Farewell, Landon Donovan


American soccer star Landon Donovan plays his final Major League Soccer game Sunday, when his LA Galaxy play the New England Revolution for the 2014 MLS Cup.

As Landon Donovan prepares to play his last Major League Soccer game and attempts to finish his career with a fairytale ending by hoisting the MLS Cup for the sixth time Sunday, I’d like to take a second to relive and thank him for the amazing moments I was fortunate enough to see during his 15-year career.

The following italicized sentences are excerpts from the “Oh My Gosh! That Was Amazing!” paper I wrote for a class on Donovan’s fabled goal in the U.S.’s final group-stage game against Algeria during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It was the best paper I ever wrote for that class, so I thank you for that as well, LD.

After tying both England and Slovenia, the United States absolutely needed a win against Algeria or a draw against Algeria with an English loss in order to keep playing. With England leading Slovenia 1-0, the United States needed to score desperately.

Thank you for bringing me out of my room, where I was hiding because I couldn’t bear seeing the United States eliminated in the group stage by an inferior team when it had so much potential.

Because of this, I actually didn’t see this jaw-dropping moment live. While I was away from the television, I was just hoping for a scream of joy from my dad or sister who was also watching. When I thought all hope was gone, I heard screaming and rushed to the television to see what had happened.

Thank you for rebounding Clint Dempsey’s shot in the final ticks of stoppage time and getting the ball into the net.

On the replay, I saw that Tim Howard, the goalie, had made an amazing pass down the sidelines to Landon Donovan. Next, Donovan passed the ball to young Jozy Altidore, who had a disappointing World Cup, who then passed it to Clint Dempsey, my favorite player, who shot the ball. The ball hit the goalkeeper’s hand, and Landon Donovan, the most recognizable American player, got the rebound and scored. I couldn’t believe that the U.S. had the skills to come back so late in the game. That play was one of the most amazing moments in American soccer history, and it captured American hearts and turned cynics into believers.

Thank you for always saving our defense’s butt in that 2010 World Cup and in the years before and after.

Thank you for scoring a goal and assisting Michael Bradley to draw against Slovenia and set up that miraculous play against Algeria.

Thank you for successfully converting the penalty kick against Ghana in the Round of 16 and tying the game up at one before your defense once again failed you in extra time.

In what might be the first tournament where I was fully emotionally invested in the USMNT, you gave me hope the United States could be an elite team. Thank you for making the score 2-0 against Brazil in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup Final before the defense let you down in the second half and took the impending upset away.

You were even enjoyable to watch off the field, though we would have preferred to see you in Brazil: thank you for the hilarious commercials poking fun at yourself after you were cut from the 2014 FIFA World Cup team. Thank you for winning the World Cup for the U.S. in FIFA. Thank you for having a short memory. Thank you for encouraging people to skip work and watch the World Cup even though you knew they wouldn’t be watching you.

I could go on and on thanking Landon Donovan for all of his top moments, which you don’t need this column to find, but these are the ones I witnessed among the many friendlies, qualifiers and tournaments he has played. That’s why it makes me sad that I only started watching the national team after the 2006 FIFA World Cup and that I didn’t watch enough LA Galaxy games to witness all of his great moments.

Nonetheless, I am grateful to have witnessed an American soccer legend. A recognizable American soccer player? That would have been preposterous 20 years ago.

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