Skip to content

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

Aug 7, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

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. MLS Snapshot: Chicago Fire 2-0 FC Dallas (video)

    Aug 2, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    Accam Getty Images

    David Accam helped lead Chicago Fire over FC Dallas to end the visitors five-game winning streak.

  2. WATCH: Ex-Barcelona midfielder Xavi scores a wonderful free-kick on debut for Qatari club

    Aug 2, 2015, 8:06 PM EDT

    Xavi Getty Images

    Xavi gets up for preseason friendlies, and in his first match for his new club, the 35-year-old rips a classic free kick.

  3. MLS Snapshot: San Jose Earthquakes 0-0 Portland Timbers (video)

    Aug 2, 2015, 7:03 PM EDT

    Valeri Getty Images

    Diego Valeri missed a penalty as neither side could take advantage of its few big chances.

  4. Premier League friendly roundup: Southampton draws, Stoke swallowed

    Aug 2, 2015, 6:36 PM EDT

    Hughes Getty Images

    It was a tough day for a number of Premier League teams who suffered losses and setbacks, most notably Mark Hughes and Stoke City.

  5. Jack Wilshere to miss the start of the season with another ankle problem

    Aug 2, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT

    Wilshere Getty Images

    The 23-year-old midfielder has struggled with ankle problems in the past, and another has cropped up.

  6. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: West Ham United

    Aug 2, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Payet Getty Images

    Some big signings this summer and a new manager has fans excited for what could be this coming year.

  7. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: West Bromwich Albion

    Aug 2, 2015, 3:14 PM EDT

    WestBrom Getty Images

    Tony Pulis is a hard-nosed leader, but unless Saido Berahino can repeat his goal-scoring year from last season, it will be a tough go for the Baggies.

  8. Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho fail to shake hands, as Gunners boss finally prevails

    Aug 2, 2015, 1:07 PM EDT

    The long-time spat between the managers of Arsenal and Chelsea rumbles on.

  9. Sunday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Liverpool wants Cheryshev, Pato to Sunderland

    Aug 2, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT

    FC Internazionale v Real Madrid- International Champions Cup Getty Images

    Catch up on all the latest transfer rumors and gossip, right here.

  10. Three things we learned from Arsenal’s Community Shield win vs. Chelsea

    Aug 2, 2015, 11:57 AM EDT

    Wenger finally beats Mourinho, while the Blues have some issues up front.

  11. Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea: Oxlade-Chamberlain strike wins Gunners FA Community Shield

    Aug 2, 2015, 11:55 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptq2mtvlzdlkyzrjzwnhzdg3ywvhyzy2m2qznzzkmwu11 AP

    Arsenal takes claim to the Community Shield as Arsene Wenger has finally defeated Jose Mourinho.

  12. VIDEO: Brilliant finish from Oxlade-Chamberlain puts Arsenal ahead in Community Shield

    Aug 2, 2015, 10:49 AM EDT

    Arsenal celebrate their opening goal vs. Chelsea. AP

    The Gunners took a 1-0 first half lead over Chelsea in the FA Community Shield thanks to a classy finish from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

  13. VIDEO: Watch the Wright-Phillips brothers combine for slick goal in Red Bulls’ win

    Aug 2, 2015, 10:04 AM EDT

    Bradley Wright-Phillips, Bill Hamid AP

    In the City of Brotherly Love, it was only fitting that the Wright-Phillips boys led New York to a victory.

  14. Roy Keane thinks Arsenal players too focused on “selfies and six-packs”

    Aug 2, 2015, 9:07 AM EDT

    Arsenal v Everton: Barclays Asia Trophy Getty Images

    There’s a legitimate chance that Roy Keane has never taken a picture with his cell phone.

  15. Report: Manchester United, PSG agree to $70 million fee for Angel di Maria

    Aug 2, 2015, 8:12 AM EDT

    Everton v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    Manchester United’s Di Maria experiment is all but over, and it’s going to cost them $20 million.

  16. MLS Snapshot: Seattle Sounders 0-3 Vancouver Whitecaps (video)

    Aug 2, 2015, 12:02 AM EDT

    Pa Modou Kah, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Pa Modou Kah, Vancouver Whitecaps FC

    That’s 7 losses in 8 games for the Sounders. Meanwhile, the ‘Caps go top of the West.

  17. MLS Snapshot: Sporting Kansas City 1-1 Houston Dynamo (video)

    Aug 1, 2015, 10:47 PM EDT

    Tim Melia, Sporting Kansas City Tim Melia, Sporting Kansas City

    Another Royal Rumble between old rivals. While the rest of MLS went goal-crazy, these two did what they always do.

  18. MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 5-2 Columbus Crew SC (video)

    Aug 1, 2015, 9:33 PM EDT

    Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

    The goals floweth over in MLS tonight. Cyle Larin scored his second straight brace for Orlando City.

Featured video

What can we expect from PL new boys?