The LA Galaxy won their fourth MLS Cup this past weekend in what will be David Beckham’s final game with the team and possibly with MLS. While this is a very big deal, not just for the league but also for the team, the possible loss of America’s best player, Landon Donovan looms as an even bigger loss.
Donovan has now won five MLS Cups. He is the all time leading goal scorer for the US National team and is the unequivocal face of American soccer. Now he may have played his last game ever at the age of 30. If Donovan decides to call it a career it will not only be a loss for the Galaxy but also for MLS, the national team and for American soccer as a whole.
Years ago Donovan turned down the part-time (but well paying work) of playing for a European club to play in MLS and in particular for the Galaxy. It was a great coup for MLS having America’s best player choose to play at home and help build the league. He hasn’t disappointed. He even has the best selling MLS jersey for an American and third most popular behind Beckham and New York’s Thierry Henry.
Donovan’s departure from soccer would be an unexpected blow to the growth of soccer in American. While there are several possible replacements none have reached his level of success and those who have come chose play overseas.
If you look at the Galaxy in particular his lost would be bigger then the loss of Beckham. While Beckham is a brand name that reaches beyond soccer, sports, and into pop culture, Donovan provides so much more on the pitch. His ability to score, set up teammates, stretch the defense makes him a player you always have to account for. The minute you don’t, well you can just look for the ball in the back of the net.
The Galaxy, MLS and the US National team have some interesting times in front of them. They want him back but at what point do you reach out to him. Too soon and you might drive him further away. Too late and you may never be able to get him back. The timing has to be just right. We should all hope they reach him at just the right time.
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