When Landon Donovan scored the winning goal against Bayern Munich in the MLS All-Star game, the strike's timing and place in Donovan's oh-so-unique career arc seemed to be nothing less than perfect. Just months removed from being snubbed from a place on the United States' World Cup roster, Donovan had proven he could still hang with the best (albeit in a meaningless friendly).
As it turned out, the goal meant far more than that.
"All I could think [was], 'if everybody only knew what was going on,'" Donovan told reporters with a smile today at his first press conference since announcing that he will retire from soccer at the conclusion of the 2014 MLS season.
Donovan has built a reputation throughout his career as a candid and forthright interview, and he kept that up on Thursday as he gave details on his plans for life after soccer, explained his decision to retire, and took a not-so-subtle dig at U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann in the process.
So why exactly did Donovan retire now, at age 32, when most figured he could easily have another couple years left? After all, it was only a year ago that the forward signed a multi-season extension with the Galaxy.
"With the World Cup on the horizon, that was a big goal of mine. I was excited for it, and I wouldn't have made the commitment I did last year if I didn't feel that way," he said. "I was excited about it, and I thought that excitement would stay."
When asked if being left off Klinsmann's U.S. national team squad for the 2014 World Cup played in to his decision to hang up his boots, Donovan delivered his most pointed quip of the afternoon.
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"I certainly wasn't going to allow one person's poor choice to impact a decision like this," he said. "I've never made decisions based on what other people do. My gut just told me it was right. I'm sure it's not always popular with everybody, but at the end of the day I have to live the life I want to live.
"I think it's very important in life to make the decisions that are best for you, best for your friends and family, and best for your happiness, and this decision was all of those things."
As for what exactly comes next, Donovan specifically mentioned coaching in the L.A. Galaxy Academy as something he could do to "come full circle." Donovan said he had spoken "extensively" with club president Chris Klein about moving into that role after his playing career comes to a close.
"For 16 years, almost every decision I've made in every hour of every day has been based around 'How is this going to prepare me for tomorrow's training session or tomorrow's game?' That weighs on you after a while," he said. "Just having the freedom to do whatever I want is really exciting to me and I'm really looking forward to it."