On Oct. 25, 2000, the price of a gallon of gas was about $1.58. The U.S. was at peace. Christina Aguilera’s “Come on Over Baby” was the top single in the country. The No. 1 movie was “Meet the Parents.” The New York Yankees had recently defeated the Mets to win their third consecutive World Series title.
And a skinny 18-year-old from San Bernardino County, California, named Landon Donovan stepped onto the field at the Los Angeles Coliseum as a member of the senior U.S. men’s national soccer team for the first time.
Appropriately enough, given that nobody would wind up contributing more than Donovan to the shift in the regional balance of power, Mexico was the opponent that day. The U.S. won 2-0, with Donovan scoring one goal and setting up another.
Two years later, he played in his first World Cup.
In 2006, he became the men’s team’s all-time assists leader.
In 2008, he became the country’s all-time leading scorer.
In 2010, he became the country’s all-time leading World Cup scorer.
In 2013, he became the first U.S. player to notch at least 50 goals and 50 assists in his career.
Fourteen years later, on Friday night at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut, at a friendly match against Ecuador, Donovan will make his final U.S. men’s national team appearance.
In honor of the greatest male player to ever put on the national team uniform, Fox News Latino presents some of our favorite Landon Donovan-Team USA moments.
Date: Oct. 25, 2000; Opponent: Mexico; Setting: Friendly; Final: 2-0, USA
In Donovan’s very first appearance for the senior national team, he figured in both U.S. goals, registering an assist and a goal.
For Donovan, it was the beginning of a very long and happy career of frustrating El Tri.
Date: June 17, 2002; Opponent: Mexico; Setting: World Cup; Final: 2-0 USA
Archrival Mexico stood in the way of the U.S. reaching the quarterfinals of the World Cup hosted by Japan and South Korea — an achievement Team USA hadn’t achieved since the dim prehistoric 1930 World Cup.
The Yanks were clinging to a 1-0 lead, but Mexico controlled possession of the ball, and looked certain to break through at any moment. But in the 65th minute, a lightning counterattack with Eddie Lewis finding Donovan in the box led to one of his rare header goals — a beautiful strike that all but finished off Mexico.
Date: Feb. 7, 2007; Opponent: Mexico; Setting: Friendly; Final: 2-0 USA
Another match with Mexico, another 2-0 win, another instance that Donovan is involved with both goals.
His corner kick in the 52nd minute got headed in by Jimmy Conrad, and then, in stoppage time, Donovan split two defenders at midfield, leaving nothing but green between him and goalie Oswaldo Sánchez. Calm as you please, he dribbled around the keeper and made it 2-0.
Date: June 28, 2009; Opponent: Brazil; Setting: Confederations Cup; Final: 3-2 Brazil
For 30 minutes, the Yanks looked like they might be among the best squads in the world. At the final of the Confederations Cup, after having eliminated Spain, 2-0, in the semifinal, Team USA took a quick 1-0 lead on Brazil with a Clint Dempsey goal in the 10th minute.
Then, 17 minutes later, Donovan streaked down the field, played give-and-take with Charlie Davies, pulled the ball back when he needed to and calmly struck the ball across his body for the score. Brazil stormed back to win 3-2, but for a few delicious minutes, American fans could dream of world soccer domination.
Date: June 23, 2010; Opponent: Algeria; Setting: World Cup; Final: 1-0 USA
Possibly the most famous goal in U.S. men’s national team history. With a Round of 16 berth on the line, the U.S. and Algeria were playing to a 0-0 tie in stoppage time. If England’s 1-0 lead against Slovenia held up, a tie meant that the U.S. and Slovenia would be flipping a coin to determine who would advance from Group C.
But then Donovan engineered one of his patented counterstrikes, fed the ball to Jozy Altidore, who found Dempsey in front of the goal, whose attempt was blocked by the Algerian keeper. But trailing the play was the ever-opportunistic Donovan who set off celebrations on the field in South Africa and across the United States.
Date: Sept. 10, 2013; Opponent: Mexico; Setting: World Cup qualifier; Final: 2-0 USA
After Donovan’s self-styled four-month hiatus from soccer, U.S. national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann didn’t exactly welcome Donovan back with open arms. He was left off the roster for qualifying matches until Team USA’s ticket to Brazil was practically already punched.
In Columbus, with the U.S. World Cup berth at stake, Donovan knocked home a cross from Mix Diskerud in the 78th minute to all but guarantee the win and a berth in the 2014 World Cup.
Klinsmann would leave Donovan off the Cup roster, his spot as the greatest player this country has ever produced was secure.