Landon Donovan: The Legend, Not the Controversy
What makes a leader?
Harry S. Truman answered my question in this way.
“Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”
Why is it that in an incredible career such as Landon Donovan’s, a career that has lasted 15 years, amounted in 46 goals and 47 assists for the U.S National team alone, allmost single handedly set soccer on fire in this country, any spare minute of remembering it and honoring him is being spent discussing the World Cup “snub”?
Landon deserves better than this.
He deserves to be remembered for his first ever World Cup in 2002 where the U.S. shocked the world and beat favored Portugal 3-2 in the group stages, and then continued on to beat Mexico to move into the quarterfinals, the furthest the US has ever gone in the event.
This was especially poignant after the 1998 World Cup fiasco in France when the U.S. lost all three group stage matches, scoring only one goal total in the process.
Soccer was all but forgotten by the time the 2002 World Cup came around and Donovan changed all of that by igniting something great in the hearts of the American people. It was a small flame that he has continued to grow and spread every time he has stepped on to the pitch.
He deserves to be remembered for the influence he has had on all of his teammates, his humble attitude and eagerness to learn from his older ones, and the example he set for the younger kids throughout the country.
To be remembered for evoking this kind of emotion from Bruce Arena who gave a kid, barely out of his teens, a shot to change his life and the life of soccer in this country.
When he heard of Donovan's retirement, he stated: “It’s really hard to respond to that, there are people in our lives that make a difference, and he has as a player, and as a person. I’ve seen him as a young kid, now I see him as a man, seeing him at the end of a career. It’s unbelievably ironic that I’ve seen him as a baby in this sport and now a man that’s leaving.”
To be remembered for being a six-time national soccer player of the year - scoring more assists and more goals than any player in U.S history.
At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Donovan led his team in scoring three times in the four games played; One of them being one of the most famous goals in the history of American soccer, scoring late in second half stoppage time to win 1-0 to give his team the top spot in Group C.
I can still remember that feeling when the ball hit the back of the net, and I have Donovan to thank for that. He played for all 390 minutes of the tournament, ending his World Cup with a record 12 games played and set another US record with five World Cup goals.
Every stage of growth in a particular sport calls for a different type of leader, but there is something special about that first leader who steps in to gets things started. It takes a special person to carry a nation on his shoulders and an even bigger one to hand it off to the next leader knowing he has done the best that he can without any regrets.
Yes, Landon Donovan is a leader: He seized the opportunity when soccer was at a stand still in our country, and he changed it for the better.
Thank you for the memories, Landon. May your next endeavors be equally as fulfilling.