PORTLAND, Ore. – It truly has been an up-and-down 2014 for Landon Donovan.
He first endured a slow start to the MLS season before the snub heard around the world, costing him a chance at appearing fourth World Cup. He returned home, admittedly stunned by Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision and experienced another dip in form with the Galaxy.
But recently, things have started looking up.
He scored a goal and recorded an assist in the Galaxy’s dismantling of the Western Conference leading Seattle Sounders to spark a two-game winning streak that have seen LA back in championship-like form.
Now he’s the hero of the 2014 AT&T MLS All-Star Game. In his 14th-straight appearance in the game, the league’s all-time goals leader bagged the winning goal in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Bayern Munich at Providence Park.
“I’m just trying to enjoy myself,” Donovan told reporters in the postgame locker room. “The summer was very tough, and these last three games I’ve been a part of, four games, I’ve really enjoyed.”
The goal, coming against the club that sent him home after just several months of a failed loan in 2009, was also enjoyable, Donovan said.
In the 70th minute, he made a run up the middle, managing to get behind the Bayern defense, and was picked out by Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri on a long ball from the right wing. Donovan brought it down, took a touch to fend off Rafinha has he attempted to recover and sent it just under the arms of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
“I don’t know how he found me,” Donovan said of Valeri’s ball. “It was special for him to get the ball there. I brought it down, the turf wasn’t too helpful in slowing it down a little bit, but I was able to get another touch and then just tried to get a shot off. And I think it went under [Neuer’s] arm, and it was nice. It was a good feeling.”
The moment culminated a night meant for MLS royalty.
Donovan’s record 14th All-Star appearance led to his record sixth All-Star goal while also showing fitting tribute to New York Red Bulls star Thierry Henry, who received a standing ovation when he was taken off in the 47th minute for none other than Donovan in what could be his final season.
“It’s fun,” Donovan said. “It’s certainly more meaningful to have scored, but it was a lot of fun. I think the week has been fantastic, the guys they responded well.”
Donovan came into a game that took on a bit of fevered pitch as the All-Stars pushed to overcome a 1-0 deficit on a goal from Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski. Bradley Wright-Phillips nabbed the equalizer in the 51st minute, leading to Donovan’s heroics, which had to come quickly due to the fact All-Star head coach Caleb Porter had an agreement with Galaxy boss Bruce Arena to limit his minutes to 20 to 25.
“He's another player that's' done a lot for the sport in this country and in this league and with the national team and everything and we knew he couldn't play a lot of minutes,” Porter said. “… So it was good for him to get a goal right before came out. I know he enjoyed that.”
Right after the goal, Donovan came out for Dom Dwyer to a resounding ovation from the crowd.
“I’m proud to be a part of this league, and for many years those of that were in this league were sort of looked down upon for staying here,” Donovan said. “This was a big moment for us. We understand that the game doesn’t count for anything, and we know Bayern are in their preseason and their best players didn’t play, but it was still competitive and those guys wanted to win just like we did.”