CARSON, Calif. (AP) —
A year after Landon Donovan returned to soccer, he realized he had lost
his passion for the sport again. This time, the best player in American
history decided to walk away for good.
The 32-year-old Donovan
announced Thursday he will retire from professional soccer at the end of
the MLS season, wrapping up the most prolific career in the league's
history with one last run at a championship with the LA Galaxy.
think for the last few years, I haven't had the same passion that I had
previously in my career," Donovan said at the Galaxy's stadium. "To
some extent, I had felt obligated to keep playing. ... It's time to
enjoy the rest of the season, and there would be no better way than to
go out as a champion, so that's what I want to do."
Donovan is the
top goal-scorer in MLS history and the top scorer in U.S. national team
history, excelling as a forward and a midfielder. He was even named the
most valuable player of his 14th MLS All-Star game on Wednesday night
in Portland, scoring a goal in the All-Stars' 2-1 win over Bayern
Munich, only to make his stunning retirement announcement the next day.
"All I could think is that if everyone only knew," Donovan said with a grin.
a five-time MLS champion with the Galaxy and the San Jose Earthquakes,
made his retirement announcement on the same stage where he agreed to a
multiyear contract extension with the Galaxy just a year ago,
pronouncing himself revitalized after an extended sabbatical.
took several months off following the Galaxy's second straight MLS Cup
title alongside now-retired David Beckham in December 2012. Donovan
traveled extensively during his time off, and he plans to see even more
of the world after his career ends this fall.
"It gets me excited
thinking about it," Donovan said. "For 16 years, almost every decision
I've made, every hour of every day, has revolved around, 'How is this
going to prepare me for tomorrow's training session or tomorrow's game?'
Just having the freedom to do whatever you want is exciting, and I'm
looking forward to that."
Donovan has been a key component of MLS'
impressive growth during his 14 years in the top North American league.
After he struggled for playing time at Bayer Leverkusen as a teenager,
he chose to pursue a pro career in his native California instead of
Europe, adding a marquee attraction to the then-struggling league.
is no doubt that Major League Soccer would not be what it is today
without Landon Donovan," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. "His decision
to join MLS in 2001 was a statement to the entire soccer community, at
the most crucial time in our history, that MLS could be a league of
choice for the best American players. Landon is to MLS what Michael
Jordan was to the NBA, Wayne Gretzky was to the NHL and Tiger Woods was
to the PGA Tour: a player whose sporting accomplishments and popularity
transformed their respective leagues and set a new standard for how the
game would be played."
Donovan said his decision wasn't spurred by
his omission from his fourth U.S. World Cup team this summer. He was
surprised and disappointed by coach Jurgen Klinsmann's decision, feeling
he had done enough in training camp to warrant inclusion.
"I certainly wasn't going to allow one person's poor choice this summer to affect a decision like this," Donovan said.
is the career U.S. leader with 57 international goals over 156
appearances, and he has scored five World Cup goals, including his famed
stoppage-time goal against Algeria four years ago to send the Americans
to the second round. He watched the American team in Brazil from afar
as a television commentator.
"Quite simply the best player ever to
wear the USMNT jersey," U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati
posted on his Twitter account.
Donovan has no concrete plans for
his long-term future in soccer, but he is eager to work with young
players in the Galaxy's academy training program.
is secure with the Galaxy," said Galaxy President Chris Klein,
Donovan's former teammate and roommate. "So to be able to celebrate that
for the rest of the year in terms of how he goes out will be great.
When he decides what it is that he wants to do and where he wants to put
his heart and energy next, we'll be there to talk about that."
has played for the Galaxy since 2005, also going on loan to Everton and
Bayern Munich during the Galaxy's offseason. Donovan struggled early in
his pro career in Europe, but was popular during his two stints with
"Congratulations on a great career to @landondonovan as
he announces he'll retire later this year. Part of EFC fabric," Everton
tweeted from its official account.
Donovan has four goals and
seven assists in 17 games for the Galaxy this season as a midfielder and
a forward. He passed Jeff Cunningham for the career MLS goals record
shortly after Klinsmann excluded him from the World Cup team.
absence creates another hole for the LA club, which couldn't manage a
third straight MLS title last season in its first year since Beckham's
departure. But Donovan's retirement opens up a designated player spot
for the Galaxy alongside leading scorer Robbie Keane and U.S. national
team defender Omar Gonzalez.
After a lifetime spent in practices
and games, Donovan sees his departure as another step in his personal
evolution into whatever person he decides to be outside soccer. His
decision to leave the Bundesliga for MLS as an unhappy teenager was
unpopular, and Donovan knows many fans won't understand his early
"Sometimes there's a sense of obligation in people's
lives, the sense that you have to do something," Donovan said. "I've
never lived that way. I have to live the life I want to live, and that's
an important thing to go by."