Landon Donvan and the Slumbering Giant
Landon Donovan is not going to be on team USA for the upcoming go at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which is shame. I find Landon Donovnan to be a truly fascinating figure in American soccer due to both his personal achievements and his place in time.
As a player, he’s the perfect fit for American lore. At 5’8, 155 pounds he’s been the undersized hard-working player that electrified fans on a global scale with last minute heroics and dazzling passes. He did an admirable job over the years as he helped an average US squad win four CONCACAF titles and a berth out of the group stage in the 2010 World Cup.
Adding to Donovan’s mystique is the success that he’s had in the MLS. In 14 MLS seasons with the San Jose Earthquakes and the LA Galaxy Dononvan has played in 310 games, scored 134 goals, and 119 assists. He’s played in 13 straight MLS All-Star games, been named to the MLS All-Time Top IX and is considered the greatest American player of all time.
However, Donovan has been a big fish in a small pond. Despite the records and accolades Donovan never truly stacked up to world-class competition. He has a total of 51 appearances in European leagues with 28 coming from his stint with Bayer Leverkusen in 1999-2004. After that, he had short and unproductive stints with Bayern Munich and Everton. Given the state of American soccer, it’s quite fitting.
Soccer had been a laughable afterthought in the US for too long. However, after lots of hard work and time it’s begun to build a strong following in the States. The Premier League and Champions League can be found regularly on TV, highlights are on sports center, and you’ve probably felt guilty for admitting that FIFA is the best sports game out there. This groundswell—paired with the success of the National Team—has led to a few major things.
First, the MLS has grown. Look in your own backyard to find the proof. The Union are playing their fifth season in a busy, beautiful stadium hosting roughly 18,000 fans. They’ll be adding new franchises in New York and Orlando too. As a result of this interest, the league has more money to throw at European players. For example, David Beckham and Thierry Henry. Now while they weren’t in their primes when they crossed the pond they added credibility to a once miserable league.
Secondly, more kids are playing soccer. In fact, it’s the fastest growing sport in America and with good reason. It doesn’t require many people, equipment, or money to play. As more kids play, the US will generate more talent and perhaps someday produce that world-class star the country needs to ignite the waiting fireworks.
While those kids are sipping juice boxes and finding the cure for cooties we wait for the true explosion of American talent. For now the US remains a fringe player in the global rankings, scrapping for success just like Landon Donovan.
As a result, it seems inevitable that Donovan will be passed in the record books as the US grows a stronger love and talent for the beautiful game. However, when you review the history of soccer in America it will be impossible to ignore the influence and success of Landon Donovan. Donovan has been a uniting force at a pivotal time in the development of the game. He will be missed in Brazil, but remembered for years to come.
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