Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By IVES GALARCEP
CARSON, Calif.– The inevitable questions came, both in English and Spanish, and Landon Donovan wasted little energy as he shot each question down, one by one.
The topic was Donovan’s future, which had to be expected after hearing for months now that he was burned out, and hearing for weeks now that he was seriously contemplating retirement at the age of 30.
That made the questions fair ones, but Donovan still wanted no part of them. Wearing a thick beard and sporting a blank stare for long stretches, Donovan only wanted to talk about Saturday’s MLS Cup Final and not about the possibility that the match could be the final game for one of the best soccer players in American history.
As much as Beckham’s Galaxy farewell is snatching up a majority of headlines, Donovan’s potential departure is the bigger story for American soccer for a multitude of reasons. From the impact his departure would have on the Galaxy, to the significance of his potential exit from the U.S. national team picture, Donovan’s retirement would have a much more substantial impact on the game in America than Beckham’s exit to parts unknown.
While Donovan has insisted that walking away from the game is a very real possibility, the general consensus around the league is one of disbelief. Could a 30-year-old player who is still one of the best players in MLS really just call it a day?
“There’s been no better player in our league and it would be a shame if he wasn’t playing next season,” said San Jose Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop, who coached Donovan with the Earthquakes and Galaxy. “Obviously his decision’s not made yet. Maybe he just needs to step away and think about everything and then decide.”
Jurgen Klinsmann isn’t quite convinced that Donovan is ready to hang up the boots for good, but he plans on meeting with Donovan soon to discuss the next chapter in his life.
“We had the approach that we would sit down once his season is over and just talk, talk about life, and what you want to do,” Klinsmann said. “I’ll give you my two cents. And see where he’s at. That’s what we’re going to do when he’s done with that game.
“I’m very positive that he’ll continue to play,” Klinsmann said. “It’s his decision. He says it’s both “mental fatigue and physical fatigue”, but it’s up to him what he wants to do.”
Klinsmann has grown accustomed to fielding a team without Donovan, who has missed many of the games since Klinsmann became head coach in 2010, but a retirement would still be a landmark moment because of just how important he has been to the national team for the better part of the past decade.
Donovan will have plenty to think about once the final whistle blows on Saturday night. There is little doubt that he is in dire need of some rest, and some time away from the game, but the reality is there is a chance Saturday’s MLS Cup Final could be his final game.
Not many people actually believe that, but the mere possibility that Saturday’s MLS Cup Final could be Donovan’s final game makes the match a must-see moment. He has done enough in his career, for both club and country, to be considered a legend, even if he ended his career far sooner than anyone could have imagined.