Donovan ready to enjoy final months of season following retirement announcement

Landon Donovan

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

By DAN KARELL

Landon Donovan stunned the American soccer public on Thursday when he announced that his 16th season in professional soccer would be his last.

Following training on Thursday morning, Donovan held a press conference along with LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, president Chris Klein, and AEG CEO Dan Beckerman to explain his decision. Donovan had flirted with retirement during his oft-discussed sabbatical in early 2013, but admitted that after starting the 2013 season strong and putting in MVP-worthy performances at the Gold Cup, he felt good about continuing his career.

Donovan said that while he had been excited to start the season ahead of potentially playing in the World Cup, recently his passion for the game had taken a dip, and his gut was telling him it was time to walk away.

“In the last few weeks, I started thinking a lot about (retirement) again, I was talking to my family quite a bit about it, and my gut just told me it was the right time,” Donovan said. “After a lot of conversations, some pleasant and some not so pleasant, with friends, family, people I respect and admire, I felt that it was the right thing to do.”

The 32-year-old American star revealed that he ultimately made the decision prior to the Galaxy’s 3-0 thrashing of the Seattle Sounders on July 28, and claimed that since he made the decision, it was like a “weight had been lifted” off his shoulders.

“I think for the last few years I haven’t had the same passion that I had previously in my career,” Donovan said. “To some extent I had felt obligated to keep playing. When that obligation part goes away, I realized that it was just relieving and I could just enjoy it as a player again, almost as a kid again. I know it sounds simple and easy to say but it was a big thing to me.

“Just even letting Chris (Klein) and Dan (Beckerman) know initially, letting Bruce (Arena) know, letting other people know made me feel better because I almost felt like I was holding onto this secret. It’s allowed me now to really enjoy myself and that’s what I want. I’d rather have three or four months of really playing well and enjoying myself than a couple of years of mediocrity and not being passionate about it.”

Since the announcement, tributes from across the nation have flowed into Los Angeles, from fellow teammates, players around the league, coaches, including U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, and executives in the league and U.S. Soccer.

However, arguably the most touching moment of the day came from Arena, who couldn’t hold back tears when asked about Donovan’s legacy and impact on Arena himself.

“There are people in our lives who make a difference, and he has as a player and as a person,” Arena said in an interview at the StubHub Center. “I’ve seen him as a young kid and now I see him as a man and see him at the end of a career, which is unbelievably ironic that I’ve seen him as a baby in the sport and now as a man that’s leaving. To see the joy he had today and also witness the suffering he’s experienced throughout his career, to see that range of emotions, and now to see he’s happy again, its emotional to me.”

When asked about what’s in store for the future, Donovan joked that he didn’t see himself as a coach in the future, at least for the first team, but did want to work with the Galaxy academy in some capacity to help impact the next generation of players.

Mostly, Donovan said that he was just looking forward to being with friends, family, his girlfriend, and having the freedom to do whatever he wants, independent of how it would affect his soccer career.

“It gets me excited thinking about (the future),” Donovan said. “A lot of people think we show up on Saturday night and play the game and then we go home and sit around all week and do nothing. It’s the furthest thing from the truth.”

“For 16 years, almost every decision I’ve made, every hour of every day, has revolved around ‘how is this going to prepare me for tomorrow’s training session or tomorrow’s game.’ That weighs on you after a while so just having the freedom to do whatever you want is very exciting to me and I’m really looking forward to that.”

Donovan’s career accomplishments extend further than just a page on a paper or a list on a website. From appearing in three World Cups, scoring the most-ever goals and recording the most assists in USMNT history, to becoming the MLS all-time leading goalscorer, Donovan’s legacy will be etched both in the record books as well as in the minds of an entire generation who grew up watching him.

Last Wednesday, Donovan played in his 14th, and now last, MLS All-Star Game. Though he only played 25 minutes, Donovan scored the game-winning goal in the 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich and took home MVP honors for the second time in his career.

“All I could think of (when I scored) was ‘if only everybody knew’,” Donovan said. “It was perfect. It was nice. The last 24 hours have been pretty hectic, pretty crazy, but I am pretty happy that that game ended that way and I want to make sure (Friday’s) game and the rest of the season end similarly.”

Donovan and the Galaxy return to the field on Friday when they face the San Jose Earthquakes at the StubHub Center.

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22 Responses to Donovan ready to enjoy final months of season following retirement announcement

  1. Quit Whining About Soccer in the US says:

    He is young, so the LD haters won’t like to hear this…he had a very long career.

    My guess is he had thought about this for a while. Play in the 4th World Cup, finish the season and retire. Good timing if you want to go out before you flame out.

