If you're going to announce your retirement, doing it the day after scoring the winning goal against Bayern Munich in the MLS All-Star game is a dramatic way to do it. And that's what Landon Donovan has decided to do.
Donovan announced his decision with a thoughtful letter posted on his Facebook account. Here it is in full:
After careful deliberation and after many conversations with those closest to me, I have decided that this will be my last season as a professional soccer player.
I don't write these words lightly and this day carries mixed emotions for me. I am sad to leave a profession that has brought me so much joy. I will miss all of the teammates who helped me create so many incredible memories on-the-field, and who I have shared many wonderful experiences with off-the-field. I will miss my coaches, at both the club and national team levels, who have helped me develop throughout my career and helped make me the player I am today. However, after spending half my life as a professional soccer player, I also am excited to begin a new chapter and pursue other opportunities that will challenge me and allow me to grow as a person.
There are so many people I want to thank who have inspired me, guided me and helped me on this incredible journey. I simply could not have accomplished what I did during my playing career without an overwhelming amount of support from my family, my friends and many others. I plan to express my gratitude to everyone in a more detailed manner at a later date; however, for now, I want to single out the fans. You are the lifeblood of this sport and, without you, none of us would be fortunate to call ourselves professional soccer players in MLS.
I feel incredibly blessed and lucky to have played a role in the remarkable growth of MLS and US Soccer during my playing career. And while my career as a player will soon be over, rest assured I will stay connected on many levels to the beautiful game.
As we enter a transformative time for the sport, I will do everything I can to help the continued growth of soccer in the United States. I look forward to making a difference, pursuing my passions and meeting all of you along the way in this next phase of my life.
On the surface, Donovan's decision might seem shocking. He's still just 32 years old and playing well for the LA Galaxy. After controversially being left off the U.S.'s World Cup squad earlier this summer, he became the MLS all-time leading scorer — and no one deserves that title more than him.
In the eyes of many, what Landon Donovan could do has always seemed to exceed what he wanted to do. He began his career as a teenager with Bayer Leverkusen, but joined the San Jose Earthquakes after just one season in Germany to be closer to home. Though he would later flirt with Europe, going on short loan spells with Bayern and twice with Everton, he always went home despite fans and critics constantly begging him to push himself at the game's highest levels.
And for that, MLS owes a great deal of thanks to Donovan. When many of the U.S.'s best players only cared about making it to Europe, Donovan maintained his own priorities, which were best for him and the league. And when most of them returned to MLS, he was still there.
His retirement probably could have come even earlier, though. Donovan's sabbatical from the game in 2013 raised a lot of questions that even he didn't seem to know the answers to. But the U.S. national team's all-time leader in both goals and assists returned and led them to a CONCACAF Gold Cup title later that year.
From anyone else, this would be a sad and puzzling decision. From Landon Donovan, this is just him going out the same way he played his whole career: on his own terms. That should be admired.
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