Landon Donovan is a name which football fans from USA – now the word ‘soccer’ is less used in America also – recognize at every hour of day or night. Simply, his numbers for the national team are so strong, that he is considered to be the most successful player from USA’s history. From 2000, when he made his debut at the first side, he gathered 144 matches and 49. And counting! In fact he’s only 30 years old and may reach even 200 games if injures won’t cause him problems. Born on 4th of March 1982, in Ontario, of sunny California, Donovan dedicated the most part of his career to US football as in Europe he couldn’t adapt despite the many tries.
The biggest curiosity is that his first professional contact was with Bayer Leverkusen, from Germany, in 1999! There, he signed a six years contract, but after the first two seasons in which he played 35 matches and scored nine goals, most of them at the second team, he was loaned to San Jose Earthquakes, in his native country. And it wasn’t any usual loan, but one consumed on three seasons, until 2004. In this period, Donovan touched a top form and led US to some brilliant performances. He appeared in 2000, for the first time, in the national team in October that year he also put in his first goal, in a friendly against the mighty rival, Mexico, but Donovan started scoring important goals in 2002. One at Gold Cup, in a victory against South Korea, a few in some friendly encounters and most important, two at the World Cup from 2002! On Asian field. One in the group stage and one in the last 16, against Mexico, which brought to USA a historical qualification in the quarters, where they were only put out by Germany, the future vice champion.
After the transfer to LA Galaxy, his sportive form increased rapidly as he became there a main player, doing a great job as a striker with a goal at every two matches. During this period he scored a lot of goals in the World Cup Qualifiers, five to be more precise, and without a doubt, USA made it to the competition again. This time in Europe, Germany, where Donovan started his professional career… He didn’t very good in the first time and nor he did this time. No goals, no victories, no passing through for his team. Years passed, he remained the same and prepared for another World Cup. With four goals in the qualification and a honorable appearance at the Confederations Cup from 2009, playing the final against Brazil. He scored once, but USA lost 2-3, after leading 2-0 and eliminating Spain, the European Champion in the semis! The preparation for South Africa was great. In… South Africa!
Meanwhile, clubs from Europe wanted him again. This time it was Bayern Munich. A short loan, without confirmation… Again! Next, Everton! Excepting two goals scored the story was the same. He returned to Galaxy and prepared the World Cup from South Africa. Moving outside Europe seemed right again for Landon and he put in another three goals, all culminating with a qualification in the last 16, in front of Algeria and Slovenia. But here, Ghana was better and won 2-1, even though, Donovan put his team level. In 2012 another loan to Everton started but ended shortly after the striker played like usual on European soil. Do you think I’m exaggerating with these affirmations? Well, think again, because Donovan never ever scored a goal, for USA, in a match played in Europe, even though he reached 44 goals for his national team!
I wrote a short story of this man’s prodigious career, but something doesn’t seem right. When you read the title and after the first part of the text you may ask yourself: ‘Where’s the tragedy?’ Well, unfortunately there is one and it lasts from March 2001. A youth match between USA and Trinidad & Tobago played at Macoya ended in tears as Landon had a bad collision with Marvin Lee, the hosts defender and captain. Despite being stronger than Donovan, Lee got a neck injury which paralyzed him. Landon only a broken rib… His luck was his opponents’ crucial point in life. Marvin remained in a wheelchair and despite all made efforts for him to follow a normal life as possible, including Landon, he died two years later, because he stopped breathing. His mother couldn’t explain what caused this painful loss, but she got the power to tell the doctors that he was suffering for a cold in that period which have could cause him further complication.
More than nine years passed and only a stadium from Trinidad & Tobago reminds about Marvin Lee, because it was named after him. On the other hand, the story of Donovan, the man which destiny choose to be part of that horrible collision, grew better and better and fights today to consolidate his position as one of the most successful sportsmen from the history of US. May Marvin Lee rest in peace!