October 10, 2014
By Michael LewisBigAppleSoccer.com Editor
Donovan plays in final international match
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -- If this was a Hollywood ending, then Landon Donovan would have scored in his final game with the U.S. national team.
|Landon Donovan waves goodbye after his last appearance with the U.S. Men's National Team Friday in East Hartford.
Photo by Tony Quinn
Instead, he and his teammates settled for a 1-1 draw with Ecuador in an international friendly at Rentschler Stadium Friday night.
It turned into a bittersweet encounter for the man who had been the face of U.S. Soccer and U.S. soccer for the past 14 years, thanks to his feet and his head.
Ecuador managed to equalize on Enner Valencia's 88th-minute goal, a 28-yard shot that took one bounce past goalkeeper Brad Guzan into the lower right corner.
Donovan finished his 157th and final appearance for the red, white and blue, leaving the match in the 41st minute as Joe Corona became an interesting answer to a trivia question as the forward's replacement. Originally, Donovan was supposed to play a half hour, but his substitution took longer than planned.
It gave the 32-year-old an opportunity to score and end his international career with an exclamation point, but it wasn't meant to be.
He did have a say in the USA's goal in the fifth minute, sending in a left-wing cross to Jozy Altidore at the far right post. Alitdore then fed DeAndre Yedlin, who gave Mix Diserud a the pass. Diskerud then fired a low shot into the right corner past goalkeeper Maximo Banguera.
Donovan was the first player to hug Diskerud, who had worn Landon's No. 10 during the World Cup in which the veteran USA attacker was left off the team by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
While he did not score, that did not mean Donovan left without giving it the old college try, even if he did not attend college because he turned pro at such a young age.
His closest opportunity came in the 25th minute when he drilled a 15-yard shot off the right post. The loose ball was there for the taking as Donovan rushed in, but Banguera managed to get there a split-second before Donovan, who slipped to the ground and as he put his hands to his head knowing he missed his golden opportunity.
So, Donovan's career numbers were frozen at 57 goals and 58 assists, all-time leaders in both categories.
Before the game kicked off, you knew it was going to be a special night for Donovan.
The teams marched onto to the field under a stadium canopy that had the U.S. Soccer logo with the words, LEGEND 10, with the L in red and the D in blue , Donovan's initials. Donovan was the only player holding hands with not one, but two youngsters.
U.S. Soccer presented No. 10 a unique piece of memorabilia of his career, a framed national team shirt made up of various designs of the jersey since Donovan made his international debut in a 2-0 win against Mexico on Oct. 25, 2000.
Meanwhile, the near-capacity crowd -- there were still fans coming in at halftime due to traffic snarls around the stadium -- chanted the star's name again and again:
Finally in the 41st minute, his career was officially over when the game was stopped for the Corona substitution. Yedlin gave Donovan a big hug, then Altidore did as Donovan took his the captain's armband and gave it to his teammate. One by one every player on the field hugged the superstar.
As he walked off the field, the crowd gave Donovan a standing ovation and the forward returned the applause. He reached the sideline and Corona hugged him before Jurgen Klinsmann, who had denied him a place on this year's World Cup team, did the same.
After the game, Donovan was interviewed by ESPN announcer Bob Ley in the center circle before a good portion of the 36,265 spectators who stayed behind, along with his teammates and Klinsmann watched video highlights of his international career.
The crowd chanted "Landon Donovan! Landon Donovan!" as he took a walk around the stadium, applauding and waving to the fans after wearing the red, white and blue for the very last time.
Minutes after Donovan's close encounter with the right post, one of the electronic sideboards flashed a message:
Thanks Landon for Leaving Us Wanting more
As it turns out there still is some more to his career. Donovan has three Major League Soccer regular-season games remaining with the LA Galaxy and an undetermined number of playoff games.
So perhaps there is a chance for a Hollywood finish after all, especially if the Galaxy reaches and hosts the final in Carson, Calif., not so far from tinsel town, on Dec. 7.