JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Landon Donovan is one of the most recognizable faces in US Soccer for a few reasons: His long career on the U.S. Men's National Team complete with many memorable moments, his strange push into the spotlight during the David Beckham era in Los Angeles and his ability to reach even the most casual fan of soccer. He's scored 57 goals for the USMNT, none more famous than the legendary goal that sent America to the knockout round of the World Cup in 2010.
But on Thursday, it was announced he won't be going to the World Cup with the U.S. Men's National Team this year. For many, it seems like a premature goodbye to someone who left U.S. fans with one of the most amazing memories in soccer history.
Donovan, who was 18 when he scored a goal in his debut for the U.S. National Team, hinted in interviews earlier this week and even this year that he might not be an automatic choice for the squad. As late as Tuesday, according to the Associated Press, he said he wasn't fully confident. "In '06 and in 2010, I knew for the most part unless I was awful that I was going to make the team. This time is more similar to '02 where I wasn't sure," he said.
But it was always strange to imagine that a poster child of American soccer wouldn't at least be on the end of the bench for leadership reasons and things like that. It's awkward for the advertisers who put Donovan in their commercials and hard for fans to a) admit one of their favorite players may be nearing the end of his career at least on the national team and b) for the very casual fans quickly learn the names of the other players who aren't him on the squad (our hint: Dempsey, Clint and Altidore, Jozy.)
The worst is, it finally seemed that he had reached a place where he might see it from a different and more mature angle — and really enjoy what would have probably been his last World Cup regardless.
"I don't have that youthful energy and excitement that I did in 2002, but I see the game and I see the situation a lot more clearly now, so I'm able to I think enjoy it more in that way," Donovan said, according to the AP. "When you're younger, you're just sort of going crazy to do whatever it takes to make the team and you forget to enjoy it, And now I'm actually getting to enjoy it."
It's a shame for fans that he won't get that chance. But at least we'll always have the memories.