An American icon returns

Landon DonovanLandon Donovan fell to his knees and tilted his head back, rain falling on his face. He screamed in ecstasy having scored in the USA’s quarter-final rout of El Salvador, and the message was clear: here is a man enjoying his football, enjoying his life.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had such a good time playing,” the USA’s iconic creator and soccer pioneer admitted after the final whistle. He scored five goals for the Americans, displaying a constant influence that saw him named the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup’s best player.

Donovan’s journey hasn’t always been so joyful. The pressure has been heavy on the Californian since a young age. He emerged with a resounding bang at the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Cup, where he was voted best player of the tournament. It was a first for an American and he immediately stepped into uncharted territory. There was no blueprint for this in American soccer. He was on his own.

A move to Germany followed where he spent two seasons unhappily on the bench at Bayer Leverkusen before being sent back home on loan to MLS. It was a false start for the man tipped to be the savior of American soccer, but the pressure on Donovan was still great.

“He’s been the face of US soccer, the face of the LA Galaxy, of MLS, the face of the national team for a long time. He’s been through a lot,” DaMarcus Beasley, USA’s Gold Cup captain and long-time teammate of Donovan, told FIFA.com. “For him to be playing the way he is now, that’s bad news for any opponent.”  Read more

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