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A look back at Donovan’s World Cup Career

Landon Donovan of USA celebrates the winning goal with team mates

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For as long as many can remember, Landon Donovan has been synonymous with the U.S. Men’s National Team. From his goal in the now famous “Dos a Cero” game in 2002 to his life-saving finish against Algeria in 2010, the LA Galaxy forward has been a part of the country’s best moments on the game’s biggest stage.

On Thursday, U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann announced the 23 men he would bring to Brazil and, for the first time since 2002, Donovan’s name was absent.

Replacing Donovan are promising youngsters such as Julian Green and DeAndre Yedlin, the next generation who’s blistering speed and youthful skill will be looked at as a difference maker on the biggest stage.

In 2002, there was no Yedlin or Green. There was Donovan, the 20-year-old San Jose Earthquakes midfielder looking to make a name. He did, and the U.S. went on arguably the best run in the team’s history through Portugal, Mexico and into the quarterfinals.

Donovan scored twice in the USMNT’s five games in South Korea and Japan. His first came as a late goal in a 3-1 defeat to Poland, but his second goal was the clincher in the first of many “Dos-A-Cero’s” when the USA beat Mexico, 2-0.

The southern California native led the way once again in Germany in 2006, despite a poorer-than-expected performance from the team. A terrible group stage exit was all the team could muster, with Donovan turning in the most disappointing of his three World Cup performances.

Donovan’s forgettable showing in Germany in 2006 is overshadowed now by the heroics of 2010 in South Africa. He scored what has become the goal most associated with U.S. Soccer. His finish against Algeria in second half stoppage time sent the USMNT into the knockout stages on top of the group, while giving fans the signature moment of a generation.

Now, 154 international games and 57 goals later, the all-time leading goalscorer for the U.S. Men’s National Team has been left off of the 2014 World Cup roster, and it feels like we might have seen the last of Donovan in a U.S. uniform.

With four Gold Cup wins, three World Cup appearances and countless big goals, Landon Donovan has delivered more big moments for the United States than any American before him. Unfortunately, there won’t be anymore of those moments this summer in Brazil.

What was your favorite Donovan World Cup moment (aside from the Algeria goal)? Still holding out hope he winds up playing in Brazil?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. US won’t even make it out of it’s Group they have no chance. Germany will destroy them.

    Listen when Donovan was announced not included in the Squad for World Cup Klinsmann’s spoiled Bratt Son took to twitter and taunted London on Twitter! There is much more going on here.

    US is done this year. Klinsmann is an Idiot!

  2. I know he takes some heat for constantly analyzing how important the sport is to him, but maybe it needs some context. In the aftermath of all this, I did a little reading online, and learned something…something I’m not sure I ever heard about…or maybe just don’t even remember. Bear with me, if you know this tale, but I suspect few do:

    When Donovan was with the U20s in CONCACAF qualifying for the U20 World Cup, he had a nasty (understatement of all-time) collision with the captain of the T&T team, one Marvin Lee — about 3 minutes into the match. Donovan and broken ribs. Lee had a broken neck and he was paralyzed. Not totally surprisingly, Lee died a few years later, apparently related to catching a cold. Something like that has got to have an impact on the guy’s psyche, but Donovan still has shown fantastic determination (notwithstanding the bogus Landycakes jabs).

  3. Landon Donovan is that rare player who deserves a “testimonial” game for the National Team. With the professionalism and class he has shown in accepting this decision it’s the least he deserves.

    Maybe one final friendly against Mexico (preferably in Columbus!) dedicated to him?

  4. I still think this is Klinsmann trying to motivate Donovan. An “unplanned” injury will occur during one of the three send off games and Donovan will be on the flight to Brazil.

  5. The 2002 US v Germany match… Landon v. Oliver Kahn. Brilliant stuff and to me, one of the most exciting USMNT matches ever regardless of the outcome.

  6. I don’t have much to add that hasn’t been said by others. Landon is a legend, the greatest American player of all time, and we were all privileged to watch him. He did it his way. And he deserved a better send off than to be left home for some 18 year old fourth division player and/or Brad Davis.

