By: Andrew Utz ~Staff Writer~
Landon Donovan announced his forthcoming retirement from soccer back in August.
On Oct. 10, he started his final game for the United States national team. The 32-year-old wore the captain’s armband in the friendly match against Ecuador.
The entire stadium was packed, looking more like a World Cup match than a friendly match.
Fans chanted Donovan’s name from when the first whistle blew to the moment he stepped off the pitch.
He was the catalyst of the first goal, making a cross that found the feet of Jozy Altidore.
Altidore slid the ball to the top of the box to DeAndre Yetlin, who found Mix Diskerud at the penalty spot.
Diskerud slotted the ball past the diving Ecuadorian goalkeeper to mark a goal in the fifth minute.
In the ninth minute, Donovan had the opportunity to add to the goal count, with a header that was saved.
He broke away again in the 25th, set up by Altidore. His shot hit the right post and went out of play.
In the 40th minute, Donovan was substituted off.
He handed off the captain’s armband to Altidore and walked off to a chorus of cheers.
If asked who the most influential person to advocate soccer in the United States is, the answer would have to be Landon Donovan.
He has been the face of the American soccer team for 15 years. He was the reason why the team made it into the knockout rounds of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Donovan’s legacy is embedded in the United States culture.
He first appeared on the world stage in the 2002 World Cup, scoring two goals in the United States run to the quarter finals.
Though he was left out of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, he holds the record for most goals (57), most assists (58) and most minutes played (12,853) on the men’s national team for all international matches.
His retirement now leaves a gap in the identity of United States soccer.
His memorable goals, passing and speed were influential to the way young people learned to play soccer.
Donovan gave meaning to a game that many thought was dominated by European teams.
He played in Major League Soccer during its infancy, influencing players like David Beckham and Thierry Henry to join the league.
Watching the game on Oct. 10, it was reminiscent of the United States playing in South Africa in the 2010 World Cup.
His goal against Algeria to send the U.S. to the knockout rounds sparked everyone to watch the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
His role as a leader for the national team and for his professional club has left a lasting impact on the game of soccer in the United States.