Landon Donovan, the face of a resurgent American soccer program, walked off the field for the final time Friday night after fifteen years with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
The game – a friendly with Ecuador at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut – ended in a 1-1 tie and Donovan didn’t score. But it still ended up an emotional sendoff for the 32-year-old forward, who played 40 minutes before a crowd of 36,000, and after the game, led the U.S. MNT’s most diehard fans, known as the American Outlaws, in their signature chant, “I Believe That We Will Win.”
After the game, Donovan reflected on his long tenure and relationship with the fans.
“As a human being, to feel that kind of love and support is incredible,” he said. “I’ve put a lot into this game, however many years, and tonight feels like it was worth it. I’m very grateful.”
The official Landon Donovan Facebook page has featured a number of look-backs at his lengthy career, including video of his first goal and under-17 team profile for the #FBF (Flashback Friday) hashtag.
Donovan is the all-time leading scorer in U.S. Soccer, with 57 goals for the national team. In a controversial move by coach Jurgen Klinsmann that angered the star forward, he was cut from the team’s roster before this summer’s World Cup.
The two men spoke Friday for the first time since that decision, and they tried to make the best of it when speaking to the press.
“He told me he should have taken me to Brazil,” Donovan said, according to MLSSoccer.com, before adding, “No, I’m just kidding.”
Donovan did say that he “had a good conversation” with the coach, and “both agreed that we wanted tonight to be about tonight, and that’s it.”
For his part, Klinsmann said
We wish him only the best. I told him before the game that this door is always open for him. This is his team. He built this cycle, he built this team, he built so many things for US soccer. He deserves the biggest crowd, the biggest cheers. We all told him before the game to enjoy it.
But despite that finish, Donovan has seen American soccer succeed far beyond anything he may have expected at the start of his long career in international play.
“I am proudest of this, what we have built,” he said Friday, according to the USA Today. “It wouldn’t be like this 10 years ago. I believe things work out the way they are supposed to. It has been an emotional week. I am going to miss this.”
His fans, and a grateful U.S. Soccer program, likely empathize. But as the Landon Donovan era comes to a close, they can look ahead to a new chapter that owes a debt to Number 10.[photo credit: niallkennedy]
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