Landon Donovan: The Best American Player in the History of Soccer

Alan Hainkel@@fntncitysoccerContributor IApril 30, 2012

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 23:  Landon Donovan of the United States celebrates with teammate Edson Buddle after scoring the winning goal that sends the USA through to the second round during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group C match between USA and Algeria at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on June 23, 2010 in Tshwane/Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Landon Donovan is, arguably, the best American player in the history of soccer, not only domestically, but internationally.

By way of a disclaimer, I only root for Donovan when he's wearing the red, white and blue. When he's playing for the L.A. Galaxy (and before that with the San Jose Earthquakes), Donovan always finds a way to be a thorn in my team's side.

That said, there's no denying the statistics Donovan has managed to pile up. These accomplishments are made all the more impressive by the fact that Donovan is not quite two months past his 30th birthday (March 4, 1982).

Domestic/League Play

Since Donovan entered the MLS in 2001, only Brian Mullan has been on more MLS Cup-winning teams (three of Jeff Agoos' titles came prior to 2001). Donovan has won the MLS Cup twice with the San Jose Earthquakes and the LA Galaxy, winning a title in his first year with both clubs.

Donovan is one of only two players to win two MLS Cup MVP awards. The other is current D.C. United midfielder Dwayne DeRosario.

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On the MLS all-time scoring list, Donovan ranks third, but is first among active players with 117 goals. Donovan also ranks first among active players (sixth overall) in assists with 97.

Donovan was named MLS MVP in 2009 and was a finalist for the award in 2008. Only Preki (1997 and 2003) has won the award more than once.

International Play

Since making his first appearance for the U.S. national team in 2000, Donovan has tied or broken many team records.

Donovan ranks second in caps (or appearances) for the national team with 138, behind Cobi Jones' 164. Of his appearances, 124 of them have been starts, tied for most all-time with Agoos.

No one has scored more goals for the USMNT than Donovan's 46. The next highest total among active players is 25 by Clint Dempsey.

Donovan also has more assists than anybody. His 47 assists are more than double anyone else in the history of the national team (Jones has 22). The closest active player is DaMarcus Beasley with 13.

Counting goals as being worth two points and assists being worth one, Donovan's 139 points are also the most all-time. Eric Wynalda is a distant second with 84. The closest active player is Dempsey with 60.


No athletic career, no matter how stellar, is without its disappointments. One of the biggest for Donovan was probably his lack of success after signing with Bayer Leverkusen as a 17 year old.

According to his website, Donovan had a tough time adapting to the culture, a task made more difficult by not being able to speak the language as well as playing against players much older than him.

Another of the disappointments, at least in my opinion, had to be the performance of the national team at the World Cup in 2006. Building on the success in 2002, expectations for the team were high. The team crashed out in the group stage.

The team in general, and Donovan in particular, were heavily criticized for their performance, or lack thereof depending on how you want to look at it. Some American soccer fans put it down to a lack of heart on the part of the players, especially Donovan.

Bright Spots 

Donovan could have taken the criticism of his and the team's performance as an excuse to withdraw and give up on further success with the national team.

As we all know by now, that's not what he did. Donovan used the criticism as motivation to get better as a player and a team leader.

That work paid off in the team's performance at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The team never gave up and continued to fight back from early deficits, most notably coming back from two goals down to draw with Slovenia.

The most notable highlight for Donovan specifically was the goal in second-half stoppage time against Algeria. The strike sent the team through to the knockout stage as the group winner, something the US hadn't accomplished in 80 years, and at a time when the tournament was much smaller.


Based on the statistics and accolades that he has accumulated, Donovan is the best soccer player the United States has ever produced. In my opinion, it's not even close, and when the time comes several years from now, Donovan will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Agree? Disagree? I'd like to see some other opinions, even if I don't agree with them.


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