CARSON, Calif. – It was the type of welcome home that a U.S. Soccer legend deserved.
Fresh off a tumultuous week that saw him excluded from the U.S. National Team’s 23-man roster for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Landon Donovan scored two goals in the LA Galaxy’s 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union to take sole possession of the MLS all-time regular season goal scoring record.
Inspired from the get-go, it took just 112 seconds for Donovan to give the Galaxy the lead as he launched a pinpoint free kick in the direction of Leonardo that the Brazilian center back slotted into the back of the net. Following a slow end to the first half for the Galaxy, it was Donovan to the rescue with his record-breaking goal.
The goal came as so many of Donovan’s had in the past as Robbie Keane launched a pass across the goalmouth to Donovan who tapped it into the back of the net. Clearly emotional, Donovan dropped to his knees before a mob of Galaxy teammates surrounded MLS’ new all-time goal scoring king.
“It’s been a long week. It’s hard not to make it about me, and I don’t necessarily want it to be that way, but you know that I’ve sacrificed a lot to be in the position that I’m in,” said Donovan. “I was very happy for myself, I’ve dedicated a lot to this, and I thought I deserved what happened today.
“To be honest when I scored, I wasn’t thinking of the record. It only occurred to me 10 seconds into the celebrating. It’s great. I mean, it really is,” he later added. “I think more importantly, I enjoy the rest of the season, keep helping our team. I want to get back to enjoying football. This has been a week where I had moments I fell out of love for it a little bit. I want to make sure I keep enjoying it.”
With the Galaxy up three goals, Donovan added his second goal of the evening and his 156th overall in the 81st minute off a pass from who else but Keane.
Throughout the match, the home faithful showed their support of Donovan as the StubHub Center was awash in Donovan jerseys, banners adorning his name, U-S-A chants, and all fanfare imaginable. And it was at the 82nd minute that the crowd was at their loudest as Donovan received a standing ovation from all 20,010 in attendance at StubHub Center after his sterling performance.
For a player that has received an outflowing of support from many across the sporting globe, the warm reception was part of an overwhelming few days.
“It’s incredible,” said Donovan. “You have no idea how many messages I’ve received--literally, thousands of messages from people around the country, around the world. People who’ve said, I’m a diehard Sounders fan, I’m a diehard D.C. United fan—I’ve hated you all my life on the field. I’m so happy for you. I respect what you’ve done and all those things. The support has been overwhelming.
“It’s funny the way things work out. I’ve said this many times in my life. I try to stay present. It’s been hard,” added Donovan. “All day today my mind was wandering on where else I could be today. I kept coming back to being present. Staying present, enjoy this game and do your best. I’m glad I was able to do that.”
Bruce Arena and Robbie Keane did not shy away from their own compliments either.
“It was a great accomplishment. We’re grateful for having him and it takes a little pressure off of him not having to worry about the record,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “Now others can chase him for the rest of his life.”
Said Keane, who scored a goal of his own on Sunday, “I think that the script was already good enough for him before the game. He broke that record, we all knew that was going to be a matter of time. I think the timing of it couldn’t have come any better for him.
But Donovan, who admitted that he was “exhausted” after a draining week, said that the challenge will be rebounding and aiding the Galaxy in the two league matches that will precede the league’s break for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Although the 32-year-old knows that it will be difficult, he’s confident that he can turn the page to help the Galaxy in their time of need.
“I’m glad today’s done. I’m glad the record is done. My goal now and my challenge is don’t stop playing now. We aren’t even half way through the season,” said Donovan. “We’ve won a couple games. And now, we have two more games until the World Cup game. We feel should win both and we need to win both. That is our focus now.”