    • Haha that “18 year old Fourth Division player” happens to be a player that Juergen and some unknown guy named Pep Guardiola rate VERY highly. Pep even brought him into the first team for a little competition called the Champions League and was chosen as a replacement for some unknown player named Arjen Robbem at the Club World Cup. Yeah, I’m sure we all know more about his abilities than Pep or Juergen.

      • Saer Sene was the leading scoring for Bayern II in 2012, he was also called up to fill out a roster in a CL match. Now he’s on the New England Revolution.

      • One could easily also Google/Wiki a counter argument that supports Jo’s point. Not unless you are saying all people who come from 4th division ball cannot and will never make it big. If so I say you need to look closer at LD’s resume and you’ll find the hilarity in your comment.

    • Agree on LD’s greatness.

      Meh, on the other points. Deserve? In sports?

      You make an argument earlier that one does not use the WC to rebuild but then say here that LD “deserves” a send off…in a WC??? There are only 20 field spots and you want a guy, as great as he was, to take a spot just because to say he was there? What is he never sees the field while there?

      You can berate the guys who made it all you want – and why not it’s easy to put Davis’ name by LD’s to make a point. But the main thing you are missing here is this – Davis beat him for a spot. Now how does that happen? Maybe he earned it…or maybe there is some super secret, X Files, V is for Vendetta, Klinsmann-Donovan family feud thing that is happening here.

      For me, Davis, earned it.

      • You can make all the funny points you like Kosh, but, if you really think Davis deserves to be on the team instead of Donovan, you really know nothing. Even with Donovan being in bad form at the moment, Davis would not have the impact that LD would. (not even close) I remember all last year thinking Dempsey is sucking the big chalupa, and he was. Well he was in a run of bad form. Today he is doing pretty well. I also recall JK having the patience for Dempsey that he does not have for LD. He went so far as to name Demps as part of his spine when he was playing awful. That patience was never evident for LD. Now some Dempsey fan boy will jump to the defense of him, but, that is not the point of this. It is to clearly show that JK had a different view of LD.

      • Dempsey is in good form now Donovan is not. It is really that simple. Donovan has been called and has train poorly and played poorly in the Mexican game when subbed on. We can’t wait for him to regain form in a world cup setting.

      • Good to meet someone who thinks they know everything…yeah.

        Anywhoddle, here’s the thing, Mike, career wise LD has done tons more than Davis. Absolutely. But now, right now, LD has not done the business and Davis has – even when we consider your overplayed comparisons to past achievements.

        The pick is made and complaining about it does nothing to change the fact that it is done. I was shocked but was able to move past it and I am ready to support my team. Litigating this on the interwebs is tiresome and just a waste of time. Positions are locked and I’d rathyer get past this event and support my team and enjoy the WC..

        Thanks for trying to tell me something you thought I don’t know though.

  7. I’m looking to the future… when Donovan is coaching the USMNT and brings in Klinsmann’s son and then cuts him out of spite.

  8. Good player, the best American player who could have done more with his career had he wanted to challenge himself in Europe. His loan at Everton was a tease to what could have been. Regardless, I’m thankful for what he has done for US Soccer, and wish him nothing but the best.

  9. Bleacher report has the tweet. If you dont think this was personal, get a good grip on your ears and get your head out of your a$$

  10. Landon has been dropping off as a player for years. He has two great attributes speed in space and free kicks. As he has gotten older speed has dropped off, why keep a player with one attribute. No one has seen how Landon has trained in camp and therefore you have to go with the coach picks. Our best player for the last 5 years has been Clint Dempsey anyway, Landon has had some magic here and there but has never been a world stage payer consistently. Thank you Landon and now go your way quietly and make way for the new generation.

  11. Donovan hasn’t been the player he once was for a few years now, even apart from the sabbatical and the notable lack of being in the same city as Clint Dempsey during qualification and many friendlies. Maybe there is a rift with Jurgen, but that doesn’t explain his lack of production in MLS. Everyone seems to be critical of Klinsmann here, but the other possible side to this is that Donovan himself maybe should have hung up his national team boots a while back if his heart or body really wasn’t really up to it anymore instead of forcing Klinsmann to cut him loose. Who knows. If he had gone, it doesn’t look like he would have seen the field for more than a few minutes anyway.

