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Donovan pens fairytale finish to storied career with MLS Cup final victory

Landon Donovan LA Galaxy 10

Photo by Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports


CARSON, Calif. — Like his team, Landon Donovan didn’t enjoy his best game Sunday. He still celebrated, and went out, like a champion.

Donovan officially finished writing the last chapter of his storied career on Sunday afternoon, helping his LA Galaxy squeeze by the New England Revolution in a 2-1 extra-time affair in the MLS Cup final. Donovan did not score and was not very involved in the match’s key moments, but that still did not stop him from celebrating his impressive sixth MLS Cup victory while the 27,000 fans in attendance and more across the world watched on.

The 32-year-old Donovan was euphoric when the final whistle blew, stretching out his arms as the realization of being crowned a champ again sunk in. He had won another title, at home, in front of his friends and family, and in the last match that he will ever play.

“I’m in a little bit of a daze, to be honest,” said Donovan during his postgame press conference, sitting shirtless and with a champagne-soaked towel around his back and shoulders. “I don’t know. There’s a lot going on. There’s a lot of obvious excitement, some sadness, there’s uncertainty, and just pure joy for this team and for what we did.

“It just feels a bit strange, I guess is the best way to put it, but all in all, I’m really proud of what this team accomplished this year and it’s so nice to be in that locker room and see so many happy faces. For me, that’s as enjoyable as anything as you get older.”

Donovan helped that happen, albeit with a performance that was lower than his standard. The veteran played multiple positions, up top to lead the attack and out wide to help the midfield, throughout the game. He was not overly active, but combined well with teammates — especially with Robbie Rogers on a second-minute chance that nearly led to a goal — and served as an option to play through.

It wasn’t an emphatic exclamation point from an individual standpoint, but the job was done nonetheless after 120 hard-fought minutes.

Donovan now leaves an incredible legacy behind him, one that towers over most others in American soccer history and is comparable to legends in their respective sports. Think Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter.

Like them, Donovan has proven to be a champion over and over again. Sunday only served to reemphasize that point.

“Don’t we all wish to be able to leave what we do like the way Landon did today as a winner,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “He ends his career as arguably the greatest player in the history of U.S. Soccer, the national team program; in the league, the all-time leading scorer and assists, championships.

“What more can you say? Can you write that any better, that script? I’m happy for him. He’s spent, he’s done, and my hat is off to him. It’s been remarkable.”

While Donovan expressed enjoyment in helping the club that is now arguably a dynasty win another MLS Cup, he also talked about being excited about what lies ahead. He no longer has to go through the tedious aspects of being a professional soccer player, aspects that grew mundane for him in recent years and led to his August decision to retire at the end of the MLS season.

He might not be driving to the StubHub Center as a member of the LA Galaxy anymore or walking through the tunnel with his teammates or hearing the loud cheers from an adoring crowd. But he will be able to spend more time doing other things that he’s wanted to do, including being with friends and family on a more frequent basis.

“When I was 2 years old my older brother — who I regretfully don’t talk about a lot — Josh played with me,” said Donovan. “He was five years older and he couldn’t wait until I could walk so that he could start playing soccer with me. I firmly believe that practice makes perfect, and so I’ve had a head start on probably almost everyone I’ve played against.

“We played all the time, and when I mean all the time, I mean all the time, in every way, ever facet. Him and I, playing on the street, playing in the house, breaking things, playing in the backyard, all of that. It’s always been a source of connection for us. … The beauty now is I’ll get to play with him and we can play like when we were young.”

Donovan may have lost a step in the latter years of his career, but still looks plenty capable to play at this level. Even so, he does not want to continue on. The decision to leave the game at this point has felt right for some time now.

Winning a championship is just the cherry on top.

“As much excitement as there is about the game, there’s excitement that tomorrow I don’t have to train anymore, I don’t have to do a lot of the things or the not fun parts of the job now,” said Donovan. “Along with that I don’t get experiences like today anymore, so there’s a lot of good, there’s going to be some bad, but it feels good to go out this way.”


  1. There will be a lot to talk about in the coming months, years…but a point that I think should dominate the discussion is that Donovan was instrumental in building this league. I have been a fan long enough to remember attending original NASL games…then NOTHING.

    This league has a long way to go and grow, but it is here to stay. My children and grand-children will never suffer through that soccer wasteland of MISL, Team America and USL “pro” games. Donovan helped make this happen and for that I will be forever grateful.

  2. Hey Landon, even though you had a pretty lousy final we took a vote and you can still join our rec-league team. But you have to buy the beer until you prove yourself.

