Landon Donovan. Hate him or love him, he's helped U.S. soccer rise to new heights in his career, which began in 1999 at Bayer Leverkusen and will end whenthe LA Galaxy's season concludes this year.
The 32-year old Donovan announced last week he will retire at the end of 2014, making Saturday's game against the Columbus Crew at Columbus Crew Stadium the last times Crew fans will have the opportunity to see him live.
At Massive Report, we usually don't focus on players not connected with the Black and Gold, but Donovan is an exception. The player helped build this league and put the United State on the map as a relevant soccer nation.
"He's meant a lot," Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter said of Donovan, who he played with in two World Cups and with LA.
"It's actually hard to put into words because he's been driving U.S. soccer for a long time and he's had a great contribution on and off the field to the game, to the MLS, and to the national team."
Because of this, the Crew announced they will honor Donovan in his final appearance in Columbus before the game Saturday night.
"It's very respectful and it's not necessarily my personality to want that stuff, but it still feels good," Donovan told LAGalaxy.com this week. "It's nice as a human being. I'm very greatful that they're going to do that. I just think that when teams around the world do it for their own players, it's nice and it's respectful.
"I think that we live in a society where we're always so quick to move onto the next and we forget about what people have done so that to me is a big statement and I appreciate it. They certainly aren't obligated to do so and it's a nice gesture. I certainly hope that it is a trend that continues. When guys spend their career here and grow the league then they deserve it, there are guys that deserve it before I came into the league and I'm sure there will be guys who will deserve it after."
Donovan announced himself to U.S. soccer fans in 2001 when on loan from Leverkusen, as he led the San Jose Earthquakes to their first MLS Cup championship in Crew Stadium. In that game, he scored the equalizing goal against the Galaxy.
Donovan played in three U.S.A.-Mexico games in the unofficial home of U.S. soccer, winning by the famous "Dos a Cero" scores on all three occasions.
He was also a starter in the MLS All Stars' 4-1 win over Fulham FC in Crew Stadium in 2005. In that game, Donovan provided an assist on the opening goal to Taylor Twellman.
Not everything about Columbus has been peachy for Donovan. The forward turned midfielder has struggled to find individual success against the central Ohio MLS club, scoring just three goals in 16 matches verse the Black and Gold. This is good for second fewest of any team Donovan has played 10 or more times.
While Landon will be a Crew opponent on Saturday, it is important to remember his contributions to American soccer over the years. He is one of the best players in U.S. soccer history and someone who has paved the way for the up and comers today.