Highlights of a Legend: Landon Donovan's top 10 moments in Major League Soccer
10) 2001 MLS Cup: With the nation grieving under the pall of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Donovan and the San Jose Earthquakes provided a bit of cheer with a gutsy fightback victory over their California rivals. After Mexican star Luis Hernandez gave the LA Galaxy the early lead, Donovan popped up in the box just before halftime to lash a blistering first-time drive into the top corner to level matters, the first chapter in his long personal history of clutch moments.
“He was coming from a difficult situation in Germany and everyone knew he was a good player, but that goal, I think, was his stamp on the league,” his teammate Jeff Agoos said later. “That was really the beginning point.”
9) 2003 Western Conference semifinals, leg 2: Down 2-0 on aggregate to underdogs LA, the Quakes looked dead and buried when Carlos Ruiz scored just seven minutes in and Pete Vagenas doubled the lead six minutes later to put San Jose in a 4-0 series hole.
But Donovan helped lead a mind-boggling, four-goal comeback to pull the home team level on aggregate, capped by a 90th-minute Chris Roner strike that forced extra time. And Donovan stepped up again just five minutes in, feeding a measured pass for Rodrigo Faria to stroke home the golden goal, winning the series and completing what's widely recognized as the greatest comeback in MLS history.
8) 2003 Western Conference Championship: The Quakes' breathless journey towards the MLS Cup trophy continued as a comeback – and more extra time – was again required in the conference final against Kansas City. Donovan did the finishing himself this time, as he buried the sudden-death winner in the 117th minute to decide a back-and-forth affair at Spartan Stadium that ended 3-2 to the hosts.
7) 2003 MLS Cup: Anyone in the American soccer community who hadn't yet taken notice of the nation's most exciting young player knew about Donovan after he won MVP honors in a classic cup final. Playing on the StubHub Center pitch that later became his stomping grounds, LD scored twice to power San Jose past a stacked, favored Chicago Fire side 4-2, running his playoff tally to four goals.
6) 2005 Western Conference semifinals: After returning to MLS following a final, unsuccessful stint with Bayer Leverkusen, Donovan made his way to the Galaxy, his hometown club, in 2005. That sparked outrage among Quakes fans, who branded him a “Judas” and a “traitor,” among other choice epithets.
And they were cursing his name with extra venom that fall as he led fourth-seeded LA – who backed into the playoffs after a disappointing regular season – to a first-round playoff upset of the conference-leading Earthquakes. His brace in a 3-2 first-leg victory in LA would prove to be the difference in a 4-3 aggregate triumph over his old team.
5) 2005 Western Conference Championship at Colorado: LD's torrid scoring pace continued on a cold night in Denver, as the bruising physicality of Pablo Mastroeni and the Rapids could not stop him from bagging both goals in a 2-0 LA win that booked the Galaxy's place in the MLS Cup in Frisco, Texas. The unlikely Cinderellas from SoCal won that one, too, edging the New England Revolution 1-0 in extra time.
4) 2008 SuperClasico hat trick sinks Chivas USA: Somewhat surprisingly, Donovan did not hit a hat trick with the Galaxy until 2008, when he did so twice, first in a 5-2 thumping of LA's hallway rivals and later vs. D.C. United, two of his league-leading six multi-goal games. (Little wonder that he would notch the Golden Boot with 20 strikes and nine assists that season.)
While the SuperClasico has not been quite as balanced in recent years, back then this was a hot, bitter matchup – Chivas USA made the playoffs that season, while the Galaxy did not – and Donovan's magic was a rare bright spot in a difficult, tumultuous year for LA.
3) 2011 MLS Cup: With David Beckham, Robbie Keane and the MLS Cup set for their home turf, Donovan and the star-studded Galaxy had everything lined up for a championship cruise. However, the gritty Houston Dynamo pushed them hard on a rainy evening in Carson and it took a smart, speedy late run from LD – capped by a chipped, deflected finish that trickled over the goal line – to bring the cup back to LA after a frustrating trophy drought.
2) 2012 MLS Cup: A year later, the Galaxy powerhouse had reached its apex and another brave bout of Dynamo resistance could not stop them from a second straight league title. Calen Carr's first-half strike was canceled out by an Omar Gonzalez header and Donovan's 65th-minute penalty kick proved to be the winner in a 3-1 triumph. Physically and mentally exhausted, he subsequently took his famous sabbatical to Cambodia, foreshadowing the departure he announced on Thursday.
1) LD sets all-time MLS goal record: It took a bit longer than he wanted, but Donovan's inexorable pursuit of MLS's historical goal kings – first Jaime Moreno, then Jeff Cunningham – was finally concluded on May 25, 2014.
Just days after he was snubbed from the US World Cup squad in stunning fashion by Jurgen Klinsmann, LD scored both goals in LA's 4-1 win over Philadelphia to run his career total to 136, a mark he has since run to 138 and may yet pad further in the final months of the current campaign.