October 11, 2014
By Michael Lewis
NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD
Donovan's national team career ends on special night
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -- It wasn't exactly a Hollywood ending, but Landon Donovan got a better send off from the U.S. National Team than most would have expected a few months ago.
"It was beyond my wildest dreams for sure," Donovan said of the night which saw the U.S. draw 1-1 with Ecuador at Rentschler Field. "As a human being to feel that kind of support is incredible. I've put a lot into this game over many years and tonight it feels like it was all worth it."
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 Maximo 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.
"I think the goal was off center a bit," Donovan said. "That's OK. Maybe it wasn't meant to be."
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 Klinsmann embraced him a bit.
"He told me he should have taken me to Brazil. Just kidding," Donovan said.
Needless to say, the media broke up.
"He did very well," Klinsmann said. "That whey I left him longer than planned. I had the feeling he needs another chances and maybe he puts one in."
In the most controversial move of his three-year tenure as coach, Klinsmann left Donovan off the World Cup team. He seemed to be in a more conciliatory mood Friday night.
"He built this team. He built so many thing for U.S. Soccer," he said. "He deserves the biggest crowd, the biggest cheers."
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 mother, sister, girlfriend, teammates and Klinsmann watched video highlights of his international career.
That's when Donovan started crying.
"The best for me was watching the video and actually letting myself go a little bit," Donovan told the media in a crowded press conference room. "I was so focused on all the other stuff that's going on. I'm sort of just doing, doing and doing and allowed myself to just be with it. That was nice.
"It was a lot of moments and memories," he said after the USA played Ecuador to a 1-1 draw. "My life has been shaped through this sport. I'm so blessed because I've been able to grow with all the experiences this sport has given me. And that's pretty cool. I've been very fortunate."
The crowd chanted "Landon Donovan! Landon Donovan!" as he took a walk around the stadium, applauding and encouraging fans to cheer after wearing the red, white and blue for the very last time.
"A little out of character for me, but sometimes you have to let go," he said. "Those people, supporters clubs and American Outlaws, they're the blood of this team and the sport. When I started there probably was a few hundred people, now there are thousands of people."
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.