#LegenD: Some favorite memories of Landon Donovan

Started from the fountain now we here.

Started from the fountain now we here.

We reached out to some people we respect and asked them for a brief thought on their favorite memory of Landon Donovan.

TempoFreeSoccer: A regular TSG contributor and great soccer mind.

A year removed from a deeply disappointing World Cup, Landon Donovan was struggling through one of his most difficult seasons as a professional.  He famously had his Galaxy captaincy handed to David Beckham and the team limped to finish near the basement of the Western Conference.  In late June–right in the middle of the disastrous “07 season– the US national team stumbled into the Gold Cup final  against Mexico after a controversial 2-1 win over Canada in the semis.
This final happened to be the first professional soccer match I ever attended. Mexico was controlling the play in front of an 85%+ pro-Mexican crowd at Soldier Field and led 1-0 through an Andres Guardado first-half goal.  Against the run of play, however, in the 60th minute Brian Ching drew a penalty.  There was no question who would take it.  With 50,000+ screaming insults and hurling cups onto the field Donovan went through his pre-pk ritual and calmly slotted home low and to the right (seemed like he always went there).  Imbued with confidence, the US immediately took command of the game and won through a Benny Feilhaber wonder-volley.  The win qualified the US for the famous “09 Confederations Cup run and re-established continental supremacy.  That penalty was not the prettiest goal nor the most important goal of his career, but to me it was the most indicative of his greatest attribute: his ability to raise his level for the national team, no matter the circumstances.  Of the 15 penalties he took for the USMNT, Landon Donovan converted all 15.  Astounding.  Happy to say I was there for one.Kevin Black: Co-owner of a signed Landon Donovan boot and expert in ankle breaking.I think my favorite Landon Donovan moment has to be his World Cup in 2002. I remember waking up groggily to watch the United States’ first match of that world cup, which had started at 3:00 AM. I only managed to roll myself out of bed at about 3:35, and I arrived at the TV downstairs right when Brian McBride finished off a superb counter attack (started by Donovan) to make it 3-0 against Portugal’s golden generation. After being too young to really experience the 1994 World Cup and watching the States limp to a 32nd place finish in the 1998 World Cup, this was my first taste of watching the United States really perform on the international stage. 20-year-old Donovan was a symbol of everything right about the 2002 team, playing with the kind of disregard for reputation that we almost expect from our teams now. His goal to seal what was probably the USMNT’s most satisfying win (beating Mexico 2-0 in the round of 16) was icing on the cake. Only Oliver Kahn demonstrating why he was one of the best keepers of his generation stopped Donovan from cashing in on running Germany’s defenders ragged in the quarterfinals. Donovan’s performance in 2002 showed me his amazing potential, and provided an example of a born and raised American truly shining at the international level.

… I spent like 2 hours tonight looking for this quote by donovan from before the germany quarterfinal where he essentially says “why should we expect to lose against germany?” when prompted by and interviewer, and I can’t find it. fack.

The platinum blonde years.

The platinum blonde years.

Will Parchman: The man for all things USMNT retro-diarying. Trust me, search and enjoy.I can see the play laid out still, the pieces falling together like some lopsided game of Risk. It was 2002, World Cup time, and this U.S.-Mexico knockout game had consumed my relatively young, soccer-addled mind. I didn’t know much about Landon Donovan then, but I knew he was quick, had instincts and people were talking. In this particular game, Donovan had flown around the field for much of the sun-washed afternoon, and the U.S. held a 1-0 lead into the 65th minute, which was shocking enough. Not many of us expected it to hold much longer. And then Eddie Lewis broke onto the left flank, even with the 18, and with just 20 minutes of the second half gone he bulleted a cross goal-ward. I didn’t even see him at first, but as the ball’s arc reached its apex, there he was, Donovan charging toward the goalmouth like an enraged bull. He’d so surprised the defender that no recovery could’ve caught him. Just like that, header, dos-a-cero, game over. That game, for me, birthed the Donovan mythology, birthed dos-a-cero, birthed the 21st century U.S. soccer renaissance. It applied the afterburners to the game in this country in a way no goal I can ever remember has before or since. I’ll remember Donovan for a lot of moments, but that one in particular stands astride them like a colossus.Eric Giardini: TSG USMNT jersey analyst extraordinaire and Gervinho five-head aficionado.

Let’s go all the way back to June 18, 2010 for USA v Slovenia in the second World Cup group stage match. After drawing England in the first match, the USMNT was in prime position to get an “easy” three points against Slovenia and firmly state their intention for the knockout stage. As you probably remember, it didn’t quite go that way. Two first half goals saw the USA down two with its World Cup stay looking shorter and shorter.