  3. The game was a alright, entertaining and good enough for MLS quality. I would have love a galaxy vs red bull MLS cup to see Henry at the game and I was surprise Beckham didn’t show up for Donovan.
    Another opinion, espn totally sucks and their commentators need some action and even though I can understand Spanish around 80%, it was way better.
    I was also lost since I didn’t know anything about MLS cup during the week until today morning, very sad from MLS marketing and espn, very sad.
    Now it’s time to look forward in MLS, new logo, new teams and hopefully expand to the right markets and have promotion and relegation in less than 10 years. ( there was a plane flying a banner over the stadium saying promotion & relegation in the US)
    MLS needs to start an MLS2 or threat NASL or scare NASL, in order to communicate to begin pro/rel.
    But I’ll say this a million times, IF MLS starts some sort of pro/rel, make it unique and profitable for MLS teams, in which no MLS 1 teams goes down for the first years, only the promoted team.
    It’s perfect and so easy to work with.
    For example, l would love for MLS to expand to 28 teams and stop there. Then RESERVE 4 spots, 2 in each conference, which would be 2 teams for each conference as in west and east. (THE RESERVE SPOTS WILL BE FOR MLS2 TEAMS)
    Then let those 4 teams battle for life in MLS and have fun in MLS1 and which ever team makes less points in their conference will go down to make room for the coming champion and runner up from MLS2. Easy as that MLS fans.

  4. I loved it when Keller started talking about how he could have gone to Europe to see what he could accomplish there. Not because I agreed with him, but because it just seemed soooo stupid. Especially the timing.

    Here he is playing for another title. Another championship. And Keller who never won anything, well except the US Open Cup, in his career is going to give him advice on how to achieve things.
    I love Keller, I am Sounder’s fan, but come on, pissing your career away with no chance of winning isn’t automatically better and in the moment that Landon was experiencing, it just seemed like an insane comment.

  5. Was anyone a little worried about Landon’s facial skin? HD wasn’t to kind to him during the post match interview. What happened? Must be the California Sun.

  6. It wasn’t his best game but he played a terrific ball to Robbie Rogers early in the match that should have been a goal. Also, Keane had an easy pass to LD for a sure goal that he did not make late in the game. Those things happen but I am happy Donovan went out on top. He and the Galaxy knocked out Beckerman, Dempsey, Yedlin, and Jones along the way.

  7. Thank god this MLS season is already over, I couldn’t wait for this “Hollywood Ending” 🙂
    I wanted a galaxy vs red bull MLS cup and Henry to win, since he deserves it more than Donovan and Donovan has enough MLS cups (trophies) already.
    I can’t wait for next season, new teams, the league keeps getting better and the cheap teams keep getting reality checks. If you want to win, then spend and recruit good players and don’t whine about a rich team winning.
    As for MLS, the future is bright, MLS just needs a higher cap and 4 dps in order to improve league play and keep building stadiums downtown. It was sad galaxy’s stadium is not around downtown and when espn showed the stadium from above, you saw a weird stadium surrounding since in the U.S., we are use to downtown stadiums.
    Donovan is out and MLS needs a new villain and heroe.

    • whaaaaaaa…no downtown stadium!!!!! Come on…lets get a stadium built there…they can go old school like the Rosebowl days and practice on the surrounding asphalt streets…makes the Seattle turf look comfy!!!!

      Stub Hub is our home…anyone don’t like it…kiss my @$$

    • I don’t care what it looks like from the air; LA does NOT need, and shouldn’t get a downtown stadium. If you were from LA you’d understand without me having to explain, but long story short, it makes more sense logistically and logically to have it in the greater LA area, which is better than downtown just as a place to be in general anyway. Yeah, there are better places than Carson, but with the amount of money the’ve invested into StubHub, they’d be stupid to leave it for downtown

      • additionally, and more importantly (If being downtown is that important to you) Stubhub is less than 10 miles from downtown… Carson and CSUDH is a superb location.

  8. The article is spot on, lousy performance but in the end a great finish to his career. Well done LD, you’ve done it your way, no one can take that away from you.

  9. Happy for LA and thrilled for Donovan but, man, this was an invisible game for him. Everytime he had a chance to create and go at a defender, he just dumped the ball off.

    I guess in the end, he adds another record to the list (most mls championships), and that’s pretty great. Just wish that free kick had gone in…

  10. Wow- what a fairytale ending! He won another MLS championship for a stacked team where he wasn’t even one of their best players. Is this what the next most talented American field player ever should strive for? But still, I hope he get’s bored and comes back to play in a year. Earthquakes? Liga MX?

    • I feel as bad as anybody that LD wasn’t in Brazil, but for the love of Pete can we just drop this? The fact that Wondo was in a position to score the game winning goal is confirmation of JK’s instinct in bringing him. That was a poacher’s opportunity and LD is no poacher. I think there’s less than a 10% chance that LD is in that position to win that game. So please, I beg you and everyone else, just leave it alone and let’s move on with our lives.


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