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. VIDEO: Should we be worried about Manchester United after huge overhaul?

    Sep 3, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    Manchester United v Newcastle United - Premier League Getty Images

    Red Devils have ripped apart their title-winning team from 2013. Will things settle down anytime soon?

  2. How will USMNT line up in friendly vs. Peru?

    Sep 3, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT

    Cameron-Austria

    Three options for the starting XI at RFK Stadium on Friday.

  3. Bayern Munich to set up refugee “training camp” as humanitarian crisis deepens

    Sep 3, 2015, 11:20 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwe2ymq2mgvlzdu1owi2mjvkzmiwogy1ztfinwfjy2q5 AP

    German champs taking a stand to help the growing number of asylum seekers arriving in Munich.

  4. VIDEO: Cicerone scores another screamer in college soccer

    Sep 3, 2015, 9:36 AM EDT

    Source: @BullsMensSoccer Source: @BullsMensSoccer

    After his game-winner from halfway last season, Cicerone is at it again.

  5. USMNT move up one spot in latest FIFA World rankings

    Sep 3, 2015, 8:40 AM EDT

    Michael Bradley, USMNT Michael Bradley, USMNT

    Klinsmann’s side move up, but remain out of the top 20.

  6. Premier League Deadline Day podcast

    Sep 2, 2015, 9:57 PM EDT

    DeGea Getty Images

    The NBC Deadline Day show is here in podcast form.

  7. Martial transfer fee from Manchester United trickles down to French lower tier team

    Sep 2, 2015, 9:32 PM EDT

    Martial Getty Images

    A fraction of the transfer fee has made its way to the lower division team in France that helped mold Anthony Martial into the $55 million player he is today.

  8. Men In Blazers Podcast: Deadline Day recap and Chelsea loses again

    Sep 2, 2015, 8:18 PM EDT

    meninblazers

    Rog and Davo break down Chelsea’s loss to Crystal Palace and Swansea’s stylish win over Manchester United. Plus, a recap of transfer deadline day.

  9. Klinsmann confirms Brad Guzan will start Confederations Cup playoff in goal

    Sep 2, 2015, 6:56 PM EDT

    Guzan Getty Images

    Tim Howard looked good for Everton last weekend, but the U.S. coach says it’s too close to the Mexico game to make a change.

  10. Ashley Cole is quickly being phased out at Roma

    Sep 2, 2015, 5:42 PM EDT

    Cole Getty Images

    The former Chelsea defender is no longer listed on the team’s website and was left out of both the club’s domestic and European squads.

  11. Dortmund’s Kevin Grosskreutz will move to Galatasaray immediately despite transfer mishap

    Sep 2, 2015, 4:29 PM EDT

    Grosskreutz Getty Images

    The paperwork was late, and FIFA rejected the deal, but the two sides still wish for it to be completed.

  12. Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirms he turned down AC Milan this summer

    Sep 2, 2015, 3:40 PM EDT

    Zlatan Getty Images

    The San Siro wanted Zlatan back, but he is happy in France.

  13. Ex-Manchester United striker Berbatov spurned Aston Villa for Greek club

    Sep 2, 2015, 2:46 PM EDT

    Berbatov Getty Images

    Villa had a very quiet Deadline Day, but they tried to make a splash.

  14. Mark Noble wins red card appeal; West Ham still charged for reaction

    Sep 2, 2015, 2:07 PM EDT

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 29: Mark Noble of West Ham United at Chadwell Heath on June 29, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by James Griffiths/West Ham United via Getty Images) Getty Images

    After the match, Noble said it was a tackle that happens “10 times a game” and that he felt it didn’t even deserve a yellow card.

  15. U.S. U-23 versus England U-21 preview: Young Yanks face Premier League cast at Deepdale

    Sep 2, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 14:  Cameron Carter-Vickers of Tottenham Hotspur U21 holds off Manu Garcia of Manchester City U21 during the Barclays U21 Premier League match between Manchester City U21 and Tottenham Hotspur U21 at The Academy Stadium on August 14, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images) Getty Images

    After finishing second in its group thanks to a 3-1 win over the Netherlands, Herzog’s Yanks toppled England’s U-20 team this summer. Now: the U-21s.

  16. Spain’s Del Bosque says De Gea’s Euro spot in trouble without playing time; Speaks on Chelsea’s Costa

    Sep 2, 2015, 12:31 PM EDT

    Manchester United's goalkeeper David De Gea of Spain arrives at Soccer City training facility for a Spanish soccer team concentration meeting in Las Rozas, near Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015. The day after De Gea's multi-million euro move to the Spanish capital was called off, Madrid pointed the finger at United, issuing a lengthy 10-point statement claiming officials at Old Trafford held the deal up with their delays, but United hit back at their old rivals by publishing a counter-statement on Tuesday evening. (AP Photo) AP

    “He needs to be professional and move on from this episode,” Del Bosque said of the Manchester United keeper.

  17. Arsenal’s Ozil says he’d play in Olympics; Joachim Low doubts it very much

    Sep 2, 2015, 11:29 AM EDT

    FBL-WC-2014-MATCH45-USA-GER Getty Images

    Unified Germany hasn’t medaled since 1964 in Tokyo (Bronze). East Germany won gold in 1976.

Featured video

PST Extra: Analyzing transfer deadline day