But then, just after the restart, a glimmer of hope from none other than Landon Donovan. Donovan judges the flight of the ball and beats the defender who misplaces the ball. Alone one on one with the keeper, it seems he’s dribbling in at the wrong angle. Instead of cutting the ball back and playing it square to the late runner in the box, Landon smashes it into the top of the net, narrowly missing Samir Handanović’s face, and the comeback was on. I don’t think anyone, anywhere thought he was going to smash that shot like he did, but that was Landon at his best. Beating players with his speed, his ability to finish, as well as his ability to put the team on his back when needed. Later in the match, Donovan places in the free kick on the infamous Edu non-goal but that’s a story for another time.


Johnathon Sykes: Galaxy fan and man with that necessary LA insight.

My favorite LD moment isn’t really a moment but a year. 2009 to be exact. Coming back to MLS after another failed German stint. the year that Landon Donovan had the cojones to call out David Beckham for being a poor captain in The Beckham Experiment. MLS MVP (sorry Jeff Cunningham) and Goal of the Year. Yea, that curling volley that left a gum-chewing Matt Reis in bewildered awe on his side. The beautiful back post ball to feed Magee for the Galaxy’s sole goal in MLS Cup. Oh, and that goal vs. Brazil in Confederations Cup before the Yanks collapse. In a way, 2009 was a microcosm of Donovan’s career. Capable of spell-blinding skill and maddening inaction. For all the hand-wringing about commitment and drive (self-inflicted or not), Donovan has always had a way of coming away from every failure with aplomb. Even the failure of winning the MLS Cup drove him to a successful stint at Everton the next year. I think, above all, I will miss that the most. The ability to rise from failure and disappointment better than ever.

You know. Like a legend.

Christine Agoni: Maker of brilliant Landon Donovan supersized heads.

Poor Landon.

Poor Landon.

Favorite Landon Donovan moment: when I read in a magazine that he was getting a divorce and legitimately frightened my boyfriend with all the “there’s still a chance!” talk. JUST KIDDING, kinda…Landon, if you’re reading this now, send me a signed right boot to let me know you’re down (preferably in green to match the one you gave us in Salt Lake City during the Gold Cup)!

In all seriousness, I remember only 2 things that happened in 2010: 1. I graduated from college and 2. Landon Donovan scored the game winning goal against Algeria in the 91′ in South Africa. Nothing can top the feeling of sitting in a bar, surrounded by strangers, feeling close to defeat and in a moment…Altidore crosses the ball to Dempsey, the shot is blocked! Our hearts collectively sank. THEN BOOM, DONOVAN FINDS THE BACK OF THE NET! Go, go, USA! Beer showers for all! Sorry for crying on you, stranger! This (and the blast of a goal against Slovenia the week before) was the moment I went from being a casual soccer fan to an OBSESSED one. I went out and bought a Donovan jersey as soon as we left the bar and have worn it to every USMNT game I’ve attended that Donovan has played in. You’re a class act, Landon. Thanks for introducing me to US Soccer and to the love I have for the sport.

Biggy: Landon hater and Landon lover, all at the same time. It’s a complicated thing.The World Cup in South Korea was a proper coming of age for me. Old enough to watch games and stay up all night but young enough to struggle with staying up past 1am without passing out on the couch with no remorse. When the US played Mexico in the round of 16, it was probably the most important match of my young life. 1998 in France hurt, but 2002 was glorious. My dad and I stayed up to watch that one, and we were ahead of Mexico and boom, Eddie Lewis to Landon Donovan to give us that most dangerous lead bullshit. Couldn’t help but yell when that happened. How glorious. My dad told me to shut up as we jumped around the living room at 2:30am celebrating the most thrilling goal I’ve ever seen (well, outside of Landon vs. Slovenia and Algeria). That was the start of my love affair with the US. That game led to so many good things, and I will forever be appreciative of Landon for that goal. What a run. What a team.In case that didn’t take you down memory lane, this will. Just remember, it’s okay to cry at work on Thursday.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Christine on 2014/10/09 at 12:32 PM

    i’ll have you know i spent an additional 2 hours also searching for that germany quote to no avail. where the hell is it?! i think he just made it up to sound cool.


  2. […] lot of bloggers and media folks have been reflecting on Landon’s career – here’s a good one.   And US Soccer has done a nice youtube compilation (below), with key moments from this long […]


  3. Posted by JW on 2014/10/10 at 8:29 AM

    All of my favorite moments were covered here except the time that against El Salvador where Landon put on a pair of sunglasses that were thrown onto the field at him.


  4. Posted by KickinNames... on 2014/10/15 at 7:23 AM

    I would have to say that my favorite and most exemplary moment of not just Donovans but the entirety of my 25 years of following the MNT was the balls he displayed in roofing that goal against Slovenia. That is what I, and the MNT, will miss most about a guy who has really never been recognized for the greatness of his international career. He had his issues and frustrating tendency to follow his own path at times but the ability to slow the game down and perform the extraordinary in huge moments while most others (yes, that’s you Wondo I’m talking to…) flail and fail. That grit and ability and tenacity to create opportunities for himself and others and finish in big spots is what we’ll miss the most….


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