Landon Donovan Profile
|Born||Mar 04, 1982|
Considered USA's greatest ever player, Landon Donovan played a remarkable 157 times for his country and was fans favourite wherever he went.
Landon Donovan is a retired American soccer player who played as a forward for clubs in the US, Germany, England and Mexico. He also played for the USA more than 150 times and is considered one of the greatest US players of all time.
Having been a standout player for the USA Under-17 side, he was signed by German club Bayer Leverkusen and penned a six-year deal. He was 17 years old at the time and cut his teeth playing for the reserve side.
Although still on the books at Leverkusen, he moved to MLS side San Jose Earthquakes and spent four years on loan with the club between 2001 and 2004. He returned to Germany to play a few games with Leverkusen's first team but then signed a multi-year contract with MLS side Los Angeles Galaxy in 2005. He excelled with the Californian team and also enjoyed short loan stints with German outfit Bayern Munich and Premier League club Everton.
He retired at the end of the 2014 MLS season but returned to play a few games for the Galaxy in 2016 to help their injury crisis. Donovan also had short spells with Mexican club Leon and indoor club San Diego Sockers.
He won the MLS Cup twice with San Jose and four times while at LA Galaxy.
Donovan made 157 appearances for the USA national side, scoring 57 goals.
Donovan was born in Ontario, California and sport was in his blood as his father was a semi-professional ice hockey player from Canada. He grew up in Redlands, attending Redlands East Valley High School and first started playing soccer at the age of six.
He played youth soccer for Cal Heat in the city of Rancho Cucamonga and was accepted into US Youth Soccer's Olympic Development Program in 1997. Two years later he attended the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where he mixed academic studies with soccer training. Once again, he excelled and was selected to play for the USA side in the 1999 FIFA Under-17 World Championship, held in New Zealand.
He scored three goals as USA finished fourth and was named Player of the Tournament. Scouts took note and he was snapped up by German club Bayer Leverkusen.
Bayer Leverkusen and San Jose Earthquakes
Donovan penned a six-year deal with Leverkusen but played only nine first-team matches for the club. He began life in the reserves, making 29 appearances and scoring nine goals but struggled to adapt to life in Germany. He was allowed to spend extra time training with the USA youth teams to help his transition.
Leverkusen loaned him to MLS side San Jose Earthquakes in 2001 and it proved a turning point for the player. He immediately began to show his true colours, scoring seven goals from 22 outings in his first season as Earthquakes won the MLS Cup. He scored another five in the play-offs.
In 2002, he scored seven regular-season goals, while 2003 saw him reach double figures, bagging 12 during the regular season and another four in the playoffs as San Jose lifted the MLS Cup once again. He was also a regular provider for his team-mates, totalling 29 assists in his four-year spell at the club.
He scored six times in 2003 - his final season with Quakes - and in 2004 became the first man to be named US Soccer Athlete of the Year for three consecutive years.
In total, Donovan scored 32 regular-season goals and another 10 in the playoffs before returning to Leverkusen in January 2005. He played another seven times for the German side but made only two starts and requested a move. Premier League club Portsmouth made an offer to take him to England but he decided to return to the US and MLS.
Success at LA Galaxy and tension with David Beckham
San Jose general manager Alexi Lalas had traded away Donovan's rights and he ended up at LA Galaxy who had traded leading scorer Carlos Ruiz to FC Dallas to position themselves to make the signing. He penned a multi-year deal with the Californian outfit and went on to play 10 full seasons for the club.
His first season was a great success, with 12 goals and another four in the play-offs as LA won the MLS Cup - Donovan's third MLS title. He was named in the MLS All-Time Best XI after the season. He enjoyed another fine year in 2006, with 12 goals but the Galaxy failed to make the play-offs.
The arrival of English superstar David Beckham - who took over the captaincy - in 2007 seemed to unsettle Donovan and he had a below-par season by his own high standards, scoring just eight goals. But he was back to his best in 2008, finding the net 20 times in the regular season as he and Beckham clicked in attack, although the club failed to reach the play-offs.
With Beckham spending time on loan with AC Milan in early 2009, Donovan regained the captaincy and there was tension between the pair after Donovan criticised his team-mate in a magazine article. However they reconciled and he enjoyed another stellar season with the Galaxy, notching 12 goals and three more in the postseason. They lost the MLS Cup to Real Salt Lake on penalties but Donovan was named the league's Most Valuable Player.
He then signed a four-year contract extension and scored seven goals in the 2010 campaign, while also providing 16 assists as the Galaxy fell in the play-off semi-finals. Donovan claimed his fourth MLS Cup in 2011, scoring the only goal of the game as LA downed Houston Dynamo. He was named MVP for the final and also scored 12 goals during the regular season.
Success followed the next year as he led the Galaxy to yet another MLS Cup triumph, scoring a penalty in the final - again against Houston. After playing 34 games and scoring 11 times, Donovan requested some time away from the game to recharge his batteries.
He was back in training with the club in March 2013 and enjoyed another solid campaign, bagging 10 goals. However, he was forced to cede the captaincy to Irish star Robbie Keane.
He secured a sixth MLS Cup - and fourth with the Galaxy - in 2014 as they beat New England Revolution 2-1 after extra time. After scoring 13 goals that year, Donovan announced his retirement from soccer.
Loan spells at Bayern Munich and Everton
However, on September 8, 2016, he revealed that he would be coming out of retirement and signed with LA Galaxy for the remainder of the season to help with their injury crisis. He played in six regular-season games and three playoff matches, scoring once, before retiring for a second and final time.
Donovan enjoyed loan spells with both Bayern Munich and Everton during the MLS offseason while with LA Galaxy. He trained with German giants Bayern in November 2008, scoring four goals in five friendly games and made seven appearances for the first team in 2009.
