Landon Donovan talks favorite MLS goals, advice, more
Landon Donovan explained the origins of his "obnoxious" penalty kick ritual, revealed the best piece of advice he's ever been given and discussed the awkward return from this year's sabbatical in an MLS video released Friday.
Donovan is one goal away from breaking the league's regular-season scoring record (he's tied with Jeff Cunningham at 134). He'll have a chance to break it when the L.A. Galaxy visit the Seattle Sounders in Sunday night's regular season finale.
The video showcases some of the most memorable and spectacular goals from his MLS career. But not surprisingly, his commentary often is just as interesting. Here are a few highlights:
On what he remembered most about his first MLS goal, scored May 19, 2001 in the San Jose Earthquakes' 2-0 win over the MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls).
"One, it's against Tim Howard. Two, it's a terrible celebration. Three, I had gone like the first 12 games without scoring and [coach] Frank Yallop put so much faith in me and let me keep playing. The team was doing well and he just kept faith with me. I was finally happy to reward him and get the first goal. Man, that was a long time ago."
On the spectacle of his two-goal game against the New England Revolution in August 2001
The bleached blonde hair -- "That's why I'm bald now."
Taking off his shirt in celebration -- "I was probably just a punk, like, who thought I was really sexy if I took off my shirt. I don't know."
The penalty kick ritual, where he kneels and kisses his wrists and fingers -- "It's pretty obnoxious. I just had a lot of things I would do. I had different gifts from family members throughout the years, bracelets, rings, different stuff. It's really just a moment to sort of ground me and help me relax. In general, these are pretty pressure-packed situations. You just want to calm down so you don't get too excited. This is why people hated me. I don't know how I came up with this. It's not like I sat home and said 'Try this. How does this look in the mirror?' I've altered it a little bit so it's not quite as obnoxious."
On scoring against San Jose as a member of the L.A. Galaxy in 2005
"As I was running up [toward the locker room] something just nailed me in the face. This guy had balled up a t-shirt and just flung it at me. In retrospect, it was a good moment because it meant people cared. When I first came into the league, people didn't care as much as they did [later]. Kind of a bad moment for me, but in general a good moment for Major League Soccer."
On his first goal back after this year's sabbatical, an April 20 strike against Sporting Kansas City
Returning to the field -- "Coming back was actually very hard because you don't realize how much having that time off hurts you from a soccer point because you're so in a rhythm and you're so used to doing it ... At this point I felt there were days I was like, 'I don't even think I can trap a soccer ball anymore.' You start to doubt yourself."
On Robbie Keane passing up a shot to give Donovan a look at an empty net -- "He didn't have to pass that ball. Everybody knows Robbie Keane can score that goal. But he had the presence of mind to know I was there. He had the awareness to say 'Let's get Landon a goal.' I owe him a lot of credit for that and it got me off the mark and just gave me some confidence. ... He said "Welcome back."
On what he'd say to his 19-year-old self
"As I got older and there started to be criticisms after the 2006 World Cup, which was very difficult, I sort of went away from being who I was because I was starting to feel that pressure and I wish I could go back and just sort of let all that go and just keep playing the way I was when I was young."
On the best piece of advice he's received
"The best of advice I've ever gotten is from my Mom, who said -- always, continually -- 'If you're not enjoying it, don't play.'"
"I reached a point at the end of 2012 where I really wasn't having fun. We won the championship and I was more relieved than joyous to win. That should never be the case. When you put in that much work you should be happy at the end of the season. And so that was the reason I took some time off, because I wanted to see if, is still enjoyable for me or not? If it's not, I'm not going to do it. I've always held to that. I know it's not always the most popular decision amongst people but I have to hold true to that. Because when I'm enjoying it, you see in these moments I can really do something special."