MLS thanks Landon Donovan for elevating the league as the Galaxy unveil his statue
Landon Donovan did more than any single player to save both the Galaxy and MLS, so Sunday the club and league gathered to set those contributions in bronze, unveiling a statue of him outside Dignity Health Sports Park.
“If Landon didn’t make the decision to come back to Major League Soccer at the time that he did and come to the Galaxy in 2005 [and] tell the world that MLS was his league, the Galaxy was his club, [that] he was going to help build soccer in his country, we would not be where we are today,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said after a sunbaked 65-minute ceremony in which Garber and half a dozen other soccer executives and former teammates lauded Donovan’s impact on the league and the team.
When Donovan left Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen to join MLS and the San Jose Earthquakes in 2001, the league was on the verge of bankruptcy. It had lost an estimated $250 million in its first five seasons and was about to contract to 10 teams. Before Donovan retired with the Galaxy in 2016, MLS had 20 teams in two countries and was one of the best-attended first-division soccer leagues in the world.
In between, Donovan won a record six MLS titles while collecting the most goals (145) and assists (136) in league history. (The goal-scoring record has since been broken by San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski). He also set national team records for goals and assists and is widely recognized as the greatest player in U.S. history.
In the larger-than-life likeness Donovan is frozen, mouth open, both arms spread wide, in a post-goal celebration. The statue was placed about 30 feet from a similar statue of David Beckham that was unveiled in Legends Plaza, outside the southwest entrance to the stadium, in 2019. Together the former teammates contributed to the most dominant four-year run in MLS history, winning two Supporters’ Shields and making three MLS Cup finals, winning two, between 2009 and 2012.
Landon Donovan will get his first chance to see if his new passion will be requited when he coaches the San Diego Loyal of the second-tier USL Championship.
Both statues were sculpted by Julie Rotblatt-Amrany and Omri Amrany, the husband-and-wife team that created one of Michael Jordan that sits outside the United Center in Chicago. Donovan also joined Beckham in the club’s Ring of Honor, alongside former players Cobi Jones and Mauricio Cienfuegos and the late Doug Hamilton, a three-time MLS executive of the year, during a halftime ceremony Sunday.
“I’m not really one for accolades and things like this because I’m just always kind of moving forward in my life,” Donovan said of the two honors. “But it has allowed me the opportunity to reflect a little bit. And I’m just really appreciative of the honor.
“But I’m appreciative of the 10 years I was able to spend with the key stakeholders, everybody in the organization, people around the stadium and certainly the fans.”