    • beto says:

      32 isn’t that old.. esp considering when MLS is signing 36 year old DP’s… but think about the years of travel and games across the world year round that he put in.

      your top player in Spain or England plays all of their league games in an area smaller than California. National team and Champions League games would occasionally take them as far as a road game for LA to Chicago or Texas. and that’s about it for travel outside of the World Cup ever 4 years and a preseason tour of USA or Asia..

      Now look at LD’s career. Back and forth over the US& Canada, Caribbean, Mexico & Central America. Games in Europe multiple times per year plus his loans in England..

      Also considering how he played; all over every attack!.. I always knew the guy would get burned out.

      • Btown says:

        +1. Not to say that I feel sympathy for a professional athlete seeing how much they get paid, but I do like Donovan’s honesty about wanting freedom about how to live his life from now on, not having to worry about every decision and how it will affect the weekend’s game. If you think of how much travel and how much mileage is on his legs it’s really no surprise he is seemingly “aging” faster than others. It’s all relative really. Crazy to actually think he is still faster than MOST guys in the league except for a select few even after all these years and all that mileage.

      • donaldo says:

        ditto… and it can’t be easy being the poster child (and target) for mls and usa soccer. i wonder how many interviews, appearances, and autographs he averaged over his years. probably close to what beckham did over a much shorter time. no wonder he wanted to disappear to cambodia. i’d be gone after a week of all that.

  2. RBNY says:

    Dude has always been a head case lol.

  3. Just_Sayin says:

    Don’t Donovan’s own comments somewhat support Klinsmann’s decision? I mean if Donovan had said he was losing passion for the game BEFORE the world cup squad selections, would people have questioned Klinsmann as much? I don’t mean to be disrespectful to Donovan; he’s an American soccer god. I just think it’s interesting that he so strongly believed he deserved a spot at the World Cup even while his passion for the game was waning.

    • RBNY says:

      Disinterested Landon is still better than an extremely enthralled Brad Davis

      • Mason says:

        Nope. Disinterest is contagious.

        • Ronniet says:

          To even attempt to assume that a player that has been playing for as long as Landon has and has been classy every bit of the way would have let his future decisions affect a WC camp/locker room is moronic and ignorant of you to consider! The hate continues!

    • smash says:

      The fact that he was left off the WC team more than likely helped expedite his retirement decision.
      My guess is that it was the final death blow if you will. Too much disappointment to handle.
      Its bitter sweet for me because I remember watching his very first games as a pro in SJ – and even had the pleasure of hanging with him and some of the other Clash members after a few of their games. To now living in LA watching him end his career here with the Galaxy. Love or hate him he’s dedicated his life to the sport we all love.
      LD – congrats on an unbelievable career and thank you for all that you’ve done for the sport here in America.

      • MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

        IDK man. I think he passion was already low by then. Remember, his interview with ESPN where he cried and mentioned retirement. That was before Cambodia.

        Seems to me he his ready to be Landon the person on a full time basis and not Landon the player.

        Either cant hate the guy. Follow your heart and live your life.

    • TheFrenchOne says:

      Jonathan Salas, is that you rehashing your comment from yesterday…?

  4. Smacking says:

    I’m disappointed he won’t be back in the northeast this season. I really hope US Soccer puts together a testimonial match for him. He certainly deserves it.

  5. Mark says:

    I’m still bitter that Klinsmann left Landon off the World Cup roster. I don’t think I’ll ever stop thinking, “what if Landon were there?”

    I’m sure LD could have been an as or more effective attacking force than Brad Davis or Graham Zusi or even a great substitute for a dead tired Bradley in the last few minutes of the Portugal game.

    Regardless of the fact that he deserved to be been given his swan song opportunity, he also would have provided real tangible soccer value to this world cup team.

    • Sportsnutty says:

      Not a love or hate Donovan post, but unless you think his presence would have prevented Jozy from getting injured, then I don’t see how tactically or strategically his presence would have helped or hurt the boys chances. Once Jozy went down, to some degree the writing was on the wall. The boys did outstanding to advance as they did without a key cog.

      • Paul says:

        Surely Donovan would have done a better job than Wondolowski? I mean, at least Donovan can put a point blank shot on goal.

  6. ISAF says:

    IMO Dempsey will ultimately be judged as the better player and someday Julian Green will be better than him

    • White Kix says:

      At Dempsey’s age, no matter who is better, he can’t have the total impact that Donovan did for US soccer. As far as Green goes, even if he goes on to star for Munich, unless he pulls a Pele or Marodonna and wins the World Cup, he will never make the impact for the US national team that Donovan did (Playing in Europe gets you excluded from many games, so Donovan’s records won’t ever be sniffed by Green).