The confetti had all rained down. They had accepted their prize. They broke out bottles of champagne and began setting them off in celebration. They crowded around one man clutching the massive trophy. His icon number 10 shirt wet with champagne as he hoisted the cup in triumph while his teammates cheered, “One more year! One more year!”
This was the scene in the LA Galaxy locker room following their MLS Cup victory over the New England Revolution. The Galaxy had just won their MLS record fifth title and the man holding the trophy was US soccer icon Landon Donovan. The 32 year old had just walked off the field for the final time in his professional career. Arguably the most decorated MLS player of the league’s 19 year history had just wrapped a campaign full of anguish and disappointment but ultimately marked by pure joy with this final development. Donovan’s final MLS season did not go exactly as he had always dreamed but in the end he walked off the field the way he desperately wanted: a champion.
The disappointment I refer to actually has nothing to do with MLS season and all to do with Jürgen Klinnsman’s decision to drop Donovan from the US World Cup roster headed to Brazil. That was all the US captain had been working towards, a chance to take center stage one last time on the world stage and show everyone that he was one of the best to ever do it. Instead, Donovan was left to sit at home and wonder what could have been. Particularly when US striker Jozy Altidore went down with an injury, Donovan must ponder his potential role on that team.
All of that aside, Donovan came back and played with a vengeance in the second half of the MLS season. Records fell around the famous attacker and when the dust settles from this championship run, Donovan can look back at his accolades knowing he truly was the best. He became the MLS all-time goal scorer and the league’s all-time assist leader. He scored his league record 41st game-winning goal and tied the MLS mark for game-winning assists. He demonstrated his longevity by finishing his career with the third most minutes logged. But above all, he showed his knack for getting it done when it mattered. This last title of Donovan’s career made him the player with the most cup wins ever.
Donovan’s leave is a saddening one for American soccer fans. It means we won’t see the iconic penalty kick run up or the unmatched passion we have been spoiled to see throughout Donovan’s illustrious domestic career. The MLS will be missing some of its most recognizable faces next year with the loss of Donovan and Thierry Henry. But the league will see the influx of international players like Kaka, Frank Lampard and David Villa. The league will always have its superstars, but there will truly only be one LeganD remembered as being the best to roam the US turf. So farewell LD, thanks for all of the great moments this nation has been so fortunate to share with you over this exhilarating ride. You will be missed.