December 1, 2012
After missing 1st-half sitter, Galaxy star bounces back, converts game-winning PK in the 2nd half
By Michael Lewis
|Landon Donovan: ďItís a little surreal to be honest. I think in any sport, to repeat is really hard to do."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
CARSON, Calif. -- In many ways, Landon Donovan's MLS Cup Saturday mirrored the LA Galaxy's season.
It turned out to be just about the worst possible start, but a great finish, especially on his penalty kick in the 3-1 win over the Houston Dynamo.
Donovan walked of The Home Depot Center with his fifth MLS crown, adding to championships earned with the San Jose Earthquakes in 2001 and 2003 and titles with the Galaxy in 2005 and 2011. He tied former MetroStars defender Jeff Agoos for the most championships by a player.
After a dominating performance in 2011, the Galaxy struggled in the early part of this past season before bouncing back with a strong second half.
ďFor me personally, this felt more satisfying," Donovan said. "Last year there was a heavy expectation I think, with the uncertainty about Davidís [Beckham] future and we hadnít won a championship, from the beginning MLS Cup was in L.A. so there was a lot pressure to get there. This year we could enjoy it a little bit more I think. To finish where we were, in fourth place, and then kind of unexpectedly move through the playoffs that was way a little more satisfying I think.Ē
Even though he has played for so many championship teams, Donovan admitted he was taken a back with another title.
ďItís a little surreal to be honest," Donovan said. "I think in any sport, to repeat is really hard to do. The playoff run was great, but what got us here was the turnaround in July and we have to give ourselves a lot of credit for how we did when we were down and thatís the sign of a champion and we showed that again today too.Ē
A sign of a champion is being able to bounce back from adversity, which the 30-year-old U.S. international displayed in both halves.
He reached his personal nadir of the encounter when he missed a sitter in the 13th minute, a goal that would be lifted the Galaxy into an early lead and given the team so much needed momentum.
Midfielder David Beckham, from the back, found Robbie Keane alone on a long pass on the left flank. With one defender back, Keane came in on goalkeeper Tally Hall. The Ireland international set a square pass to an onrushing Donovan, who somehow placed his 10-yard shot wide right of the mark.
"A lot went through my mind, to be honest. When youíre in a moment like that, you feel like you let the team down. You feel like you let everybody down. Candidly, it sat with me till halftime. I took a few minutes at halftime, sort of collected myself and tried to stay present because you can't change it."
But Donovan got an opportunity redeem himself with the score tied at 1-1 in the second half.
Minutes after having a goal off a Beckham corner kick denied due to a foul on Gonzalez, the Galaxy grabbed the lead in the 65th minute. While trying to clear the ball during a scramble in the penalty area, Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark was called for a handball.
Donovan, doing his customary prayer prior to his spot kick, fired the ball into the lower right corner to give the hosts a 2-1 advantage they never relinquished.
"When the penalty came -- I'm not going to fool anyone and say I was calm about it -- I was pretty nervous. But you have to keep going and every one of these guys after that said forget about that, keep going, keep going, and I'm very appreciative of that."
The goal also gave Donovan 146 career MLS goals -- 124 during the regular season and 22 in the playoffs, one more than former D.C. United standout and MetroStars midfielder-forward Jaime Moreno.
Now, comes the real challenging part -- making a decision on whether Donovan wants to return for at least another season with the Galaxy. Donovan has been the face of American soccer for most of his professional career. On Saturday, he admitted he probably has endured physical and emotional burnout.
"I guess you could describe it that way, yeah," he said. "It's just been a long two years -- for all of us. It's not a woe is me story, but I have to listen to my heart and my gut and right now my gut says to get away for a while."
Donovan was given a reminder that there were other things in life besides soccer.
"I had a really nice moment where my sister just had a baby and she forgot to come down on the field and he was sleeping on her, and it sort of puts it all in perspective and makes me realize I want to be close to my family for a while, and I can figure out the soccer part later."
That includes some important introspection and some valuable time off before making that important decision.
"We're going to enjoy this, go on a nice vacation and well figure out what's next," he said.