In this one moment. At the end of all the celebrations. As the superlatives are being hurled and the articles are being written. When the chapter is finally closed and the book is finally ended. After the championship updates have long since ended on SportsCenter and long LONG after Alexi Lalas/Taylor Twellman have left their Twitter posts to succumb to sleep, Landon Donovan will have walked away from the MLS and ended his career…and that may be all that matters.
While every whisper of “greatest of all time” in world soccer immediately has many grabbing their heads in pain and shaking their hands at the sky, Landon Donovan ends his career as the best the MLS could ever hope for.
Do not walk into this article labeling him as the best player to ever play the league. The league, in its short history, has already seen Beckham, Henry, and a host of other high-profile players to pass through. To say that Donovan can dwarf players with Champions League trophies, World Cup winner’s medals, and countless European accomplishments would be folly. However, Donovan ends his career as the Michael Jordan of the MLS…a player whose records and number of championships may be eclipsed, but a player that will forever dwarf the history of the league. A player that every future star will be compared to, but the mystique will now ensure that the comparison will always favor the Galaxy legend. No matter if a more talented athlete comes along in the future (a la LeBron James), as Donovan’s current status and his growing stature (that only occurs as the legend and talent grows in our memories) will ensure that no player ever truly steps out of Donovan’s shadow.
For this moment, the USMNT controversy is dead. Donovan ensured, in every way imaginable, that there was regret for leaving him at home. It takes a massive level of talent to be one of the key components to a championship run, and Donovan proved that he still has skill to spare. If Landy-cakes had chosen to stay in the league,there is little doubt that he could have been a major player for another 3-4 years.
So, what will become of Donovan? To completely walk away for such an iconic player feels unlikely. No matter how many times he may deny it, there is still plenty of high-caliber play left in Donovan. A return to any (non-Galaxy) side in the MLS seems impossible, but a dalliance outside of the U.S. could always be a possibility. One thing that is certain, especially after seeing Landon attempt a fair share of commentary this last summer, is that Donovan is not made for being a TV pundit. A fantastic player, goal-scorer, and goal creator he may be, but his time on the camera lends itself very easily to any phrase that essentially means “boring” or “sleepy.” While the future may be bright for Donovan in the realm of soccer, it certainly won’t be in the vein that Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman have blazed for themselves.
The MLS, the LA Galaxy, the USMNT, and any soccer fan in the U.S. will miss Landon Donovan. How will you remember Landycakes? There is no doubt that Donovan is the “best” of something…but what do you think it is? Is he the best American player to grace the MLS? Is he the best full-on player to play in the MLS? What phrases will be the first the people grab when remembering the iconic #10? For us, we like to drift to one of our fave quotes from the movie The Sandlot…”Heroes get remembered…Legends never die…”