  12. Makes me think of that epic US U-17 team in 1999 that had so many guys who turned pro. Some like Alex Yi were marginal. But there were a bunch of guys who went on to major PT with big clubs or in big leagues or MLS stardom: Donovan of course, Beasley, Onyewu, Convey, Beckerman, Akwari. Now it looks like only Beckerman and Beasley are left on the international level–not the last two I would have picked 4 years ago.

  13. Not to mention, How about the Heaps of Pressure Klinsy just put on Green to perform. Instead of coming on to add an unpredictable asset to the squad, now he has the pressure, deserved or not, of replacing a legend. All eyes are going to be focused on him performing and making a remarkable difference.

    • What pressure? Jk will keep on picking him regardless. He has done absolutely nothing to deserve a spot on any usmnt roster but here he is.

      • not from JK- from media and fans. JK picks the kid for potential not for current stats. I just wonder how the kid will handle it. JK if anything has said he wants the team to step up during pressure. Funny though, LD has been the 1 clutch player for the team. Charlie Davies was the only other clutch player and he is all gone now.

  14. Whether or not he should have been on from strictly a soccer standpoint I don’t know. But I’m very confident that Klinsmann did not make this decision based strictly on soccer. And somebody should honestly do their patriotic duty and break Klinsmann’s son’s leg before the end of this weekend.

    • One could argue that most 15 year olds need to be slapped from time to time, but the kid is an American and doesn’t deserve something as extreme as a broken leg based on poor judgment.

    • Really? Let’s break a kid’s leg. I disagree with Klinsi’s decision too, and think his son did a stupid, punk thing with his twitter post (and I’m in the camp that the son was likely influenced by Klinsi’s chatter about his “employees” at the home front) but there is no place for what you suggest – even if it’s just a moment of anger or whatever.

      Check yourself guy or gal.

  15. So he was by far the best player in the gold cup, but he can’t make the top 23? Did Brad play in the gold cup? If so, he was forgetable. It was less than a year ago. If the kid make the gweet about Donavan, the. That says it all.

  16. Based on comments made by Klinsman, I am confident there is a rift between him and Donovan. I guess something happened at Bayern Munich. It’s unfortunate because this vendetta will affect the USA. Can anyone tell me that Wondo or Davis can make an impact on the National Team the way Donovan can? Corona is a better all round player than Mix the feather man. I guess that’s why Bayern got rid of him. He made stupid decisions that affects the Team.

    • Donovan not living up to expectation is probably one of the reasons why Juergenn lost his Bayern job… and also now hates the color red.

  17. The simple fact is that Donovan is a much better midfielder or forward than Wondo/Davis. I can understand bringing the new kids in, however even on the left Donovan delivers better crosses than Davis, and most certainly is a better technical striker than Wondo. He also makes a better replacement for Bradley than Mix. Not to mention, Doesn’t he lead the US in assists and goals, and is about to take the all time scoring title for MLS?

    There has to be some serious bad blood there. I can understand if it turns out he was becoming a locker room cancer, but other than that, he belongs in squad. Something tells me that some one will be injured before the deadline.

    • Donovan has been “about to take the all time scoring title for MLS” for seven games now. However he’s been too heavy and out of shape and potentially injured to score at all this year. He admitted that he can’t practice hard for 12 straight days. Sounds like Donovan was more aware of his own shortcomings at his current age than most of the fans here.

  18. To be honest, I don’t know whether this was the right decision to make or not; I just know that it’s difficult to conceive of this team without him. I do trust Klinsmann but this makes me feel kinda old (which is, I guess, the point).

    Not to get all touchy feely about it, but anyone else getting the same feeling?

  19. If Klinsy doesn’t win at least one game, he has to be let go. A lot of us are still peeved how he handled Bocanegra. Regardless of whether Boca needed to go or not, Klinsy handled it poorly. He shouldn’t expend better treatment for himself if he can’t coach the US to at least one win. The fans deserve a friendly send-off to the vets.

  20. “Donovan’s forgettable showing in Germany in 2006 …”

    You actually watch all the games or are you repeating what you heard? Look up what Totti said about Donovan after the Italy game. (I’ll save you the time: “Number 10 was every where”) His performance in that game should be remembered as one of the USA’s greatest.

