Landon Donovan announces he will retire after 2014 Major League Soccer season
Landon Donovan is calling it a career.
In a candid and reflective letter to fans released on Thursday, the LA Galaxy star and all-time Major League Soccer great revealed he will retire at the end of this season, his 14th in the league and 16th as a professional.
Donovan, 32, made the announcement less than 24 hours after scoring the game-winning goal in the MLS All-Stars’ 2-1 win over Bayern Munich on Wednesday night in Portland, in what proved to be a fitting and final summer showcase alongside veteran teammates who've witnessed his success up close and young players who grew up emulating his career.
“After careful deliberation and after many conversations with those closest to me, I have decided that this will be my last season as a professional soccer player,” Donovan wrote. “I don't write these words lightly and this day carries mixed emotions for me. I am sad to leave a profession that has brought me so much joy.”
The LA Galaxy will hold a press conference with Donovan at the StubHub Center on Thursday (5 pm ET). The press conference will be streamed live on www.lagalaxy.com.
Donovan will retire as inarguably the most successful and transformative player in the history of MLS and U.S. Soccer. He is one of only three five-time winners of MLS Cup and the all-time leading scorer in league history, as well as a six-time MLS Best XI selection. He won the Budweiser Golden Boot as the league’s top scorer in 2008 and followed that by earning the title of league MVP in 2009.
He’s also the all-time leading scorer in US national team history with 57 goals in 156 career appearances, including five goals scored over 12 World Cup games, the most by any player in US history.
“I will miss all of the teammates who helped me create so many incredible memories on the field, and who I have shared many wonderful experiences with off the field,” he wrote. “I will miss my coaches, at both the club and national team levels, who have helped me develop throughout my career and helped make me the player I am today.
“However, after spending half my life as a professional soccer player, I also am excited to begin a new chapter and pursue other opportunities that will challenge me and allow me to grow as a person.”
Donovan has been dogged by questions about his future for much of the past year, despite signing a multi-year Designated Player contract with the Galaxy last August. Part of that uncertainty stemmed from an emotional and transformative period that began after he won his fifth MLS Cup in 2012 and declined European interest to take a break from both club soccer and the US national team.
After a much-publicized and cathartic vacation to Cambodia, he returned to the States after the 2013 MLS season was already underway, a move that drew questions about his commitment to the Galaxy and his future.
He eventually led LA to the postseason last year and re-emerged as a regular for the USMNT last summer at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, winning the tournament MVP and scoring a goal in the United States’ win against Mexico last September that clinched their spot in the World Cup.
But he was surprisingly left off the US roster for Brazil, a move that appeared to all but end his relationship with head coach Jurgen Klinsmann as well as his international career.
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It's unclear if Donovan will receive a final curtain call from the USMNT this year, but there are opportunities. The United States will take on the Czech Republic in Prague on Sept. 3, and the team has been been linked to a home game against Colombia on Sept. 9 in San Antonio, a match that has yet to be confirmed by the federation.
His club career, meanwhile, will continue at least for a few more months with the Galaxy, who appear poised to make a run for the postseason, the 11th appearance of Donovan’s career. The club returns to action at home against San Jose on Friday (10:30 pm ET, NBCSN).
"I plan to express my gratitude to everyone in a more detailed manner at a later date; however, for now, I want to single out the fans," he wrote. "You are the lifeblood of this sport and, without you, none of us would be fortunate to call ourselves professional soccer players in MLS ...
"As we enter a transformative time for the sport, I will do everything I can to help the continued growth of soccer in the United States. I look forward to making a difference, pursuing my passions and meeting all of you along the way in this next phase of my life.”