Landon Donovan's teammates react to decision to retire: He's "what US soccer is all about"
CARSON, Calif. – Most of Landon Donovan’s LA Galaxy teammates learned of his decision to retire at season’s end in a meeting before their training session Thursday morning at StubHub Center.
Not everyone was surprised.
Donovan has always been his own person – one following his own drummer, if you will – so why should his retirement be any different?
"I’m not shocked," defender Robbie Rogers said. "Landon’s had a really long, amazing career. He’s been the poster boy for US soccer since he was 18, 19 years old, and I think he’s accomplished so much, and I think he’s just ready for something new in his life and a new challenge.
"I wouldn’t have been shocked either way. When he decided that he had to do the All-Star Game, then I knew something was up."
Donovan made his decision about two weeks ago, informed club brass and his closest friends among his teammates, then spilled the news to the rest of the world on Thursday. He explained his reasons in a StubHub Center news conference following the training session.
Defender Todd Dunivant, Donovan’s teammate with the San Jose Earthquakes in 2003-04 and with the Galaxy in 2005-06 and since 2009, said he was "definitely surprised" to hear the news.
"He’s talked a lot about how things have changed a little bit and he’s starting to feel like it’s time, and you always think that’s talk and he’ll come around and he’ll want to be back," Dunivant said. "But he made up his mind, and you can’t fault him for that. On a lot of levels, I’m really happy for him, but at the same time, sad he’s going to be gone."
Captain Robbie Keane called the decision "a brave one" and admitted he "wouldn’t feel comfortable doing at this time, because I love playing, and when [it is time for me to retire] that will certainly be devastating to me because this is your life."
"We wish him well after this year, whatever he does after, it’s been a great service to the MLS and he’s been a great credit for his country, too," Keane said. "He’s been fantastic for the last 13 years. ... From now to the end of the year, we have a job to do, and that’s trying to become champions, and I’m sure he would want nothing more for this team and him to become champions."
Head coach Bruce Arena, who also coached Donovan at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, described his "unbelievable legacy" during the news conference.
"I have a hard time thinking there is another American player that has accomplished as much as Landon has," Arena said. "He’s been a champion at the club level, he’s been a force in the national team programs, and he’s been really the focal point of the game in our country for so many years. He’s accomplished everything an American player can accomplish in this point and time, and that’s quite a legacy.
"We all know the statistics and those kind of accomplishments, but on top of that, he’s a first-class person. So that’s an unbelievable legacy to have."
Dunivant called Donovan "the greatest player of all time" and "the ultimate teammate."
"You don’t win five championships because you’re selfish or you only care about getting goals or glory," Dunivant said. "He’s a selfless player, he knows how to show up in big games, and that’s his biggest attribute. He scores big goals, he makes big plays, and he’s there when it matters most, and you’ve seen that throughout his career. He steps up to the plate. But beyond that, he’s a great teammate in the locker room. He genuinely cares about his teammates, and that comes across, and people know that."
Rogers said Donovan "meant so much to me as a kid growing up here in California and watching him play and looking up to him."
"He kind of symbolizes US soccer," Rogers said. "Not only the respect that he’s gained throughout the world, but he’s such a good person. All of that shows when he plays, when he does media, the way he treats rookies, and how he’s well-respected throughout all the clubs. ... For me, he’s been what US soccer is all about."