Skip to content

Did Landon Donovan’s World Cup omission force him into early retirement?

Aug 7, 2014, 3:00 PM EST

Was Landon Donovan always planning to retire at the end of the 2014 Major League Soccer season, or was his hand forced?

The real reasons behind his decision will likely come out in the coming days and weeks, but it has certainly been one heck of a summer for the all-time leading scorer in MLS and the U.S. national team.

[RELATED: Donovan to retire]

At the end of May, Donovan was shockingly left off the USA’s final 23-man World Cup roster for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as his chance to play in a fourth-straight World Cup for the Stars and Stripes was taken away from him.

Donovan’s fall from grace with the national team could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

After taking a self imposed sabbatical during the 2013 offseason, then coming back stronger than ever to lead the U.S. to Gold Cup success in 2013 and prove himself to Klinsmann once again, the damage done to Donovan’s pride at being left off the World Cup roster this summer seems to have been lasting.

[RELATED: LD hails U.S. fans as “lifeblood”]

Just days after his omission was confirmed, Donovan, in true fashion, showed the USA what they would be missing as he scored twice vs. Philadelphia to become Major League Soccer’s all-time leading scorer. Time and time again Donovan proved the doubters wrong and now he has achieved pretty much everything you can as a professional soccer player.

source: Getty Images

One of Donovan;s finest moments came at the 2010 World Cup. His last-gasp goal sent the USMNT through to the last 16.

He has scored at two different World Cups for the USA. He has played in, scored more goals, and played in more MLS All-Star Game games than any other player. He has played in the Bundesliga and the Premier League for historic clubs. He is the all-time leading scorer for the USA with 57 goals in 156 games. He is the all-time leading scorer in MLS with 138 goals in 320 appearances.

Donovan has been the face of the league and soccer in North America for well over a decade and has stuck to his task or constantly promoting the game, rallying behind the U.S. Soccer Federation and MLS to do whatever he can to help raise soccer’s profile. Then, as Klinsmann deemed his play to not be good enough for the USA’s efforts in Brazil this summer, Donovan was cast aside and humiliated.

Donovan’s swansong for the USA was taken away from him.

Justified or not. That must have accelerated his decision to retire at the age of 32. With the 2015 Gold Cup, 2016 Copa America and perhaps even the 2018 World Cup coming up for the USA and Donovan, had Klinsmann selected the LA forward this summer, maybe Donovan’s career would have lasted for another three or four years. Players like David Beckham, Thierry Henry and many others have continued into their late 30’s before calling it quits.

Instead for Donovan, it’s almost over. His U.S. omission has a lot to do with it.

Yes, Donovan thrived and enjoyed being the face of MLS. However, his time leading the U.S. national team was seemingly over, and that may have been enough to make him reconsider his future as a pro. With no more U.S. duty for Donovan, playing solely in MLS week-in, week-out, for the next few years may not have been enough.

He has tasted success as the face of the USA’s soccer hopes. Now, a man who has spent most of his time in the spotlight was reduced to league play. Nothing less, nothing more. That’s okay for some players but not Donovan.

On the face of it, perhaps this was the right time for Donovan to step down. On Wednesday he jumped off the bench in Portland, arguably the center of soccer’s uprising in North America, in front of a packed house and scored the game-winning goal against German giants Bayern Munich (a team he once played for, but got a rough deal with) in the All-Star Game. He then left the pitch to a standing ovation. Since he made his debut for the San Jose Earthquakes in 2001, the league has grown exponentially and the state of soccer in North America has never been healthier. Donovan is a big part of that. Ask any casual soccer fan, or just any sports fans, to name the first U.S. soccer player that comes in to their head. Now, and for the foreseeable future, I bet they say: Landon Donovan.

Now, we know when Donovan’s fairytale career will come to a close. Whether he gets one last chance to suit up for the U.S. or finishes everything off in style by winning MLS Cup 2014 with the LA Galaxy remains to be seen.

The way Donovan’s storybook career has played out over the years, you’d be a fool to bet against it. The king of soccer in the USA has almost left the building. The first truly great American soccer player will be sorely missed.

Was this the right time for Donovan to hang up his boots?

Latest Posts
  1. 2015 MLS season preview: Seattle Sounders

    Mar 5, 2015, 3:19 PM EST

    Seattle Sounders logo

    After winning two of three titles last season, can the Sounders finally clinch that pesky MLS Cup?

