One of the most important footballers in the United States announced in August 2014 that he was retiring at the end of the season. A footballer who jogs to the beat of his own drum, Landon Donovan has left a great mark on the sport here. He even got Bruce Arena, his manager at LA Galaxy, to cry a little. That takes some doing, so it’s arguably his greatest feat!
The key question, though, is how we will remember the great man? When it comes to American football, Landon Donovan is the most important player since Joe Gaetjens.
Donovan has left a big mark on the game in the States. Think of it this way, when Jurgen Klinsmann dropped him from the latest World Cup squad, for reasons we’ll never know, the national uproar was akin to the government doing something stupid. This was all because of a footballer in the United States, that’s something big, because we are told that the sport won’t last, it’s un-American, and the decay of the country will hog the headlines regardless. Landon’s changed the sport and he’s changed the media surrounding the sport. We’re a better footballing nation for him staying here.
There are people in this country who don’t know the sport, but they know Landon Donovan. While the media has made players more famous here in the States, it’s rare for people to step out of their comfort zones anymore and try new things. Landon is popular for people who don’t know the sport, and some of that is because of living in LA. He’s known for his goal against Algeria and going over to play for Everton a couple of years ago before the Gold Cup. Outside of Clint Dempsey and Abby Wambach, Landon is one of the most used soccer players in advertisements also.
His impact on the sport in America has been massive. There’s players coming through the ranks who don’t know of the sport without him. Kids have been taught to be like Landon. Of course, at the youth levels, people still are wanting to be Messi, or heaven forbid Rooney. Children are seeing that if they grow up in the American coaching that they can play in the MLS, and possibly be great, like Donovan. Of course the American coaching isn’t as good as Mexico, or anywhere in Europe, but it’s turned out players.
The key question with retirements is, as always, did it come at the right time? We’ll never know if Landon staying an extra year or if he hadn’t come back from his sabbatical would have made things any different. While he is the leader in goals for the MLS and the US National Team World Cup goals, we can’t say for sure if he stayed would he still be playing with the LA Galaxy. We know this for sure, when Landon burned out, the club stayed with him and when the US National Team dropped him, they showed their support. At some certain point players start losing their talent and arguably that’s happened to Donovan despite still being a more than capable, excellent professional.
Who replaces Landon Donovan at the top of USA football? It’s already Michael Bradley based on his play with Toronto, no matter how spotty it has been. Clint Dempsey is coming close to his 30’s and helped lead the US National Team out of a very hard group in the World Cup. Surprisingly we’ve also made a new star in Julian Green, the Bayern Munich youngster. For many, if Green realises his undoubted potential then a new star could be born here in America.
Landon Donovan has had a phenomenal impact on football in America and for that he’ll always be remembered as a legend of the game over here. American football fans, in particular, have a lot to thank him for.
By Stephen Brandt – Liverpool fan – @