Playing for only a half hour in a Friday night friendly is a shameful way for Landon Donovan to go out.
His U.S. Men's National Team experience will come to an end in a meaningless contest against Ecuador after only 30 minutes — likely by his own request, as his L.A. Galaxy are pushing for a top playoff spot in the waning MLS season. He has a game two days later that means something.
Even the most cynical fans had to feel for Donovan when USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann left Donovan off his final World Cup roster. Nobody has more singularly represented any sport for the U.S. like he has, both at home and internationally. Then all of a sudden, he wasn't even among its 23 best.
For Donovan, it's a shame because he really shouldn't have to be appearing in this meaningless game at all. Friendly matches like these are best for younger players to get experience with the team and for coaches to tinker with their lineups. Donovan is neither young, nor does he have a spot in any future lineups for Klinsmann. This is his going away party. He has to make a flight across the country from L.A. to Hartford, Connecticut, make pleasant at least temporarily with the man who caused him his deepest public shame, then go sweat and risk injury in the name of nothing.
Had he been in Brazil, that would have been it for Donovan. No curtain call, no frills, no nonsense: He would have gone out with his team, proud to have been a part of another World Cup squad and leaving it all behind from the greatest competition on Earth.
And it's a shame for his fans, too. The last soccer of Donovan's career will happen in November or December, depending on how far the Galaxy make it in the playoffs. That's months after his last meaningful appearance for the USMNT, a 2-2 draw in April. For a majority of U.S. soccer fans, ones who won't turn on the MLS because they just don't care, this is it.
This is our 30 minutes to say goodbye to the soul of the team for the better part of the last decade. He might not have been the best, he might not have been the most important member, but this team was always his. It will go too fast.
It's not all bad for Donovan. This half-hour cameo is Donovan letting himself out the side door of his own party. He's really, really glad we all came, but he has somewhere else to be.
If anything at all, the last few years of Donovan's career have been about doing what he thought was best, even if it was hard. He left the sport completely between 2012 and 2013 because he needed to. It might have cost him his spot on the World Cup roster, and it definitely cost him some money, too.
Tonight, Donovan is doing what he thinks is best — retiring from the USMNT the best way he can, giving it one more go for the U.S. soccer fans while protecting his professional interest.
He deserves to do whatever he thinks is best.
From us, he deserves our thanks: for being the face of U.S. soccer for more than a decade, for showing a largely unappreciative nation how much fun the beautiful game can be on the international level, and for giving a nation an unforgettable moment at the World Cup.
Farewell, Landon Donovan. And thank you.
"Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very
disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more
important than that."
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