    • 2006 in general was a pathetic run from the US men’s team. Landon Donovan’s performances do not stand out. If anyone yard at a higher level than everyone else it was Clint Dempsey in 2006 WC

    • I hate to rain on the parade here, but Claudio Reyna was wearing number 10 for the US in 2006. Donovan was wearing 21. The Italy game was actually probably Landon’s best game of that World Cup, but it was still pretty pedestrian. Sadly his other performances that summer were even less commendable.

  21. This is f***** ridiculous!!!!!!

    Julian Green, Brad Davis, Yedlin?! These guys have a hard enough time finding the field at the MLS allstar game!!

    Landon Donovan is an American Legend

  22. My email to Sunil Gulati

    I hope you have the guts to fire Klinsmann after we go three and out.

    Disgraceful way to treat Donovan, aside from the fact that it is absurd to think he is not one of our best 11, let along 23.

    And SIX German born players and NONE from the Mexico League except Beasley (who has played mostly in Europe). At best, this shows a myopic view of the game. At worst, it’s something seriously wrong. And regardless, why on earth would a dual national Mexican American declare for the US now, not when unproven, untested Germans get the call first? This destroys out reach to the Hispanic Americans.

    This was your move to get us to the next level? Getting out of the group is a baseline expectation, not a goal. Arena and Bradley did it. We’re not even going to do that.

    When the time comes, man up, admit he was the wrong guy and fire him.

      • Yeah, I found myself wondering on the walk to work:

        Would JK have taken Donovan in an easier group ?
        A group that you don’t advance in, you get fired ?

    • Tony:

      While I agree with your Donovan sentiments, I have to disagree with the German > Mexico argument.

      JK let Boyd (German American) and Corona (Mexican American) go. What other Americans playing in Mexico do YOU believe should have been called in? Castillo? Dude cannot defend. We are playing Ghana, Portugal, and Germany in case you did not know that. Orozco? He had not recovered from injury. Anyone else? I am sincerely asking. Who am I missing?

    • There’s no doubt Klinsmann has done everything he can, to put Gulati in a position where he has to fire him if this all goes wrong.

  23. Does anyone know were I can purchase a Donovan poster? I need to build a shrine for him in my house and thank the soccer gods that we were lucky enough to have had such a player in our team.

  24. Anybody know if the report about Jurgen’s son tweeting (then deleting) “hahahhaa Donovan” (or something) is true? If so, what a little classless brat.

  25. It’s hard to see the most American soccer player out of the 30 left off, let alone the most experienced and most impactful.

      • I’ll take this one. Developed in the US system. Grew up here. Played with youth NT. And most importantly didn’t choose the USMNT because theres no chance he would’ve made another NT. Wanted to play and is most American!

      • How about stayed in an American league when he could have EASILY played for more money overseas ?

        I have seen him play so many times in person, I couldn’t even count them. There is nothing saying everyone has to make that choice, but he cared about our home league, which scores big points with me…..because:
        one, it was a sacrifice, and more than just a money one, especially early on
        two, he wanted to develop the league…zero doubt about that.

        I will enjoy the games tonight and this weekend. I might not be doing that on the MLS scale if he goes overseas.

  26. Not sure what klinsy problem is with LD is, but he deserves better, even klansmann snotty kid is taking shots at LD exclusion, can’t expect much from that classless family

  27. 1. it really stinks this article couldn’t have come after LD playing in Brazil
    2. you can point to Green and Yedlin, but to me, this was Davis taking LD’s spot
    3. lets hope we get to at least see him in the US jersey one more time, i could see him say F it and retire internationally

      • Donovan has rarely, if ever, caused a stir on the USMNT with his words. I wouldn’t take anything he says at face value. He is a professional, he won’t throw anyone under the bus.

      • Klinsy listing LD as a forward now sounds like a setup. It is much easier to cut him as a forward than a midfield with Baby Green.

      • Well, he could have just as easily listed Green as a forward – he can play any of the attacking positions (on the wing or centrally).

