Landon Donovan ends rollercoaster week by claiming MLS goals record

by Neil Sherwin

Donovan GalaxyIt took eight months but Landon Donovan finally notched his record breaking 135th Major League Soccer goal as LA Galaxy comfortably saw off the Philadelphia Union 4-1 on Sunday night.

The 32-year-old scored twice in that game to end what was a week of highs and lows following his surprise omission from the 23-man USA squad for next month’s World Cup.

Donovan, who has netted 57 times in 156 appearances for his country, was deemed surplus to requirements by coach Jürgen Klinsmann having been selected as one of the 30 players to attend training camp.

However, he put the disappointment behind him to set a new goal scoring record having suffered something of a drought since drawing level with Jeff Cunningham on 134 goals back in October of last year.

“It’s been a long week,” said Donovan when speaking to the Associated Press after the Phili game.

“It’s hard not to make it about me, and I don’t necessarily want it to be that way. But I’ve sacrificed a lot to be in the position I’m in and I was very happy for myself because I’ve dedicated a lot to this.

“I think I deserved what happened today.”

Within hours of the milestone being reached, a website (www.landon135.com) which shows each of his goals was up and running, a fitting tribute to the man who, in 2004, became the first man to be named US Soccer Athlete of the Year three years in a row.

Donovan’s double was the perfect proverbial two fingers to the national team coach who opted to take uncapped 18-year-old Julian Green to Brazil instead.

“This is certainly one of the toughest decisions — the toughest decision in my coaching career — to tell a player like him with everything he’s done and what he represents, to tell him that you’re not part of those 23 right now,” Klinsmann said of the squad announcement.

“I just see some other players slightly ahead of him.”

While there can be a case made for leaving the veteran out of the starting eleven, to omit him from the squad completely has left plenty scratching their heads.

Bruce Arena, Donovan’s coach at Galaxy, was in charge of the US national team between 1998 and 2006 and he was just one of the many voices from the football community not in favour of the decision.

“If there are 23 players better than Landon then we have a chance to win the World Cup,” said Arena, a quote that was used on a banner displayed by Galaxy fans on Sunday.

As well as his exploits in MLS, Donovan has scored more World Cup goals (five) than Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney combined.

The man himself was understandably disappointed not to be chosen for his fourth tournament.

“Based on my performances leading up to camp, based on my preparation for the camp, based on my fitness, based on my workload, based on the way I trained and played in camp, I not only thought I was part of the 23, I thought I was in contention to be starting,” said Donovan in a statement.

“That’s why this has all been pretty disappointing. I’m not angry. I’m disappointed. I’ve spent most of my adult life and majority of my life in general dedicating myself to the sport in this country and representing my country.”

There has been suggestions that Klinsmann chose to leave Donovan out based on their personal relationship rather than ability, and the two previously bumped heads when Donovan opted to take a four-month sabbatical from the game at the end of 2012, a move that caused him to miss three World Cup qualifiers.

However, Donovan returned to the fold and was a key member of the squad that won the CONCACAF Gold Cup on home soil less than a year ago.

The US are expected to struggle at the World Cup having been dropped into a group with Germany, Portugal and Ghana, and leaving someone with Donovan’s pedigree at home is a bold move from the coach.

Galaxy fans won’t mind him having a break though and will be hoping that their hero’s return to form is a permanent one as they look to claim a fifth MLS Cup.

This article first appeared on the excellent bsports, who provide great statistical analysis. You can also find them on Twitter.

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