Landon Donovan's USMNT career isn't necessarily over. He will probably play in friendlies. He might even stick around long enough to help with the (never-ending) qualification for the 2018 World Cup. He could very well end his career as the United States' cap leader, as he only needs eight more appearances to top Cobi Jones' 164.
But with his snub from the United States squad headed to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, one thing is clear: the prime of the greatest player in American national team history (non-goalkeeper, at least) is in the past, and his greatest moments are behind us. You might have noticed this from his play of late, but his inability to even crack the 23-man squad is the 72-point placard announcing what you could see on the field.
We'll take this in a different route: let's remember the finest moments in Donovan's USMNT career, the moments that made Donovan's era the best in the American history of the sport.
Hat Trick vs. Ecuador
It wasn't Donovan's only hat trick for the USA (in fact, he hung four on Cuba in the 2003 Gold Cup) and it wasn't an important game (just a friendly after a not-so-fun 2006 World Cup) but it's a damn master class. Two strikes from outside the box, only one of which the keeper had a chance to touch, and a signature run from the middle of the field that he made look too easy.
After losing in the final in 2011, the United States powered through the 2013 Gold Cup to prove CONCACAF dominance. Donovan led the way with five goals, but let's not focus on those: let's focus on the time he was chilling so hard in a quarterfinal win, HE PUT ON SOME DAMN SUNGLASSES that fans threw at him.
Goal to go up 2-0 on Brazil in Confederations Cup
For a brief moment in time, it seemed like the United States was the best soccer team in the world. Not for long, and not with much reason, but still. It was a moment.
Nobody cares about the Confederations Cup much (it is a thing that exists in the year before World Cups as sort of a warmup tournament). It seemed the US didn't care much about it, as they lost their first two games in South Africa. On the last day of group play, they needed to win and make up six goals worth of differential to advance to the next round... and sure enough, they beat Egypt 3-0 and Brazil beat Italy 3-0.
Then, in the knockout round, they miraculously beat a Spanish squad fresh off a win in the Euros. Then, Clint Dempsey scored to make it 1-0. Then...
A perfect counterattack. A pair of perfect passes by Donovan and Charlie Davies. An absolute dirty cutback past the last man back, and an equally dirty shot tucked in the opposite direction, leaving the defender Ramires and goalie Julio Cesar clueless, and the United States was up 2-0 on arguably the best team in the world after beating another team that was arguably the best team in the world.
Sure, they lost 3-2, but whatever.
Donovan starts the comeback vs. Slovenia
Donovan's goal against Algeria -- spoiler, it's on here -- is a national treasure, but the comeback against Slovenia was also epic -- and also important for the team's hopes of advancing. Team USA would've been in dire straits at the 2010 World Cup if they'd lost to Slovenia, and down 2-0 in the second half, that seemed pretty damn likely.
Donovan wouldn't be the one to tie it up -- that was Bradley -- but his blast from close range kept hope alive:
It seemed like Landon had zero opportunity to score from the angle he had. Most of the time in his situation, the guy with the ball and no angle passes it across the middle hoping to connect with a streaking attacker, or blasts it off the goalie hoping for a rebound or corner.
But Donovan was feeling frisky and malicious, so he chose neither. He just kicked the damn ball as hard as he could at the head of Samir Handanovic, the Slovenian keeper. With his nation's pride on the line, you'd think Handanovic could've thrown self-preservation to the wind, but an untimely bout of wisdom caused him to jerk his body and head back so that the ball rocketed unimpeded into the rarely used top part of the net.
Dos a Cero
Let Stars and Stripes FC tell you what Dos a Cero means. But if it had to be summed up into two words, they'd be "Landon Donovan." Three times, he's been the one to make it 2-0 and seal Mexico's fate, in addition to a goal to make it 1-0 in an eventual 2-0 win -- his first ever goal for USMNT! -- and another to go up 2-0 in an eventual 4-2 loss, but let's not mention that.
Donovan ripped his shirt off in joy after burying an unmarked header in the knockout stages of the 2002 World Cup, showing the United States was the best team in North America:
He broke away from everybody in a 2007 friendly:
And he was on the end of a pretty Mix Diskerud pass to make it 2-0 in Columbus for the game that punched America's ticket to Brazil:
As of right now, that's Donovan's last goal in an American uniform. His lack of goals since is part of why he's not involved, and we hope he has more opportunities to score, but we can't think of a more fitting final goal.
Yes, the list is going to end with the one against Algeria
You don't need my words. You just need the video, and the memory of where you were and what it felt like:
And if you don't have that memory, you have the reactions from around the world to make one for you:
Maybe Jurgen Klinsmann was right to reward youth with spots in Brazil instead of giving a past-his prime Donovan an honorary spot. Maybe he was wrong, and Donovan can help the team. Either way, I feel two things:
1. A desire for whichever 23 guys are representing the Stars and Stripes to kick as much ass as humanly possible, regardless of whether their manager chose them wisely.
2. Gratitude to Landon Donovan, for these moments, these fuzzy feelings scattered across the last decade plus. Whether he played in Brazil or not, they aren't going anywhere.
If this wasn't enough mancrush for you: here are all 57 of his goals for the US:
And all 58 of his assists: