CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan said he wasn't trying to make a statement in his return to the LA Galaxy after his shocking snub when the United States' World Cup roster was announced, but he couldn't help but do so.
The veteran forward scored his first two goals of the season – claiming the career MLS goals mark with the first – and set up another as LA romped to a 4-1 rout Sunday evening over the visiting Philadelphia Union at StubHub Center.
If Jurgen Klinsmann was watching, fine. If not, that's OK, too.
Donovan's emotional performance wasn't about what happened Thursday, when Klinsmann unveiled his 23-man roster for Brazil, even if it served to question the US coach's assessment of his performance.
“It's been a long week,” Donovan said in the postgame news conference. “It's hard not to make it about me, and I don't necessarily want it to be that way. But, you know, I've sacrificed a lot to be in the position I'm in, and I was very happy for myself, because I've dedicated a lot to this, and I think I deserve what happened today.”
Donovan, who returned to training with the Galaxy on Saturday, made an impact at the start, delivering a sterling free kick into Philadelphia's box for Leonardo to head home. He then scored simple goals in the 49th and 81st minutes, both in give-and-go situations with Robbie Keane.
The first was his 135th in regular-season play, one more than Jeff Cunningham scored.
“I think the script was already written before the game, so certainly for him, he broke that record,” said Keane, who also scored for LA. “We all knew it was only going to be a matter of time, so I think the timing of it couldn't have come any better for him.”
Donovan hasn't put a lot of emphasis on the record, and he said he wasn't thinking about it when he finished Keane's feed at the left post for a 2-0 advantage just four minutes into the second half, his long awaited first of the year in his eighth appearance.
“I only occurred to me 10 seconds into the celebrating,” Donovan said. “It's great. I mean, it is, but I think, more importantly, I want to make sure I enjoy the rest of the season and keep helping our team. I want to get back to enjoying football because this has been a week where I had moments where I fell out of love with it a little bit. I want to make sure I keep enjoying it.”
Head coach Bruce Arena, who greeted Donovan with a hug after the record-setting goal, called it “an unbelievable milestone for any athlete and just a great accomplishment.”
“I know it takes a little pressure off him in not having to worry about that record now,” Arena said. “Others can chase him for the rest of his life.”
His family – mom, dad, twin sister and her son – were among those on hand, and Donovan was greeted with standing ovations after his goals when he trotted off in the 83rd minute.
The raucous response followed what he called “overwhelming” support he's received since being cut from the World Cup team.
“It's incredible,” he said. “You have no idea how many messages I've received from people, literally thousands of messages from people around the country, around the world. People who say, 'I'm a diehard Sounders fan' or 'I'm a diehard D.C. United fan, and I've hated you all my life on the field, and I'm so happy for you and so respect what you've done' and all this.
“The support has been overwhelming. It's funny the way things work out.”
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It was a statement-making performance, and not just because of the record – that wasn't Donovan's aim.
“First of all, this is my job, and this is what I'm paid to do, so my teammates depend on me,” he said. “I think I've played well this year, but I needed to contribute on the scoreboard, and that felt good.
“Obviously, a lot of relief in some ways, a lot of joy, but I feel like I'm in really good form right now and playing really well, and it was only a matter of time until the goal came. I really feel good about how I played, and this is a continuation of how I've played over the last few months.”