CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan has been an All-Star every year he’s played in Major League Soccer, and he sees his record 14th selection as a tremendous honor – even if there might be players more deserving.
Donovan and LA Galaxy teammate Omar Gonzalez were among the first group of players announced for the Aug. 6 meeting with Bundesliga champion Bayern Munich in Portland, Ore., chosen for the Fan XI in balloting at MLSsoccer.com and via Twitter.
"When I look around the league, there’s lots of guys that deserve it probably more in some ways, based on the season they’ve had," Donovan said following the Galaxy’s 5-1 rout of New England on Wednesday night. "But I’m very proud of it, and I’m very appreciative of it. And I love representing this league, so it does mean a lot to me."
Donovan has three goals, all after he returned to LA after his omission from the US national team World Cup roster, and four assists in 13 league games, and his primary contribution this season has been as facilitator.
Gonzalez, who will make his fourth All-Star appearance, is among eight players in the Fan XI who were part of the US World Cup team.
"It’s awesome," Gonzalez said following Thursday afternoon’s training session. "It’s definitely an honor to be considered one of the All-Stars in this league because we have so many great players, and it’s getting better every single year. And it’s definitely getting harder to be one of the All-Stars."
Donovan joins New York’s Thierry Henry and Seattle’s Obafemi Martins – the other non-World Cup players in the group – up front in a 3-4-3 alignment. The Fan XI doesn’t necessarily represent the starting lineup against Bayern; Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter, who will guide the MLS team, may select any lineup he desires from his full 20-man roster.
Does it make the selection more special that the fans determine the selections – as opposed to players, coaches and media, as it used to be?
"You know, I have varying opinions on that," Donovan said. "I think it’s nice to be named by your colleagues because that’s important. But it’s also really nice that the fans get a chance to see who they want to see play. And at the end of the day, it’s a game for the fans, and it’s a game that they should be able to pick who they want to be here, and that’s a very nice feeling."
Said Gonzalez: "It’s even more special to get your peers and your coaches to vote you in.
"I think that’s the best feeling in the world," he added, "knowing that your peers rate you that highly. ... Any way you get voted in, it’s an honor."
Donovan, then with the San Jose Earthquakes, made his All-Star debut as a 19-year-old in 2001, before a home crowd back when an East vs. West format was used. He scored four goals in a 6-6 draw and mimicked Brandi Chastain’s celebration from the Women’s World Cup two years earlier, ripping off his jersey to reveal a sports bra underneath.
The current format, in which the All-Stars take on a foreign opponent – used in 2003 and since 2005 – is much better, he said.
"I think the guys like playing a real game with guys that they admire around the league," Donovan said. "I like putting on a jersey next to Beckerman and Michael Bradley and Dom Dwyer and Bradley Wright-Phillips and [Thierry] Henry and guys like that. And being in a locker room and looking at each other and saying, ‘Let’s go for it.’ I think that’s a fun feeling."