He repeated the exercise with Premier League club Everton in January 2010. While with the Merseysiders, he enjoyed 13 outings in all competitions, scored two goals and was named the club's Player of the Month for January. The Toffees wanted to extend the loan but commitments to the Galaxy meant it was not possible.
The American rejoined Everton in January 2012 for another loan spell, playing in seven Premier League matches and nine in total. He failed to score but contributed seven assists, including two when helping Everton beat Fulham 2-1 to reach the FA Cup fifth round.
Donovan also assisted Denis Stracqualursi's goal in a 2-0 victory over Chelsea on February 11 - his final game for the Goodison Park club. His time at Everton was deemed a success and a few clubs made enquiries about signing him on a permanent basis but the pull of Los Angeles meant it was just a fleeting visit to the Premier League.
Winding down his playing career
Having hung up his boots with the Galaxy for a second time at the end of the 2016 MLS campaign, Donovan again came out of retirement when joining Mexican side Club Leon in 2018. He made his debut on February 10, 2018 as an 83rd-minute substitute in a 2-1 triumph over Club Puebla.
He scored his first goal for Club Leon on March 24, 2018 in a friendly against his former team, the San Jose Earthquakes. However, he failed to find the target in eight league and cup outings. The experiment lasted until June of that year when Leon decided to terminate his contract early.
In January 2016, Donovan made his first venture into indoor soccer, signing with Major Arena Soccer League side San Diego Sockers. He scored five goals in 10 outings and was named All-MASL Top Newcomer for 2018/19.
Landon Donovan and management
Donovan took his first steps into management by coaching a team consisting of young MLS players for the 2015 MLS Homegrown Game against Mexico's Club America Reserves and Academy. He returned to manage the side the following year.
He co-founded San Diego Loyal SC who play in the USL Championship - the second tier of professional football in the US - and was appointed the new club's first manager in November 2019. With little experience of management, Donovan surrounded himself with experienced coaches and backroom staff. He guided the side to 10th place in the Western Conference, winning six of their 16 games, but it was not enough to make the play-offs.
The club were mired in controversy after Donovan took the decision to forfeit the final two games of the regular season. The move was made in protest at alleged racial and homophobic abuse directed at his players in games against Los Angeles Galaxy II and Phoenix Rising going unpunished.
At the time, he said: "Our players in the heart and passion of the moment still wanted to play, but if we wanted to be true to who we are as a club, we have to speak and we have to act."
Landon Donovan and the USMNT
Donovan was a youth star for the USA, scoring an incredible 35 goals from 41 appearances for the Under-17s, while also appearing for the Under-20 and Under-23 sides. He made his debut for the senior team in a friendly against Mexico on October 25, 2000, scoring in a 2-0 victory.
He went on to win 157 caps, scoring 57 goals and is regarded by many as the greatest ever player for the USA men's national team.
Initially, he split his time between the Under-20, Under-23s and senior side before eventually playing exclusively for the senior side. He played in World Cup qualifiers and the 2002 Gold Cup, which USA won, beating Costa Rica in the final.
He made his World Cup debut as USA beat Portugal 3-2 in their opening group match of the 2002 tournament in South Korea. He started all five games as USA lost 1-0 to Germany in the quarterfinals. He scored twice during the event and was named Best Young Player.
By now, Donovan was established as a regular in the side and rarely missed a match for his country. He scored four goals in the 2003 Gold Cup quarter-final victory over Cuba as the USA finished third in the tournament. They won the 2005 Gold Cup, with Donovan scoring three times in the tournament and qualified for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. However, it was not a happy experience as they were eliminated at the group stage with just one point, gained from a draw with Italy.
Donovan came in for some criticism for his performances during the tournament but he led USA to Gold Cup glory the following year, scoring four goals during the event. He captained the side in the 2009 Confederations Cup, scoring in a 3-2 final loss to Brazil.
He played every minute of USA's 2010 World Cup campaign, scoring three times, but they exited the event after a 2-1 last 16 loss to Ghana. His goals in South Africa made Donovan the highest scoring American in World Cup history.
Having asked for some time away from the sport in late 2012, Donovan missed 14 straight games for the USA but returned for the 2013 Gold Cup. He scored five goals in six outings as USA lifted the trophy by beating Panama in the final. Despite playing in the latter stages of qualification for the 2104 World Cup, he was not selected for the squad.
Then USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann called it one of the "toughest decisions" of his career. Donovan played his 157th and final match for USA in a friendly against Ecuador on October 10, 2014. He is regularly named in polls as the greatest ever player for the USA men's national team.
Donovan's first marriage to actress Bianca Kajlich in December 2006 ended in divorce four years later and he is now married to Hannah Bartell. They have a son called Talon, born in 2016. Donovan has spoken at length about suffering from depression during his life and soccer career and has criticised the sports world for overlooking the issue.
He holds dual US-Canadian citizenship due to his father and speaks Spanish and German, while admitting to being an "Evertonian for life" after his successful spell with the English club. In 2016, Donovan joined several other Americans in becoming a part owner of Welsh soccer club Swansea City. He appeared on the covers of the FIFA 11 and FIFA 12 video games in the US.
Having failed to make the US squad for the 2014 World Cup, he moved into broadcasting and worked for ESPN as a studio analyst. He then worked for FOX Sports as they covered the US-Ecuador quarter-final of the Copa America Centenario.
On June 10, 2010, he joined talk show host James Corden as a guest on sports comedy TV show Game On.
The majority of his time is now spent with San Diego Loyal SC - a club he manages and owns alongside Warren Smith. The team played their inaugural season in the USL Championship in 2020, with Donovan acting as head coach. They did not make the play-offs, winning six and tying five of their 16 regular-season matches.