Landon Donovan is widely regarded as American soccer’s greatest ever player. His place in American soccer history is cemented, and his legacy should be one that is remembered throughout history.
Donovan was always destined to be a soccer star, and his time at youth level would see him stand out to one of Europe’s biggest clubs. The American youngster was spotted by Bayer Leverkusen of Germany, and they signed him to a six-year contract in 1999. Donovan moved to Germany at a young age and was a star for the reserve team, but he began to struggle with life away from home.
He was loaned back to the United States in 2001, joining the San Jose Earthquakes for three years until 2004. In that time, it was clear that the winger and forward would be a star in the MLS, but now he had to show his pedigree in Germany. Donovan spent one last season with Leverkusen in 2005, but only made seven appearances and sought a move back to the United States.
Greatness with the Galaxy
In a movie, every hero needs to come through adversity, and Donovan was down on his luck in Europe. He returned home and joined Los Angeles Galaxy in 2005 in a move that would change the MLS forever. Donovan picked up in the United States right where he left off, and he quickly became a huge asset for the Galaxy.
Just a couple of years after moving to LA, he would be joined by English soccer superstar David Beckham and together, they would create history. Donovan won his first MLS Cup in 2005, his first season with the Galaxy before winning three in four years from 2011 to 2014.
In that time, Donovan became the second-highest scorer in the MSL with 145 goals and the all-time assist leader with 136. Donovan would move to Europe on loan several times during the offseason, playing in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich, and the Premier League with Everton.
His international career
Donovan’s lasting legacy will always be with the national team, despite his impressive accomplishments in the MLS. In one decade, Donovan was named the Honda Player of the Year seven times and the FIFA World Cup Best Young Player in 2002. His international success with the USA was bringing a lot of attention to the sport, and he helped to put American soccer on the map. Thanks to Donovan’s efforts, the United States was able to outperform expectations when playing at the World Cup. He has the second-most appearances for the United States, is the joint-top scorer with Dempsey on 57 goals, and has the most assists with 58.
His success on the field made playing in the MLS a more attractive proposition for international soccer stars, helping to grow the league to what it is today. While Donovan didn’t rise to the top of the world game, his time in the MLS and with the national team makes him the United States’ greatest player so far.