley 1992 Eric Wynalda 1991 Hugo Perez

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