CARSON, Calif. – The nation sat glued to its television sets for every Atlanta Braves game when the 1974 baseball season opened with Hank Aaron sitting on 713 home runs, just one behind Babe Ruth's iconic record. When he hit No. 715, just a few days into the schedule, the milestone was celebrated from coast to coast.
Landon Donovan knows no such buzz will accompany his stab at history.
The LA Galaxy striker will own MLS' career goals mark outright when he next hits the net, and the prospect excites him only insofar as it helps gather three more points for his side.
“To be honest, I don't think about it until it's brought up,” Donovan, who pulled even with Jeff Cunningham at 134 goals with his second strike in a 5-0 romp over Chivas USA early last October, told MLSsoccer.com last week. “There's a good chance I'll forget before the game starts. There's no guarantee you're ever going to score.
“Is it important? Yeah, it is. It means something to me. But I'll be glad when it's over, to be honest, so I can just get back to focusing.”
Donovan, in his 14th MLS season, already owns the league’s all-games goals record, with 156, including 22 in 36 playoff games – also a record. He's No. 2 on MLS' career assists list with 117, 18 off Steve Ralston's record, and is No. 1 in both scoring categories for the US national team, with 57 goals and 58 assists in 155 caps.
“I would say that Landon, when he sets his mind to it and plays up his abilities,” head coach Bruce Arena said at Galaxy training on Tuesday. “I doubt there are too many American-born players that have been at his level.”
Donovan said the record represents consistency – he's scored in double-digits in seven of 13 seasons, with 10 last year, and has netted at least nine in eight of the last 11 campaigns.
“In my opinion, that's the hardest thing to do in sports, is play at a high level consistently,” he said . “And those are the athletes I've always admired the most. If you can sustain it for a long time, I think that's very impressive. So that's what I'll be proud of.”
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Donovan, who turned 32 on Tuesday, wasn't alive when Aaron broke Ruth's mark – a record Barry Bonds surpassed in 2007 – but he's heard about it. Can any comparisons be made?
“I think a few less people care if I do it than when Hank Aaron did it,” he said. “All I do is focus on me. If I get in the right spots, I'm always looking to score, whether it’s my first goal or my 130-something-th.”
Donovan scored his first MLS goal as an 18-year-old San Jose Earthquakes forward, an 84th-minute finish in a 2-0 win over visiting New York on May 19, 2001.
“Against [US national team goalkeeper] Tim Howard,” he noted. “And it had been a long time that season, I think 12 games or so I didn't score a goal, but [then-Quakes coach] Frank Yallop stayed with me, the team played well, they believed in me and finally it came. And it was a huge relief.”
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He's close. The goal actually came in San Jose's seventh game of the year and Donovan's sixth appearance and fourth start.
“It was a breakaway from about 50 yards, and Tim just kept backing up, backing up, backing up,” he said. “I think he wanted me to score, thankfully.”
It will be nice to get the record out of the way, right?
“I don't really care, to be honest,” Donovan said. “I guess it's going to happen at some point. Honest as I can be, it's not on my mind at all.”