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LA Galaxy Wins MLS Cup In Farewell Match Of Landon Donovan, America's Greatest Soccer Player
Landon Donovan — probably the greatest soccer player this country has ever produced — got his Hollywood ending on Sunday afternoon, his LA Galaxy getting the better of the New England Revolution, downing them 2-1 and in the process claiming an unprecedented fifth MLS Cup title in front of a sellout crowd at StubHub Center.
Gyasi Zardes and Irish national team captain Robbie Keane provided the Galaxy’s pair of goals, Zardes’ coming early in a wide-open second half and Keane’s game-winner coming in the second stanza of extra time after the Revolution’s Chris Tierney had equalized, forcing the pair of overtime periods.
While the Galaxy became the first Major League Soccer team to win five MLS Cups, Donovan’s resume grew even more impressive: he finishes his career having won the trophy six times, while also ending it as the league’s all-time leader in goals and assists.
After the final whistle, after the confetti cannons and trophy presentation, after a raucous locker room celebration that left every square inch of the place soaked in cheap domestic beer and much pricier champagne, Donovan strolled into a post-game press conference and wasted no time in joking about his retirement.
“I've decided to come back,” Donovan deadpanned.
Donovan’s post-game celebration and press conference embodied much of what has made him a rather polarizing figure amongst fans of soccer in the United States: he was thoughtful, open, emotionally in touch - character traits many sports fans enjoy seeing amongst the general populous but (rather unfortunately) despise in their athletes. The champagne showers in the Galaxy locker room were actually held up for several minutes as Donovan’s teammates waited for him to arrive, leading one teammate to jokingly exclaim: “he’s out there thanking every single f**king person in this place!”
And that much was true: Donovan fought back tears as he took an extended victory lap, at one point commandeering a megaphone from a group of supporters to deliver a heartfelt thank you — “I love all of you guys. I cannot tell you what all of you have meant to me over the years” — before offering a far simpler exclamation: “first to five, baby!”
It was an apt memory to leave his fans with. Though Donovan’s on-the-field performance often speaks for itself, many may well remember him in the years to come as someone who worked to change our perception of what an athlete should be. In the past year he’s spoken about his own struggles with depression and encouraged greater awareness of mental health issues in sport. These are not things that made him any money, or gained him any real capital amongst most soccer fans. But they are important, probably much more important than guiding the Galaxy to their fifth league title.
So thank you, Landon. You’re going to be very tough to replace.