We’re approaching the end of an era in U.S. Soccer.
On Thursday, MLS and U.S. Soccer’s all-time leading goal scorer Landon Donovan announced his intention to retire at the conclusion of the LA Galaxy’s 2014 MLS season.
The announcement of Donovan’s retirement sets us up an emotional end of the season, but to celebrate the greatest American Soccer player ever, let’s look at the top 10 most pivotal moments of his career.
JUNE 17, 2002: THE BIRTH OF DOS A CERO
While forged in America, Landon Donovan’s soccer legend took flight in South Korea during the United States’ magical run to quarterfinals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
Donning the No. 21 kit, Donovan opened his World Cup account with a tally in the United States’ 3-1 defeat to Poland that helped the Americans reach the round of 16. But his most famous strike came against archrival Mexico when Donovan scored a header to lift the USMNT over El Tri 2-0. Donovan would later be named the Young Player of the tournament for his role in the U.S. campaign
Since that day in Jeonju, the dos a cero score line has become a rallying cry for U.S. fans and a major point of contention for Mexican fans, helping turn Donovan into a pantomime villain of sorts South of the Border.
NOVEMBER 23, 2003: LAST TITLE WITH THE SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
Landon Donovan began his professional career in Germany, but it was with the San Jose Earthquakes that he truly made his name in club soccer.
Joining the Earthquakes on loan from Bayern Leverkusen, the precocious youngster was the backbone to championship teams in 2001 and 2003. Known as much for his bleach blonde hair as he was for his goal scoring ability, Donovan notched 32 goals and 29 assists for San Jose in regular season play while also tallying 10 goals and six assists in the postseason. His finest performance in a Quakes uniform arguably came in the 2003 final when he scored two goals in the new StubHub Center to help San Jose defeat the Chicago Fire 4-2 and win his final title for the Northern California club.
Poetically, Donovan could make his 300th league appearance on Friday at StubHub Center against his former club.
NOV 13, 2005: WINNING HIS FIRST MLS CUP IN AN LA GALAXY UNIFORM
Shockwaves were sent across MLS when Landon Donovan joined the LA Galaxy after a frustrating stint in Germany and the U.S. international made an immediate impact in a Galaxy kit.
Despite a sub-par regular season for the club, Donovan starred in the playoffs as the LA Galaxy pulled off the double of winning the U.S. Open Cup and the 2005 MLS Cup. During the run to the MLS Cup, Donovan tallied four goals and one assist in the postseason before the team’s dramatic extra time victory over the New England Revolution.
The title was Donovan’s first in a Galaxy uniform, but it would not be his last.
JAN 19, 2008: DONOVAN BECOMES U.S. SOCCER’S ALL-TIME LEADING GOAL SCORER
Landon Donovan became U.S. Soccer’s all-time leading goal scorer at his home ground in 2008 when he surpassed Eric Wynalda’s mark of 34 goals.
Donovan’s record-breaking goal came from the penalty spot against Sweden when he confidently placed his shot past the Swedish goalkeeper to set the new U.S. record at 35 goals. The mark was the start of a banner year internationally for Donovan, who later made his 100th appearance for the national team at the tender age of 26.
In total, Donovan is the U.S. National Team leader in goals (57) and assists (57).
NOV. 11, 2009: DONOVAN WINS MLS MVP AWARD
At the start of the 2009 MLS campaign, Landon Donovan was fresh off a disappointing loan to Bayern Munich, but he started the season determined to impress for the Galaxy.
Upon returning to MLS, Donovan showcased his skills as he scored 12 goals and six assists as he helped the Galaxy finish with the top record in the Western Conference. Donovan completed his stellar season despite missing a month while leading the U.S. National Team to the Confederations Cup final. For a player that had long been described as the best player in U.S. Soccer history, Donovan called the honor “rewarding.”
For all his success, Donovan failed to lift the Galaxy to the 2009 MLS Cup as the club fell on penalties to Real Salt Lake.