  28. No country will breath a bigger sigh of relief re Donovan’s apparent final game with the nation team than Mexico… Just saying. 🙂

  29. Speaking of the Algeria goal, can someone explain why Dempsey sitting in the goal wasn’t a problem? I realize he wasn’t involved in the shot and that the shot went to the other side. But then again, it can’t be in the rules that a player is allowed to sit in the goal while his side tries to score on that goal.

      • Right. If his team does not gain an advantage from the player in the offside position, there is no call.

      • So you could station a forward inside the goal and as long as you shoot to the other side its ok? That seems dubious.

      • Actually you could have a forward stand (or sit) inside the goal all game long and tell your players to use him for target practice and it still wouldn’t matter. Because if he’s just standing in the goal then by definition he is not in the play and is not attempting to make a play and is therefore not offside.

      • Actually, you couldn’t. If you deliberately stand in the goal as you suggest you’ve deliberately left the field of play with the official’s permission.

      • Nope. Dempsey was not interfering with play (since he was sitting on his butt), interfering with an opponent (no Algerians near him), nor was he gaining an advantage from his offside position (Ball did not carom from the post to Dempsey – and if it had it would have been a goal first, since inside the goal is technically out of play).

  30. Happy he’s had a great career. He’s given us big moments.

    He’s no longer that player and no longer has the fire, per his own words.

    • +1 I’m glad someone else noticed. i don’t know why everyone is defending a player that wasn’t standing up for himself. while every player was talking about how hard they were working to get a spot Landon was just telling us how slim his chances were. Do we really want that defeated attitude in our locker room?

      • I’m still shocked he was left off but I do agree that Donovan has been sounding retired in every interview for the last few months and there have been many… I really don’t know what to make it of it.

        I really don’t know if Donovan even bothers finishing the MLS season. 50/50 LD is retired by 2015.

      • I would not be surprised if he retired this year. And based on interviews, it definitely sounds like he has lost that fire and hunger

      • Agreed. Bruce Arena once commented that the World Cup is a young man’s game. However, I think it has more to do with Donovan not being hungry anymore. You can’t tell me he isn’t more physically gifted than Wondolowski. But Wondo is crazy hungry for this moment. You can see it in his eyes. You can tell just by looking at Donovan that he just doesn’t the fire anymore.

      • Honestly, I think it has to do with the article that came out before the US-Costa Rica blizzard game. I imagine Donovan was the main contributor to the article (that may have risked Klinsmann’s job), Klinsmann found out, and has held it against Donovan since.

        I think this decision was a personal one, because even Klinsmann’s son took questionable enjoyment in Donovan’s exclusion:

      • Oh yeah, it has to be revenge, just has to be. OR it could be something else?

        The sabbatical could not have helped. Donovan’s form and attitude (from a self-defeating, I’m old point of view) could be a factor. There’s more to this than simple revenge, in my opinion.

        No one likes to see the sun set on their greats, and I get and respect that, but the sun sets on all of us. It’s hard to imagine with legends because they remain so strong and so able in our minds for so long…but the sun sets on us all.

        I’d like to thank LD for what he has done for us and may continue to do (if he does not retire).

      • Don’t think so.

        JK is a reasonable human being and I cannot see him intentionally leaving off a valuable part of the team just out of spite, hatred or whatever “personal” irrational thing you see this as. Sorry but we simply disagree on this one.

      • Don’t pretend like he was the 30th best player on the squad. The best player on the squad, Tim Howard, said *this week* that Donovan was the best or second best player on the team. To go from being seen as the best player on the team to being behind Green (worse than Freddy Adu) and Davis (nowhere near the level of Donovan, he would even admit), it’s more than ‘form’ and ‘attitude’. If you want ‘attitude’, look no further than Timmy “I don’t feel like accepting call-ups when it matters” Chandler.

        Between Donovan’s skill and experience, don’t pretend like this was an objective “best 23 players” decision. Objectivity can’t rationalize an amateur player taking Donovan’s spot.

