Landon Donovan ends tumultuous week on the perfect note
Landon Donovan is tired.
It’s not the 12 years as the face of US Soccer that has worn him out. It is this week of rejection that has drained him and left him debating whether he still loved the sport that has defined him.
Thankfully, a return home to his family, his friends and a lot of his supporters cured what ailed him.
Playing in his first game since being controversially left off the World Cup roster by US coach Jürgen Klinsmann on Thursday, Donovan scored a pair of historic goals and set up another in LA Galaxy’s 4-1 win over Philadelphia on Sunday night.
“It’s been a long week,” Donovan said after the game. “It’s hard not to make it about me, and I don’t necessarily want it to be that way. But, I’ve sacrificed a lot to be in the position I’m in and I was very happy for myself because I dedicated a lot to this and I think I deserve what happened today.
“… I try to stay present – and it’s been hard all day today my mind was wandering and thinking where else I could be today, (but) I kept coming back to being present, enjoy this game and be the best. I was glad to be able to do that.”
He was able to enjoy the night mere moments after it started. In only the second minute of the match, Donovan placed a free kick perfectly for Leonardo to head past Zac MacMath for the opener. The inch-perfect delivery served only a preamble for the history to come.
Four minutes into the second half, Donovan started a one-two with teammate Robbie Keane inside the Union penalty area. Keane curled an inviting cross to the back post. Donovan found himself with a simple finish to double the lead and secure his 135th career goal at long last.
It was a cathartic moment for the forward and the gathering packed into the StubHub Center to back him. It brought about an eruption of “USA! USA!” chants from the home crowd of 21,010 – surely an attempt to remind Klinsmann about what he will miss next month in Brazil – but it also was Donovan’s first goal in all competitions dating back to October of last year.
As an added bonus, the second goal also set off a romp for the Galaxy – a team that was mired sixth in the Western Conference standings before this emphatic victory.
“When I scored I wasn’t thinking about the record. It only occurred to me about 10 seconds into the celebrating,” said Donovan. “It’s great. It really is. But I think more importantly, I want to make sure I enjoy the rest of this season and keep helping our team. I want to get back to enjoying football, because this has been a week where I had moments where I fell out of love with it a little bit. I want to make sure I keep enjoying it.”
Fittingly, with all eyes on him, Donovan earned man of the match honors by scoring a second before being substituted in the 83rd minute.
“Candidly, I’m exhausted – I won’t lie. I’m glad today is done,” said Donovan.
“… It wasn’t easy for me to (live in the moment). My mind was racing all over the place. But fortunately I spent a lot of time practicing how to deal with stuff like that – meditation helps a lot in getting you back to the moment, in the present so that you are just here. Don’t worry about what’s happened or what’s going to happen. I was really proud of myself for that.”
With his World Cup hopes all but dashed barring a last-minute injury, Donovan can start a new chapter of his career where he isn’t the one carrying the flag for US Soccer and the sport as a whole. Now, he gets to focus on just one thing: The job ahead of him with the Galaxy and the team that still wants him to perform at his highest level.
“My goal now, my challenge is that I don’t stop playing well,” said Donovan. “We’re not even halfway through the season. We’ve won a couple of games and now we have two more games before the World Cup break. We feel like we should win both, so that’s our focus now.”
“First of all, this is my job. This is what I get paid to do. My teammates depend on me, and I think I’ve played well this year but I needed to contribute on the scoreboard. That felt good.”