CARSON, Calif. -- Nine years ago today, Landon Donovan joined the LA Galaxy and changed the MLS landscape forever.
To commemorate the ninth anniversary of the star attacker's signing with the Galaxy, I look back at my top five Donovan moments in an LA kit on LAGalaxy.com.
But what was it like for Donovan's teammates when he joined the Galaxy after a brief stint in Germany?
"It was a shock to a lot of people since he was with the Earthquakes for so long and they were our biggest rival," Defender Todd Dunivant told LA Galaxy Insider on Monday. "At the time, Carlos Ruiz was our biggest player, but when Landon came it was just awesome. He's a game changer and helped us win the cup that year."
As for Dunivant's favorite Donovan moment?
"In 2005, we were the four seed in the playoffs going up against San Jose and in the first leg at The Home Depot Center, he scored a huge goal for us," Dunivant told LAGalaxy.com. "He snuck in behind their defense and got around Pat Onstad that put us up by two goals and gave us the confidence going into the road match at Spartan Stadium which was a tough place to play. He really gave us that extra boost and while a lot of people won't think of that moment, it was first major moment for the club and it set us on the path to winning that MLS Cup."
Check out video of that moment below at the 2:05:56 mark.
We discussed the recently retired Pablo Mastroeni’s career in part one of my Q&A with the veteran midfielder, but in part two, we look at his life after soccer and what he’ll be planning to do next as he looks to move on from the game that he's played for decades.
Read it below.
LAGI: “Going back to Colorado seems to be a natural move here especially with your family being unable to sell your home.”
“The word destiny is appropriate here. I’ve had my house on the market for the last six months and it sold once, then the people backed out and for whatever reason it didn’t sell. I just kept thinking that there was a reason for all this because at some point, you just have to heed the omens. For me, the kids love it, my wife loves it and I love it as well. I just thought that life would take me to different places, but it hasn’t. As long as it doesn’t sell, it looks like we’ll just stay in Colorado and it’s looking more and more like we’re just going to take the house off the market. That way we can settle in here as I go into the next phase of my career as I look to start a soccer school focusing on youth development without having to worry about results on the weekend. It’ll be a way to give back because I’ve had great coaches throughout my career that inspired me and now I want to put my own spin on [the game] to help develop young players in Colorado."
LAGI: “Have you had any conversations with the Colorado Rapids about working for their club academy?"
PM: "We haven’t had any conversations at the moment. I’d like to work with the Colorado Rapids in some capacity, but that’s the competitive side of soccer that says we’re an academy just like the Galaxy and we want to get results on the weekend. My mindset is that we sometimes put so much of a focus on winning at a young age that we miss some steps along the way. I think that we keep talking about how even though American soccer is growing; it’s not a powerhouse in the world. We have the greatest resources in the world, we have the greatest athletes in the world, and my view is that we only lack true player development where the focus is solely on developing players without the distraction of results. I think that kids do enjoy the competition which is great, but you see these soccer schools in Europe where there are many kids who are eight or nine and already destined for first team football. If you walk around the United States, you find maybe one six-year-old or five-year-old who can do that. Now I’m not saying we should train kids at age three, but just to put more focus on player development and supplement what they’re not getting from the clubs due to the focus on winning.”
LAGI: “What is going to be your philosophy for this soccer school?"
PM: "I don’t want to do what has been going on for the last number of years. I think the U.S. Soccer curriculum that Claudio Reyna put together is exceptional, but I want to take from my own experience and travels in order to figure out what we’re not doing [as a country]. If I just followed what everyone else is doing then we’re probably going to get the same results. I want to take the experiences that I learned and put together a different type of curriculum that focuses 100 percent on development and zero on results which I hope can produce more complete and talented soccer players.
"I believe that anything that you do in life that you’re good at becomes eventually much more fun. If you have complete dominion of the ball and are aware of the game, then the game will be that much more fun which will lead to greater success as the player moves into high school and onward. The other part for me is that it is something that you have to do many repetitions, but still keep it fun for the kids. I have a lot to carve out and think about but I really feel that it could be a nice thing for the youth to experience and get a leg up. I think that teaching the ages of six through 15 would be great.”
LAGI: "You've always been a reflective person so have you ever just thought about what the game of soccer has given you -- helping you meet your wife, allowing you to go to two World Cups. It's certainly been a ride."
PM: “I’ve pondered it quite a bit and it’s been so good to me because it kept me out of trouble in high school. I could have been different but I always went to training and it kept me in line. When you think about all that I’ve seen in my wife and kids. Plus, I hadn’t realized it until a couple years ago but my wife’s family and my family were still getting together for barbeques to watch my games so the game of soccer was a way that my extended family was able to stay together. That’s why I want to start this soccer school because kids would enjoy learning about these experiences that I’ve had while also coming to understand that the game of soccer really mimics the lessons that you learn in life.
LAGI: "Lastly, in just a few weeks your old teammates across the league will be returning to training for preseason while Pablo Mastroeni will be picking up his kids from school. What will that be like?"
PM: “I talked to quite a few guys while I was contemplating my retirement and one of them was [D.C. United head coach and former U.S. National Team player] Ben Olsen. He said ‘the best part of retirement is that you don’t have to go into preseason, you don’t have to train on Tuesday for a game on Saturday. You’re going to love your retirement.’ Now coming from a guy that took it as seriously as he did, it really helped drive it home. I need to find my competitive edge in something else and hopefully starting a soccer school will allow me to educate myself and gets my juices flowing. I know that there won’t be any substitute from being under the lights, at an opposing team’s stadium trying to get a result, and I know that I can’t mimic that. For me, it’ll be tough once the season gets going but for as far as preseason, I won’t miss that one bit.”
