Landon Donovan, the legend. The man has been donning the red, white and blue of the US Men’s National Team for 14 years now and this Friday night in East Hartford, Connecticut, he will do so for the final time in his farewell match against Ecuador.
Along the way the greatest player in US Soccer history has enjoyed more than his fair share of sublime goals and here we do our best to count down the five best.
5. 2014 World Cup Qualifier v. Mexico
A highly underrated moment in Donovan’s career this goal will was quintessential Landon – hustling, sliding, perfect timing and doing whatever needs to be done to knock off the US’ greatest rival, Mexico. Potentially his last goal in a US shirt, it put the Yanks through to the 2014 World Cup Finals where, incredibly and unjustifiably, Donovan was left off the roster.
4. 2009 Confederations Cup Final v. Brazil
Outside of Spain, Brazil and the US, the 2009 Confederations Cup was a tournament few soccer fans will remember. After knocking off La Furia Roja 2-0 in the semis the Americans looked destined to do the impossible when Donovan’s brilliant run and finish put the Stars & Stripes up 2-0 on Brazil going into half-time. The Selecao managed three in the second stanza to take home the title but that doesn’t take away from the spectacular nature of Donovan’s goal, which my friend Dave so astutely noted: ‘If I had one goal to show a non-soccer fan that best defines a counter-attack, that would be it.’
3. 2010 World Cup Group Stage v. Slovenia
Donovan the Game-Changer. How else to describe this goal against Slovenia in the 2010 World Cup? Down 2-0 in the second half, Donovan put the weight of the team on his shoulders and roofed this shot over the Slovenia goalkeeper’s head to cut the lead to one. It sparked a fury inside the US and after Michael Bradley leveled the Yanks should’ve had all three points on a Maurice Edu goal infamously called back by referee Koman Coulibaly. Despite the injustice, Donovan’s blast was the spark to comeback against Slovenia and to exert the same passion in the final group stage match, against Algeria.
2. 2002 World Cup Round of 16 v. Mexico
Just 20-years-old, Donovan reached cult status among supporters with this fantastic finish against Mexico that put the US into the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup. After Brian McBride opened the scoring, Donovan latched on to a perfect 65th minute cross from Eddie Lewis to nod home from close range. The goal underscored Donovan’s impeccable timing and speed, gifts US fans would reap to this day. Donovan, notably, went on to be named the Best Young Player of the 2002 World Cup.
1. 2010 World Cup Group Stage v. Algeria
Donovan’s heart-stopping goal of the 2010 World Cup will forever live on in the memories of anyone who watched that fateful match against Algeria. With the US on the brink of elimination the match crept into stoppage time even at nil-nil before quick thinking by Tim Howard set Donovan free down the right flank. Galloping into the opposition’s box, Donovan dumped off the ball and headed centrally where he slammed home Clint Dempsey’s rebound to send Americans into ecstasy (and the Round of 16). Without a doubt the most dramatic goal ever scored by an American, Donovan’s smiling face as he headed to the corner flag pig-pile will forever be etched in the mind of fans.