CARSON, Calif. -- Landon Donovan's legacy is assured now, but there was a point when his status as the greatest American soccer player was in doubt.
Prior to end of the 2009 season, Donovan had a lukewarm relationship with U.S. fans who basked in his accomplishments for the U.S. National Team, but still felt that America's greatest soccer player should test himself abroad rather than stay in MLS. Donovan had succeeded winning three MLS Cups, but failed stints in Germany led to criticism for the star midfielder.
Fast forward to 2014 and the perception of Donovan has clearly evolved. Donovan enjoyed a pair of successful loan stints with English Premier League side Everton, won two more MLS Cups with the LA Galaxy and provided U.S. Soccer with its watershed moment with his iconic goal in the 2010 World Cup against Algeria. When the Galaxy star was omitted from the U.S. national team's roster for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, an upspring of popular support flowed for Donovan.
During his press conference on Wednesday, Donovan addressed his role in growing MLS and how the preception of his decision to remain in the league through the years changed.
"The perception of playing in the Major League Soccer has certainly changed. I think when you see the success of the teams here and the players here, the level of plays, the talents, and the desire for players in the other world to make this the league of choice if they want to play in, it’s important. I played here, the majority of my career with this squad because I wanted to be happy," said Donovan. " And my happiness always lay here playing close to my friends and family. I always thought it was much more important to be here doing that, than be lost in the shuffle somewhere in Europe or elsewhere. So, that for me was the perfect fit. It doesn’t mean that it is everyone’s choice, and that’s ok. But, for me, that was the perfect fit. I was fortunate that had some people who wanted come along and join the journey with me."
But once the final ball has been kicked in 2014, what will be next for America's greatest soccer player?
Donovan insisted that he hopes to travel with his girlfriend Hannah, but after that he's hoping to play role in youth development with the Galaxy going forward.
"I absolutely want to work with kids," said Donovan. "I spoke to [Chris] Klein extensively about working with the academy, and that for me will be a really good way to come closer to home. I fully expect that it will happen at some point."
And when Donovan decides he wants to return, Klein and AEG President Dan Beckerman insist that the club will welcome him back with open arms.
"Landon will always be the member of the LA Galaxy, always be the member of the AEG family, and when he decides what it is that he wants to do—what he wants to put his energy and heart into next—we will be there to talk to him about that," said Klein.
Added Beckerman, "Landon will be able to do whatever he wants. He has accomplished so much on the field, and for the love of the game. He will be able to do whatever he wants, whether that is working with the kids or working with the Galaxy. Whatever he does, he will obviously be successful. He is the best American player in the history of this country, and he will be equally successful in what he decides to do in the next chapter of his life."