DAVID SMITH - Thursday, August 7, 2014
In a largely unexpected move, all-time leading US National team scorer Landon Donovan announced his plans to retire from professional soccer after the current season.
The long-time Los Angeles Galaxy star made the announcement in a personal letter to his fans posted via Facebook on Thursday night, less than a day after scoring the winning goal in what would turn out to be his final appearance in the annual MLS All-Star exhibition.
"After careful deliberation and after many conversations with those closest to me, I have decided that this will be my last season as a professional soccer player," the California-born Donovan declared in his long personal message.
The surprising announcement comes on the heels of the 32 year-old being named MVP in Wednesday's game against FC Bayern thanks to a 70th minute goal, although the list of career accomplishments for the 32 year-old far overshadow his second claim to this award.
His staggering 57 goals for the Red, White and Blue in his 156 caps put him well atop the list of scorers for the US National Team, and is a record likely to stand for years to come.
Of those, five came during his three appearances in the World Cup, a current goalscoring record for any single player from the CONCACAF region. His most memorable is perhaps the last-minute effort in 2010 in the team's final group game against Algeria, which secured a 1-0 victory and a place in the knock-out round of the tournament.
Additionally, he helped the US win the CONCACAF Gold Cup on four occasions during his decade and a half of national team duty, and participated in the team's memorable run to the Confederations Cup final in 2009.
His influence in the national team began to wane following the 2010 World Cup, and while he did help the team claim the Gold Cup in 2013 and was a crucial figure in their 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Mexico that clinched their spot in Brazil, he was a surprising omission for the final squad for the 2014 tournament.
On the club level, Donovan carved out a long and illustrious in Major League Soccer, first cutting his teeth with the San Jose Earthquakes from 2001-2004, then being the leading figure the Los Angeles Galaxy from 2005 to the present.
Between the two clubs, he laid claim to the MLS Cup on five occasions, was on Supporters' Shield winning squads twice, was named to the MLS Best XI on six occasions, appeared in 14 straight MLS All-Star games and climbed to the top of the all-time list of MLS scorers for both the regular season and playoffs.
For more than a decade, he was one of the most recognizable faces of MLS, helping the fledgling league make major growth in terms of quality and both national and international recognition.
While never consistently establishing his club career outside of the North American continent, Donovan did have five spells in Europe, with perhaps his most successful time coming during a brief loan at English Club Everton in early-2010 where he scored two goals and was named the team's best player for January 2010.
In the current season, he has scored four goals and assisted on another seven for the Galaxy, who are currently in the midst of the playoff hunt with 14 games to go in the regular season.