He’s one of, if not the most important players in the history of United States soccer, so it follows that many people have a different favorite moment when it comes to Landon Donovan’s career wearing the badge of his country.
And while there’s a runaway leader in the clubhouse — a certain put back against Algeria in a notable tournament — we thought we’d share ours and hope you join us.
“A Golden Return” by Joe Prince-Wright — “For me, the moment which sticks out about Donovan is his incredible comeback during the USA’s Gold Cup win in 2013. After taking his sabbatical and risking his career, LD proved just how good he was by ripping up the rest of CONCACAF with five goals and seven assists, along with winning the best player award and restoring himself into USMNT reckoning.
Leading up to that tournament he’d struggled on his return to MLS, but we saw a fired up Donovan show a skeptical Jurgen Klinsmann, adoring U.S. fans and the rest of the world that he was still, undoubtedly, the most technically gifted player in U.S. soccer history. Guile, determination and class when many expected him to fail.”
“Captain Clutch” by Kyle Bonn — “I know this is incredibly cliché and maybe a little boring, but I would be doing myself injustice if I didn’t select the goal against Algeria as my top Landon Donovan moment. I say that because it’s the only one where I remember exactly where I was and exactly what I was doing. I was in a sports bar and grill in Connecticut with my dad and my brother. I remember the lunch crowd in the bar completely disinterested in the game when it came on, and as the game progressed, the people there slowly began to watch.
“It was the perfect metaphor for United States soccer happening in front of my eyes. By the time Landon unleashed his career-defining moment, the entire place was captivated, and it brought the house down. I will never forget the atmosphere in that place, and I can’t thank Landon enough for what he brought my sports experience and our country’s as well.”
“Return of the King” by Kyle Lynch — “After Donovan’s self-imposed sabbatical, tensions were high between the United States’ all-time leading goal scorer and manager Jurgen Klinsmann. Donovan was left off of the roster for the United States’ World Cup qualifying matches before earning a spot on the 2013 Gold Cup roster. Donovan returned in triumphant fashion, netting five goals in six matches and leading the U.S. to its fifth Gold Cup title. His performance earned Donovan the Golden Boot for the tournament’s top scorer and the Golden Ball for best player.
“After his time away from the national team and all the rumors of unrest between player and manager, Landon Donovan proved that no matter when or where he put on that American uniform, he was going to give his all for his country.”
“For Club and Country… At Once” by Mike Prindiville — “My favorite Donovan moment as an international player is when he roofed the first goal against Slovenia in World Cup 2010. Down 2-0, Donovan cruised down the right side and cut into the box on a such a ridiculous angle that he seemed to have no option. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Crap, what’s Landon going to do here?!’ but as soon as I did he ripped his shot directly above the keeper’s head and into the back of the net. It was such a ‘screw you’ kind of goal. So emphatic and uplifting that it has to go down as the turning point for the US in that tournament.
But, as an American Evertonian, I’d be remiss not to mention my other favorite LD moment, which came in his send-off at Goodison Park during his first loan stint with the Toffees. After scoring a goal and assisting on Jack Rodwell’s strike to secure victory, Donovan was hoisted onto Rodwell’s shoulders and carried to the corner flag where he was showered with chants of ‘USA! USA! USA!’ from the Everton faithful…. Three years later I traveled to Goodison for a match and, of course, wore my Everton shirt with Donovan’s name on the back. There wasn’t a Scouser I passed who didn’t slap me on the back and sing LD’s praises. Legend.”
“Bravery On and Off the Pitch” by Nicholas Mendola — “Look, the correct answer is to select the goal against Algeria, but if I really dissect that moment it was about the country and team as a whole. Yes, he was involved in the moment but it was a country-wide phenomenon that, as Kyle Bonn points out, was about where and who you were with while you watched it.
And if you ask me what I’ll remember — and admire — about Donovan’s time with the national team, I’ll gladly point to the Donovan’s goal and performance in the 2002 World Cup win over Mexico. It occurred before the massive explosion of US Soccer, but that game meant so much to me. As these Yanks took their nascent steps into what would become a critical generation for growth, they beat their biggest rivals on soccer’s biggest stage. I was in college, and driving to a local Buffalo coffee shop to watch with a group of diehards at 4am ET. And while the sad drive home after the screwy loss to Germany is embedded in my very being, the pure joy after Donovan clinched the 2-0 win over Mexico told us that we had arrived. Yes, we. Soccer lovers in the USA.
I’d be remiss, though, if I didn’t point out what I have the greatest admiration for, and that’s Donovan’s sabbatical. As a soccer supporter I hated it. I will always understand why it didn’t sit well with Klinsmann, and that there are multiple sides to any debate. But as a human being, it was a brave statement in a sports-first culture. Your mental stability is far more important than what people think and expect of you. I’ve been overtly critical of this move from a team standpoint, but Donovan did the right thing for himself and set an example for people in a culture that gets mental health wrong all-too-often. Cheers, LD. Onwards and upwards.”
So what’s your “My Landon Donovan moment”, friends? Use the comment box below.