Landon Donovan said he watched Derek Jeter drive in the winning run in his last home game with the New York Yankees last month and said he hoped for an equally special ending to his career with the U.S. national team Friday.
Instead Donovan hit the post with one shot, missed wide left with another and sent a third attempt into the hands of keeper Maximo Banguera in a 1-1 tie with Ecuador that marked the 157th and final match of Donovan’s international career. And that gave Donovan, 32, a ready explanation for why he’s ending his record-setting career now.
“Because I can’t score,” he said. “You saw what happened.”
In reality no American man has scored like Donovan, who has the most goals (57) and the most assists (58) in U.S. Soccer history. So when he took his national team jersey off for the final time Friday, there were few regrets.
“Mentally and physically, I’m there. I’m ready,” Donovan said. “You know when you get to the end and you have that feeling like ‘enough has been enough?’ I feel that way.
“Now’s the time.”
Friday’s event at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., was more a tribute to Donovan and his 14-year career than it was a soccer game with even the Ecuadoreans taking part, presenting Donovan with a memento in a brief pregame ceremony. His teammates also tried to give him a parting gift, repeatedly targeting Donovan on the attacking end. And though he was unable to convert any of those chances, Donovan was involved in the buildup that led to the only U.S. goal, a strike by Mix Diskerud in the fifth minute.
When he left the field for the final time 35 minutes later, he did so to a standing ovation from a crowd of more 36,000 and an awkward embrace from U.S. Coach Juergen Klinsmann, the man who left Donovan off his roster for last summer’s World Cup.
“I’m going to miss this,” Donovan said, motioning to the crowd.
Actually Donovan won’t have to give it up just yet. He still has three regular-season games left with the Galaxy, including one final date at StubHub Center on Oct. 19. Then come the Major League Soccer playoffs, which could keep Donovan in uniform into December.