My thoughts on Landon Donovan's retirement

Discussion in 'Prem talk, Those Other Leagues, and International' started by tim, Aug 11, 2014.

  1. tim

    tim Active Member

    Nov 13, 2007
    Los Angeles
    I work with some serious sports fans. Serious sports fans that, for reasons beyond my understanding, don’t care much for soccer. Over the years, I’d come into work on Monday, sharing excitedly news of Clint Dempsey racking up the goals (side note…weren’t those the days) or Tim Howard’s exploits, or Michael Bradley’s, and I’d meet blank stares. I’d try to explain promotion and relegation, or explain why I was taking vacation days to watch Europa League matches, or detail the process of qualifying for the World Cup. They’d listen with the requisite level of common courtesy, but I long ago gave up trying to truly convert them. They just weren’t soccer guys…But they know Landon Donovan. And it’s not just because we live in L.A. It’s because LD may well be the first superstar the United States has ever produced.

    Of course, much has been made of his failed early ventures in Europe and his seeming unwillingness to give it another full-time try later in his career. And then there was the sabbatical and his daring to say publicly that he had lost some of the fire that drove him to play.

    It’s a question that I wrestle with as a sports fan. What do we expect from our players? Can we appreciate, even understand, when their lives away from the game impact their play? After all, we all have bad days at the office; most of ours, though, don’t come with the scrutiny of thousands of people watching, not to mention an increasingly vitriolic social media punditry. I think even his harshest critics had to feel some pangs of sympathy, though, when he was so unceremoniously dumped from the World Cup roster this summer. How could Landon, the face of U.S. Soccer, not be on the plane to Brazil?

    Oddly enough, I think it’s partly a product of his own success. He helped set a standard that, at least according to Jurgen Klinsmann, he could no longer meet. No longer was talent, or past success, or simply reputation, enough to earn the opportunity to put on the red, white and blue. Klinsmann would settle for nothing less than full, unwavering commitment to the game. Say what you will about the omission (I, for one, think he should have been on the roster), but there’s no doubt that Landon himself elevated the game in this country to a level where, at the very least, there were now questions about his ability to compete.

    But even before 2014, even before the roster controversy, even before his sabbatical, Landon was the best-known and (arguably) most accomplished player the United States has ever produced…a bona fide, homegrown player who emerged with promise and hype and actually delivered. The MLS and U.S. Soccer record books will long bear his name. As he runs down the remaining months of his career, he’ll earn plaudits and cheers (like those that greeted him at the Stubhub Center last Friday, his first game after announcing his plans to retire). His jersey will undoubtedly be retired, and he’ll find himself in hall(s) of fame. And, hopefully, he’ll continue to be involved in the game in some way. But most importantly, people who have never heard of Brian McBride or Steve Cherundolo or Carlos Bocanegra; people whose last recognition of an American soccer player was Alexi Lalas and his hair in 1994; people who couldn’t explain the offside rule if their life depended on it, know who he is. That’s an accomplishment, and one that may end up meaning far more than all the goals, assists, MLS Cups, and caps combined.
  2. BarryWhite

    BarryWhite Well-Known Member

    Sep 24, 2011
    Newburgh, IN
    Excellent post!
  3. jumpkutz

    jumpkutz Well-Known Member

    Sep 24, 2011
    Louisville, KY
  4. AggieMatt

    AggieMatt Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2008
    Alamo City, Texas
    Well said, Tim. I didn't find the news of his retirement remotely surprising. During the road to Brazil, there was something in Donovan's comments that just sounded like his heart wasn't fully in it or that he wasn't as committed. If this decision was in the back of his mind, that would explain a lot. I'd have taken him to Brazil, myself, just in case there was anymore of that magic left in the tank. But he and Klinsmann have their history and if JK knew he'd go with other sub options over LD anyway, what's the point. You can't argue that Wondo wasn't playing better at the time.

    Excellent points on Landon's transcending the soccer marketplace in the US. I probably fall in that camp of people who "don't like" Donovan. Obviously I rooted for him when he played for the Nats, but there was a little resentment that he'd rather be comfortable in LA instead of pushing himself to greater heights abroad during his prime. I know the Munich deal didn't work out but I just wanted him to take another shot at it. I also resented the hype and push he got when I thought Tim and Clint were just as (if not more) worthy of sharing that spotlight. That's in no way Landon's fault, but in this country we do tend to push back when we feel something is shoved down our throats. There were a couple of years that he won US Player of the Year when I thought Howard or Dempsey were far more deserving.

    I get your point about having a bad day at the office, but he can have those on practice days and we're none the wiser. It's like if you have a presentation at work. You'd better have your bad day while prepping for it and not on the day you're presenting.

    Regardless of my thoughts about his decision to spend his prime years playing domestically, his doing so did MLS a great service and he pretty much carried the league as the face of MLS and US Soccer. He's bridged that period where the league was in a growth stage to today, where it no longer needs a single player to carry that mantle and has plenty of stars to promote. For that he deserves a lot of credit. His USMNT career speaks for itself.
  5. nevzter

    nevzter Well-Known Member

    Mar 5, 2007
    A City by a Bay
    Excellent post and I agree with the comments. Thanks for the write up
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