Bruce Arena started working with Landon Donovan when the player was 17 years old. Through success at youth levels, the U.S. men’s national team, and with MLS, the Galaxy boss has watched the one-time prodigy grow into a U.S. soccer icon. There may be nobody in the game that knows Donovan as well as his long-time head coach.
That’s why Arena, speaking after today’s press conference in Carson, Calif., was so emotional, reacting like a father whose seen his son reach one of life’s seminal moment.
From the interview, above, via the league’s website:
“There are people in our lives that make a difference, and he has as a player, and as a person. I’ve seen him as a young kid, now I see him as a man, seeing him at the end of a career. It’s unbelievably ironic that I’ve seen him as a baby in this sport and now a man that’s leaving.
“To see the joy he had today and also to witness the suffering he’s experienced throughout his career … to see that range of emotions and now to see that he’s happy again, it’s emotional to me.”
It underscores the humanity we’ve been able to see from Donovan, especially over the last four years. This isn’t just a successful player. It’s one that’s evolved in front of our eyes. The highs, the lows have played out with history in focus. As much as Donovan’s career is a point of greatness, it’s also a point of empathy.
Arena’s been on hand for some of the most important parts: The break through in 2002, and three of the titles in MLS. It’s no wonder he holds a special place for one of his greatest players.