      • With the inclusion of Yedlin, Green and Brooks, it’s pretty clear that Klinsmann is already investing in 2016, 2018 and 2022. it was said at the beginning on qualifying that this was going to be a cycle that saw a team in transition. I think making a decision to bleed youth in a group of death is about as big an investment as one can make. BTW Klinsmann did the same thing to Blaack and Oliver Kahn, two of the biggest sacred cows in German football at the time, when he led a german side that everyone thought would go three and out to a third place finish. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

      • I understand the logic and the precedent with the German team, but there’s a difference between replacing your sacred cows with established professionals and replacing your sacred cows with individuals who haven’t even played a professional game of soccer in their life. The comparison between who replaced Kahn and who replaced Donovan aren’t even worth making. And, for the record, he benched Kahn, he didn’t exclude him from the 23.

        The inclusion of 18 year old Green over 32 year old Donovan is like telling 32 year old Claudio Reyna that 17 year old Freddy Adu has more upside for 2010, so he’ll be replaced in 2006. That’s the comparison you’d have to defend if you want to go like for like. If you want to defend that logic, then by all means, I’m all ears.

      • Ridiculous. You don’t build at the World Cup. The World Cup is what you build up to. He can start building for 2018 in August. He owes it to the fans to put the best team possible on the field this summer.

      • The only one pretending here is you with your strange scale/rating system. Neither of us were at this particular camp to see LD’s output. Here’s what we do know – his form has not sparked this season (and to be honest for a while now) and his own attitude and self-defeating words and mannerisms didn’t show a guy who is willing to fight, scrap and do whatever it was JK wanted from him.

        You are still rating him based on the past – as was the point I tried to make in my original post (about the sentiment to our legends). All the while JK has acknowledged and respected LD’s past but just didn’t get from him what he needed now.

        If LD goes lights out and is clearly the best player in this camp and JK cuts him, well then we have controversy. But so far everything is quiet. The only controversy to be had is from the trumped up scenarios made on the interwebs. Now we can debate this all day long (look at the post hits) but at the end of the day I don’t see any uproar that LD was wrongfully cur from the final 23.

      • * by up roar I mean from the team or US Soccer and NOT the interwebs as there is plenty of that to go around.

      • Oh and one more thing…

        “Between Donovan’s skill and experience, don’t pretend like this was an objective “best 23 players” decision. Objectivity can’t rationalize an amateur player taking Donovan’s spot.”

        At some point an amateur is always going to take an experienced players spot. See 2002, which was our most successful run in the modern era. Change happens, James…change happens.

    • or time simply marches on for every man. it’s not like the man himself hasn’t sent out many many MANY signals to to the world that that pretty much said, “dudes, you know I just might not make this roster.” needing a conspiracy to rationalize it fine for mourning, but at the end of the day, I think he knew he was done long before anyone else in US soccer wanted to admit it.

    • Amen to that. Looking forward to watching one of those great compilation videos of 25 or so of his best goals in the US shirt. Loved him as a ‘Quake, loathed him ever since- except when he wears the badge. Thanks LD for a great career.

      Now go miss another penalty, go into a deep funk, gain another 10 lbs and keep LA out of the playoffs. 🙂

    • Pretty sure this was written in a maybe 20 minutes after he was declared off the roster. So for a quick thing i thing it did its job. I imagine Ives will have a more full in depth when all of this settles and he isn’t going over everything that is happening right this second in the USMNT circle.

      • Comment came off a bit more harshly than I intended, reading it a few hours later… Apologies to Ryan, didn’t mean to offend, was just caught up in disappointment and meant something more along the lines of what WK said

      • I found this amazingly comprehensive biography, detailing Donovan’s career from his days as a kid in California. It doesn’t mention the incident with Marvin Lee (more on this below), but covers everything else in his career.

        I mention this piece, because there’s a particularly telling comment by the writer regarding Donovan’s frustration with being relegated to Leverkusen II, which played in the fourth division of the Bundesliga, just like Julian Green’s Bayern II:

        “Landon had recently been banished to the German Fourth Division, which was barely on par with American high schools.”

        That might be overstating the case…but it’s hard to see how that’s prepared Green for this stage. I’d be surprised if a month of training and friendlies with the national team is going to be enough, either….but it’ll be interesting to watch.

    • Why are we rushing to write Donovan’s obiuary when he hasn’t even retired from international play? Odds are that someone will have to be replaced before the WC starts. Why not Donovan?


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