  2. PST predicts Major League Soccer’s 2015 standings; Do you agree?

    Mar 5, 2015, 2:45 PM EST

    Kreis and Reyna have painstakingly put the inaugural NYCFC squad together. AP

    From expansion team finishing first to making the playoffs to finishing in last, our writers have varied opinions on how MLS will unfold in 2015.

  3. Premier League Playback: With 10 games to go, here’s how things stand

    Mar 5, 2015, 2:08 PM EST

    PST’s Editor and Lead Writer looks back at the midweek madness, and assesses where we are at with 10 games to go.

  4. 2015 MLS season preview: New England Revolution

    Mar 5, 2015, 1:20 PM EST

    New England logo

    Can the Revs build on a fantastic 2014? Heaps hopes so…

  5. Men In Blazers podcast: Ginormous preview of 2015 MLS season with Alexi Lalas

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:50 PM EST

    meninblazers

    In the latest MiB pod, Alexi Lalas stops by to preview the 2015 MLS season.

  6. MLS Commissioner Don Garber talks new CBA deal; hails players’ role in progress

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:20 PM EST

    MLS ALL-STAR GAME COMING BACK TO DENVER Getty Images

    Here’s what the MLS commish had to say about the new CBA, as months of negotiating finally paid off on Wednesday.

  7. Top 10 breakout players in Major League Soccer for 2015

    Mar 5, 2015, 11:40 AM EST

    Portland Timbers v Real Salt Lake Getty Images

    Who will bounce back or come from nowhere to shine in 2015? Here’s a speculative look.

  8. 2015 MLS season preview: New York Red Bulls

    Mar 5, 2015, 9:30 AM EST

    500px-New_York_Red_Bulls_logo

    How will the Red Bulls get on as Marsch ushers in a new era?

  9. Who, if anybody, won the CBA negotiations in MLS: The players or the league?

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:47 AM EST

    2013 MLS SuperDraft Presented By Adidas Getty Images

    Should the league or the players feel happier on the eve of the 2015 season after a new CBA was agreed?

  10. Winston Reid signs new long-term deal at West Ham United

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:07 AM EST

    West Ham United v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    Reid is going nowhere, as New Zealand international signs new deal at Upton Park.

  11. VIDEO: QPR’s Chris Ramsey “genuinely sick” after loss to Arsenal

    Mar 4, 2015, 10:51 PM EST

    Queens Park Rangers v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Charlie Austin played well, and the club truly appeared unlucky not to find an equalizer in the 2-1 loss. They were a step off all night.

  12. No. 1 seed DC United out of CONCACAF Champions League despite win vs Alajuelense

    Mar 4, 2015, 10:00 PM EST

    concacaf-champions-league

    The aggregate loss leaves the Montreal Impact as the lone Major League Soccer hope in the CCL semifinals.

  13. Neymar brace puts Barcelona in Copa del Rey final vs Athletic Bilbao (video)

    Mar 4, 2015, 9:16 PM EST

    Neymar, AP

    The clubs have played in 36 finals, second-most to Real Madrid’s 39.

  14. MLS, union come together to avoid calamitous work stoppage

    Mar 4, 2015, 7:58 PM EST

    New MLS logo Getty Images

    Clearly Nick Mendola’s open letter last night did the trick. You’re all welcome.

  15. Spitgate: Did Evans and Cisse spit at each other at St. James Park on Wednesday? Yep.

    Mar 4, 2015, 7:48 PM EST

    Newcastle United v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    The short answer is, “Yes. Yes they did.” Manchester United and Newcastle United had two more spits on target than actual goals on Wednesday.

  16. 2015 MLS Season Preview: D.C. United

    Mar 4, 2015, 7:15 PM EST

    DCUnited

    Last season a one-hit wonder? Not a chance. D.C. United is here to stay.

  17. Lloyd’s brace helps USWNT to winning start in comeback versus Norway at Algarve Cup (video)

    Mar 4, 2015, 7:14 PM EST

    Carli Lloyd (ussoccer.com) Carli Lloyd (ussoccer.com)

    The USWNT is looking to rebound from the 2014 Algarve Cup, where it finished in 7th after drawing Japan and losing to Sweden and Denmark.

  18. 2015 MLS Season Preview: Columbus Crew

    Mar 4, 2015, 6:30 PM EST

    Crew

    Columbus needs to build on last season’s success or see it flutter away in the winds of time. Can they seize the season?