On Thursday the most influential and best player in American soccer history announced his retirement. Needless to say, you don’t get the title of “best American soccer player” without some great moments happening.
Donovan provided great moments for his entire 15-year career, and that continued on Wednesday as he scored the game-winner against Bayern Munich in the MLS All-Star game. It’s almost as if this stuff was scripted or something.
All Donovan has done in his career is lead the USMNT and MLS in all-time goals and lead the USMNT in assists as well. The guy owns so many records its hard to pick which ones to choose from.
However, in a career full of great moments, we’re here to remind of the 10 moments that made him the best American player of all-time.
10. Dos A Cero pt. 2 (2013, World Cup qualifier against Mexico)
The United States famously put up a 2-0 scoreline against Mexico in the round of 16 of the 2002 World Cup, and en route to the 2014 World Cup the United States got a chance to hang that same scoreline on Los Ticos once again. It took some fancy footwork from Norwegian-American Mix Diskerud and a deflection from Clint Dempsey, but as an American soccer fan…nothing is better than seeing Donovan put one in the back of the net for a Dos A Cero scoreline.
It also happened to be one of the last international goals Donovan scored in his career. While the goal may not be spectacular, the moment was…and hearing “there’s that scoreline again” will never get old.
9. Goal against Slovenia in 2010 World Cup
While there’s another moment that is likely to come later in this countdown, the United States wouldn’t have been in a position it was against Algeria if not for this moment by Donovan. This was also a great display of just how clinical he is as a striker.
One slip from a defender and Donovan went right to goal and roofed a rocket right past the Slovenian goalkeeper. This was Donovan at his finest.
8. I wear my sunglasses at night
The CONCACAF Gold Cup often takes a back seat, even among the hardcore United States soccer fans, but it also provided us a great glimpse of the personality that Donovan can display.
During the 2013 Gold Cup, Donovan powered the United States all the way to the championship after his sabbatical. He also had a bit of fun with the fans, as one decided to chuck sunglasses at him. Donovan picked them up, put them on and did his best Corey Hart for a second before the linesman freaked the hell out.
7. First MLS Goal
Remember when soccer jerseys were not form fitting? Well, you’d have to go back to the early 2000′s for that and it also coincides with Donovan’s first MLS goal. It also happened to be classic Landon Donovan—meaning he made a great run off the ball, found open space and sliced one past a diving goalkeeper like it was no big deal.
6. The most famous scoreline in American Soccer
Dos A Cero — the most famous scoreline in American soccer history and the greatest chant the fans have wouldn’t be a thing if it weren’t for Landon Donovan. After Brian McBride put the United States up 1-0 in the 8th minute of the 2002 World Cup round of 16 matchup against Mexico it was hang-on time for the USMNT.
Leave it up to Donovan, in his first World Cup to put the final dagger in a matchup against bitter rival, Mexico. What a dagger it was, as Donovan made a perfect run and was rewarded with a great pass to head in the back of the net from midfielder Eddie Lewis.
5. First international goal in first international game
We didn’t know how Donovan would respond to the step up to the international game, but fans and the rest of the soccer world were quickly put on notice. Donovan slotted one home in his first ever international match, and of course it had to be against bitter rival Mexico as well.
It just wouldn’t be a Donovan countdown without mentioning Mexico, right?
4. 2008 MLS Golden Boot Winner
Landon Donovan was at his best in the 2008 MLS season and he just simply destroyed any and all comers. Teaming up with David Beckham didn’t hurt the cause either, but Donovan was on top of his game from start to finish.
In 25 games he scored 20 goals for the Galaxy and won that season’s Golden Boot as the top goalscorer in the league. It also put him back on the radar of team overseas and put the wheels in motion for his later loans to Everton of the English Premier League.
3. 4-goal performance in 2001 MLS All-Star Game
Landon Donovan is most associated with the Los Angeles Galaxy during his MLS career, but let’s give a nod to his days as a member of the San Jose Earthquakes. The top moment of his four-year stint in San Jose came when the team hosted the 2001 MLS All-Star game.
Donovan finally gave MLS some personality and pop-culture swagger with his four-goal performance during the All-Star game and of course, who can ever forget the tribute to Brandi Chastain?
2. Goal to put USA up 2-0 on Brazil in 2009 Confederations Cup
For one half of a soccer game, the United States was the best team in the international soccer world. After already doing the impossible and dispatching “the best team in the world,” Spain, not many pundits gave the USMNT a chance at winning the tournament over Brazil.
However, Landon Donovan had other ideas and his goal to put the United States up 2-0 in the first half was not only a piece of individual brilliance, but it also sent the US Soccer fan into a frenzy of disbelief. That euphoria was quickly dashed though as Brazil ended up coming back in the second half. It doesn’t take away from Donovan’s brilliant moment though.
1. “Oh Can You Believe This?”
How could the most famous goal in United States soccer history not be the No. 1 moment on this list?
Seriously. Donovan was fortuitous enough to make a secondary run behind Clint Dempsey on a late-game charge up the field against Algeria. After Dempsey’s shot was blocked he cleaned it up and the United States was on to the round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup.
It was one of the most shocking, exciting and crazy moments in United States soccer history and Donovan just happened to be the man to make it all possible. The reactions from USMNT fans around the world was just as exciting as the goal itself.