Landon Donovan has been candid and open about stepping away from the game when he feels the time is right. It appears as if that time is now.
Donovan, U.S. Soccer and Major League Soccer's all-time leading scorer, will retire at the end of the 2014 MLS season, he announced on Thursday. The announcement comes a day after Donovan scored the game-winning goal against Bayern Munich to earn MLS All-Star Game MVP honors.
Donovan, in an open letter to the LA Galaxy's website, writes:
"After careful deliberation and after many conversations with those closest to me, I have decided that this will be my last season as a professional soccer player.
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.
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.
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.
Donovan, 32, will step away as the most decorated men's player in U.S. Soccer history. He played in three World Cups, helping the Americans to the 2002 quarterfinals, before famously being left off the 2014 World Cup roster by manager Jurgen Klinsmann.
His most iconic moment came in the 2010 group stage against Algeria, when his stoppage time goal put the USA through to the knockout stage from the brink of elimination.
“Landon Donovan is one of the most significant figures in the history of soccer in the United States,” Galaxy manager Bruce Arena said in a team statement. “His influence on MLS and soccer in this country will continue to be felt for many years to come. As both a player and a person, Landon has been an incredible representative of the LA Galaxy, MLS and the U.S. men’s national team, and it has been my honor coaching him. We respect his decision to retire at the end of the season and look forward to competing for another MLS Cup and celebrating his outstanding career.”
He has 57 goals and 58 assists in his international career – both U.S. records – and his 138 regular-season goals and 22 postseason goals are the most in MLS history. Donovan, who had signed a multi-year contract with the Galaxy last August, has won five MLS Cup championships, and he'll be aiming to go out with a record sixth. His Galaxy have won four of their last five games, with Donovan playing a vital role in the summer surge. He has four goals and seven assists so far this season.