Part One: Q&A with Pablo Mastroeni reflecting on his 16-year MLS career and time with the U.S. National Team
Pablo Mastroeni ended his illustrious career on Tuesday and I had a chance to speak to the midfielder on his favorite moments of his career and his plans for the future.
As part one of my two part interview with Mastroeni, he discusses his career and why he decided to move on from playing.
Check it out below.
LAGI: "What made you decide to retire at the age of 37, was being separated from your family the most important aspect?"
PM: “In the end, that ended up the biggest part. One of the questions that I asked myself was ‘from a professional perspective, why do I want to keep playing? What’s the milestone that you want to reach?’ and to be fair, I couldn’t think of one that was so tempting that I would possibly move away from the family or relocate. At the end of the day, I have an eight-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl, and I think that these ages are critical to have good parents around. I feel like that I ended my career on my own terms as far as being healthy rather than have any injury like concussions dictate my exit. I’m stepping away from the game feeling good and ready to start a new path.”
LAGI: “How do you think that you’ll be remembered? When people look back, how will they remember Pablo Mastroeni?”
PM: Well, I don’t know, I learned in this business that you need to have a tough skin because people are going to say some good things and some will be very critical. It’ll depend on just who you ask. If you ask a casual fan, he’ll say that ‘he was just a bruiser’ while someone who is a bit more sophisticated will say that he was technical and aggressive but held down the middle of the field. However, for me, I’d like to be known as a guy that came to work every day whether it was practice or training, held myself and those around me to a high level, and most importantly got along with all the guys in the locker room. For me, the locker room was like a sanctuary and a brotherhood where we were all fighting for the same cause. I don’t know what people will say about my career, but I’m completely satisfied with I achieved, but I couldn’t be happier."
LAGI: “What have you thought of the immense reaction that you’ve gotten from across the soccer community? Tons of people have been coming forward to reflect on your career.
PM: “It’s pretty humbling because you realize how important it is to get to know people and share your passions and your perspective. I think that the game of soccer is always an excuse to be social and to get all these messages and phone calls is pretty powerful. It’s humbling and a real joy to be able to know so many people and be friends with so many people.”
LAGI: “What would you say was your greatest moment as a player?”
PM: “It had to be captaining the 2010 Colorado Rapids to MLS Cup. It was one of those teams where we needed to put together four good games. We were a team that very few people on the outside believed in, but the coaching staff and the organization knew that we had something special in that locker room. This retirement would have been so different for me if I had not won anything, yeah, I won a couple Gold Cups, but I wanted to win a championship which is the greatest thing in sports. Being a part of that team is something that I cherish most.”
LAGI: “What about your experience with the national team? How do you think that you’ll best remember that and, specifically, your role in the U.S. 2002 World Cup campaign?”
PM: My experience with the national team was great and I think that I was fortunate because there were circumstances where I was able to go from not playing a qualifier to starting [at the 2002 FIFA World Cup]. Looking back, it was such a blur and I don’t recall a lot of 2002. We had to come right back to our club and never had a moment to relish in those moments of awe. My national team experience was awesome though because I saw places that I never thought that I would see, played with great players and even played against some great players as well. It was really an eye-opening experience and that is something that I really cherish. People don’t understand the magnitude of those moments and when I think back, I realize that I’m a lot stronger than I thought. Putting it in words is almost taking away from the magnitude."
LAGI: “Does that mean that the U.S. victory over Mexico is part of the blur too?”
PM: I don’t really remember that and I've seen the video of Cuauhtémoc Blanco is standing over me looking like he’s going to punch me a hundred times, but it was just part of the blur. You’re flying to different cities, playing in different games then before you know it some guys are on Jay Leno, and you get home thinking ‘what just happened?’ That game was awesome because it was two CONCACAF rivals and we came away victorious and this is one of the experiences that I can’t wait to share with others."
Much more in part two later on Wednesday.
One year ago today, the LA Galaxy lifted their fourth MLS Cup trophy with a come from behind 3-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo on a rainy afternoon at The Home Depot Center.
Like LA's title winning performance in 2011, the match was a rain soaked one as a December shower descended upon Carson just before kick off and like the year before, I was stationed high above the field on the roof at The Home Depot Center. The match was the finest performance of the year for Omar Gonzalez, who had endured a difficult year recovering from knee surgery only to put in a dominating performance en route to winning the 2012 MLS Cup MVP award, due to his game-tying goal in the 60th minute that kick started a Galaxy rally.
However, there was also a sense of finality about the Galaxy's accomplishment as the match served as the final game in a Galaxy uniform for David Beckham ending his six-year tenure with the club. When Beckham exited the field just moments before full time, he was given a rousing cheer from the capacity crowd at StubHub Center. Beckham wasn't the only established player that moved on after that match as winger Christian Wilhemsson and goalkeeper Josh Saunders each parted ways with the club after the game.
Earlier on Sunday, I asked Galaxy fans for their memories of that match and had to give a special mention to Raul Pena and his wife Vanessa, who went to attended the match having just completed their wedding ceremony.
— Raul Peña (@rpena03) April 20, 2013
Check out a series of highlights for the game and celebration videos below.
Omar Gonzalez's goal from all angles
David Beckham leaves the field for the final time
Locker room Celebration
David Beckham drinks from MLS Cup
The complete LA Galaxy MLS Cup Celebration