In the midst of his 14th MLS season, it was announced Thursday that legendary United States soccer star Landon Donovan is set to retire at the conclusion of the 2014 campaign.
Donovan released a statement via his Facebook page along with an accompanying tweet confirming his plans to walk away from the game:
After careful deliberation, I have decided that this will be my last season as a professional soccer player https://t.co/UuxXkXlYi1— Landon Donovan (@landondonovan) August 7, 2014
Donovan's statement corroborated the report first released by ESPN's Taylor Twellman:
The 32-year-old forward made it clear that retiring from the sport he loves is not an easy decision, but he seems to be at peace with it:
I don't write these words lightly and this day carries mixed emotions for me. I am sad to leave a profession that has brought me so much joy. I will miss all of the teammates who helped me create so many incredible memories on-the-field, and who I have shared many wonderful experiences with off-the-field.
I will miss my coaches, at both the club and national team levels, who have helped me develop throughout my career and helped make me the player I am today. However, after spending half my life as a professional soccer player, I also am excited to begin a new chapter and pursue other opportunities that will challenge me and allow me to grow as a person.
This revelation comes just one day after Donovan scored as a second-half sub to give the MLS All-Stars a 2-1 victory over reigning Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich in the 2014 MLS All-Star Game.
The past couple months have been tumultuous for Donovan, as he was controversially left off the Team USA roster for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Despite that slight, Donovan revealed that he intends to continue championing both USA Soccer and the MLS in retirement:
I feel incredibly blessed and lucky to have played a role in the remarkable growth of MLS and US Soccer during my playing career. And while my career as a player will soon be over, rest assured I will stay connected on many levels to the beautiful game. ... As we enter a transformative time for the sport, I will do everything I can to help the continued growth of soccer in the United States. I look forward to making a difference, pursuing my passions and meeting all of you along the way in this next phase of my life.
The LA Galaxy star is the No. 1 all-time scorer in MLS with 138 career goals, and he is also the all-time leading scorer for the United States Men's National Team with 57 tallies.
In addition to that, he came through in big matches as evidenced by his all-time MLS mark in playoff scoring, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Landon Donovan will retire at the end of the MLS season. He's the MLS career scoring leader in reg season (138 goals) and playoffs (22).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 7, 2014
Donovan has always had a special connection with U.S. and MLS soccer fans, and he made sure to thank them for supporting him throughout his career:
There are so many people I want to thank who have inspired me, guided me and helped me on this incredible journey. I simply could not have accomplished what I did during my playing career without an overwhelming amount of support from my family, my friends and many others. I plan to express my gratitude to everyone in a more detailed manner at a later date; however, for now, I want to single out the fans. You are the lifeblood of this sport and, without you, none of us would be fortunate to call ourselves professional soccer players in MLS.
That feeling of appreciation between Donovan and the fans is certainly mutual. The American Outlaws had many kind words to say about the soccer icon in the following tweet:
Landon Donovan embodies what this team/sport is about & wears national team jersey with as much pride as any American ever will. We love ya.— The American Outlaws (@AmericanOutlaws) August 7, 2014
Are you surprised by Donovan's decision to retire?
As difficult as it may be, the focus must now shift toward Donovan finishing his career in the most emphatic way possible. The Galaxy are currently third in the Western Conference standings and in prime position to reach the playoffs.
There would be no better way for Donovan to go out than with a sixth MLS title to his credit.
One can only assume that Donovan's announcement will empower his teammates to play harder than ever and his fans to cheer louder than ever.
Donovan is one of the most integral parts of soccer's growth in America, and there is no question that a large void will need to be filled when he hangs up his cleats.
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