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Saying Goodbye to U.S. Soccer’s Most Influential Player

Saying Goodbye to U.S. Soccer’s Most Influential Player:

For one last time as captain of the Men’s National Team, Landon Donovan will step onto a soccer pitch. In their Friday friendly against Ecuador, Donovan is expected to start on the field and play about 30 minutes of the game, despite the strained relationship between him and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. And even though its Donovan Fever across the world today, Klinsmann still isn’t really showing Donovan any love.

But Donovan won’t be remembered for his relationship with his head coach. Donovan will be remembered for being the all time-leader in goals and assists for the U.S National team and for his 12 stunning World Cup appearances. He has truly been a staple to the national team and instrumental in its success, despite not making the team for this year’s World Cup. I still get chills thinking about the day Donovan scored one of the most iconic goals in U.S. history against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup. And they didn’t just win the game with that goal, they won the entire group.

“I think one of the hardest things to do is to score a goal in a soccer game,” Donovan, says referring to his game-winning goal against Algeria. “Everything to come together that way, it’s beautiful. I mean, it’s really a work of art.”

And as expected there have already been several tribute videos circling around the web honoring Donovan’s career. But MLSsoccer.com featured just one heart-jerking 7-minute video so far this week. The video traces Donovan’s journey perfectly, beginning with his rise as a U-17 Men’s National Team forward through the highlights of his World Cup appearances. And even teammate Kyle Martino wasn’t afraid to admit he shed a tear watching it.

And for us 1990s soccer kids who grew up with star players like Donovan, Mia Hamm, Cobi Jones, Brandi Chastain and Brian McBride, it will be difficult to witness his final match. Watching Donovan zip by defenders and scoring goals from the half-line as a 14-year-old girl who lived in a LA Galaxy jersey and dirty cleats was an instrumental reason I dreamt of playing college soccer. He was simply inspiring to a generation of American soccer players who were told soccer was a waste of time and a career in it was far-fetched. But Donovan showed the entire world the potential American soccer really had, and it showed, most importantly, to Americans that this could be a sport we could really get behind.

It’s hard to image that a player who has been so instrumental in evolving U.S. soccer into what it is today will be finishing his career hours from now. The match against Ecuador will air on ESPN at 7 P.M. eastern time, and Donovan will get the send off he truly deserves.

Thanks, Donovan, for making professional soccer more than just a dream for my generation.


Nicole Theodore is a digital intern at Playboy. To read more of her soccer fueled rants, follow her on Twitter @nctheodore.

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