JAN 27, 2010: DOVOVAN SCORES FIRST PREMIER LEAGUE GOAL WITH EVERTON
Donovan has occasionally been hounded by many as a failure for his inability to succeed abroad, but during his stint with Everton in 2010, he showcased his mettle.
After two assists in the early going with Everton, Donovan scored his first career goal in a foreign league against Sunderland as part of a 2-0 win for the Toffees. The finish was vintage Donovan as he chested a Tim Cahill pass into space and then launched a left-footed shot into the bottom corner for the goal. Donovan netted again in March and added an assist in his final home match at Goodison Park to end his spell with Everton with two goals and three assists
Donovan returned to Everton a year later in what would be the final time that he would don the shirt of a foreign club. Although other teams had reportedly came calling for Donovan in subsequent years, he nixed any interest out of respect for his time with the Toffees.
JUNE 23, 2010: THAT LEGENDARY GOAL AGAINST ALGERIA
Landon Donovan is without question the most influential player in U.S. Soccer history and it was fitting that he’d be part of the federation’s most iconic World Cup moment—his dramatic stoppage time goal against Algeria at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Donovan’s legendary finish came in the 91st minute. With the U.S. in a scoreless deadlock he made a darting run down the field to create attempts at goal by both Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey before scooping up the rebound and scoring to send the U.S. to the round of 16. The goal resonated nationally as well as around the rest of the world and is largely considered to be a major watershed moment in soccer’s bid to be accepted into American sports consciousness.
Donovan scored again in the team’s Round of 16 defeat to Ghana days later in what would be his final World Cup match. In total, Donovan appeared in three World Cups while scoring five goals, which is the most scored by an American at the world’s largest stage.
DEC. 6, 2012: LEADING THE LA GALAXY TO TWO CONSECUTIVE MLS CUPS
Landon Donovan’s career has been filled with championships, but in the winters of 2011 and 2012, he delivered two special ones to LA.
Forming a lethal strike partnership with Irish striker Robbie Keane, Donovan scored in each of the Galaxy’s MLS Cup victories as he helped the club win back-to-back titles over the Houston Dynamo. Although Donovan scored the only goal in 2011, a year later he rebounded from an early miss to put LA ahead for good by notching his 22nd career playoff goal on a penalty kick.
Whether or not Donovan, Keane and the rest of the Galaxy can combine to win a title in 2014 to give him a total of six MLS Cup titles remains to be seen, but it will surely be a major talking point throughout the season.
JULY 28, 2013: WINNING THE GOLDEN BALL AND THE GOLDEN BOOT IN 2013 CONCACAF GOLD CUP
Fresh off his sabbatical away from the game, there was speculation as to whether or not Donovan would ever make his return to the U.S. National Team, but in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, he did so with great aplomb.
Donovan scored five goals and seven assists in the tournament to help the U.S. win the tournament in convincing fashion. For his success, he was awarded the tournament’s Golden Ball as the Most Valuable Player as well as a share of the Golden Boot for top scorer. For all the glory of winning the title and loads of personal awards, Donovan’s most iconic moment in the tournament came in the team’s quarterfinal 5-0 rout of El Salvador when he dropped to his knees with a rain-drenched Shawshank Redemption-esque celebration.
After his tournament, he solidified his place with the U.S. squad throughout World Cup qualifying by scoring in the team’s win against Mexico later in the year.
MAY 25, 2014: BREAKING THE MLS ALL-TIME REGULAR SEASON GOAL SCORING RECORD
Landon Donovan’s name is listed throughout the MLS record books, but in May, he cemented his place as the league’s all-time regular season goal king with two tallies against the Philadelphia Union.
The match was filled with emotion for Donovan who had just been cut from the U.S. World Cup squad days earlier. Add in the fact that the Galaxy striker had been tied with former record-holder Jeff Cunningham since the previous October, and it was clear that there was significant pressure on the midfielder. That pressure was lifted after just 112 seconds when Donovan beat Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath to seal his place in the record books.
With 15 regular games remaining, there’s no telling how many goals will add to his record, but it’ll certainly be exciting to watch.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com