Landon Donovan came out and said he doesn’t have the fire he once did. The Los Angeles Galaxy star said he was prepared for the next two years, and then would reevaluate. The American talisman mentioned that his heart wasn’t in it as it had been when he was younger, essentially conceding the “who’s better?” argument to Clint Dempsey.
Good for him.
Athletes should always be praised for honesty and candor. But even more credit goes to Donovan for saying something he felt and not worrying about how the world reacted. There was — still is, in fact — a chance that Donovan’s comments would blow up in his face. He’s certainly not having the best season of his life. He gave Jurgen Klinsmann an out if the US coach doesn’t want to start him in the upcoming friendlies. He gave critics plenty of fodder.
But he said it anyway. That’s commendable.
Donovan — because of his demeanor, his candor, his So Cal-style — doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves for the effort he puts in, the pressure he deals with, the demands on his time he endures. He’s been the face of American soccer for a decade now, which is a long time for anyone, much less a quiet guy who’s happier with his dogs on the beach than in front of 60,000 fans.
He knows how lucky he’s been, but no one really understands how hard he’s worked for everything. If anything, soccer is the easy part for Donovan. The rest of the superstar persona is more exhausting. So, when the footballing side becomes more difficult — he hinted multiple times at his decreasing abilities — it’s not surprising that the game becomes less enjoyable.
Which leaves us where, exactly? American supporters have at least two more years of Donovan in his more or less prime, perhaps a little slower but more experienced. (He’s the best distributor on the American team. Just look at his assist totals.) He’ll be a contributor on the national team through the 2014 World Cup and a force in Major League Soccer, as well. (And Everton?) Then, like he said, he’ll reevaluate. He’ll probably keep playing, but know that when he disappears into that California sunset, it will be on his terms.
And we should applaud him for taking control.