Landon Timothy Donovan was born on March 4, 1982, in Ontario, California. Landon, his twin sister Tristan, and his older brother Josh were raised by their mother, Donna. Growing up, Landon always had a knack for playing soccer. At the age of five he joined his first competitive league. Playing against primarily older competition, Landon did more than hold his own, scoring seven goals in his first game. Ten years later, Landon began playing for the U.S. national program and made his international debut with the Under 17 (U-17) team. Later, Landon became the youngest player ever to be called up to the U-23 team.
Landon had hit the soccer scene in a hurry and was not only becoming an American hope but moreover, a growing European interest. He began drawing the attention of many major English clubs, including renowned ones such as Manchester United and Arsenal, who each invited him to try out for their team. However, Landon ended up signing with German club Bayer Leverkusen who had pursued him the most aggressively. At only seventeen Landon was on his way to Germany where life was much harder than he had expected.
Landon had trouble adapting to the German culture. Unable to speak the language, and once again playing against much older competition, Landon wasn’t enjoying the experience. Unhappy and not fully committed to his new German team, Landon found himself spending much of his time in America, once again training with the U-17 team. This time however, Landon was two years older, wiser, and more experienced. He played an integral part in leading the American team to the semi-finals, its highest finish in ten years. He scored three goals and set up another in only five games. Landon was awarded the Gold Ball for tournament MVP.
The next goal in sight for Landon was the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney. After sitting on the bench due to his young age for much of the tournament, Landon finally saw his first action in a crucial game against Kuwait to determine which country would advance to the quarterfinals. Sealing the game with a late goal, Landon played a key role in the game, helping the U.S. advance past the first round of the Olympics for the first time in U.S. history.
After being loaned to MLS’s San Jose Earthquakes from Bayer for a fee of $4 million, Landon’s days in Germany were numbered. He remained in America for the next four years, and in 2003 he was named U.S. soccer athlete of the year. During his stint in the U.S., Landon helped the Earthquakes go from worst to first as he helped them capture the MLS Cup in 2001 after having a league-worst record the year before.
When the World Cup in 2002 rolled around, Landon became the poster boy for the American team. A very young and inexperienced group, the team led by Landon wasn’t expected to do much. However, Landon and his teammates didn’t let poor expectations faze them. The U.S. upset Portugal in the first game and advanced all the way to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1930.
In the 2003 season with the Earthquake, Landon had another spectacular season. In 22 games that year, Landon totaled 12 goals and 6 assists and was discussed as an MVP candidate. Furthermore, Landon led the Earthquake to top honors in the West and another playoff season. The Earthquake went on to win another championship, and Landon was named MVP of the championship game against the Chicago Fire.
As Landon’s popularity in America grew and his skill became more globally recognized, his four year loan to the Earthquake came to an abrupt end and Bayer asked for him back. He still had four years remaining on his contract with Bayer. In 2005 Landon fulfilled his duties and went back to Germany. After several games passed and Landon had only started two games, he expressed his desire to return to America. Bayer respected his wishes and let him go back to the states. However, because San Jose had traded away Landon’s rights, he was to go to the team at the top of the allocation pecking order. The Los Angeles Galaxy made a trade in order to ensure themselves this position, and Landon became the newest member of Galaxy.
In his first year with his new team, Landon had one of the best seasons of his young career tallying 12 goals and 10 assists in 22 games. On his way to leading the Galaxy to an MLS championship, Landon notched 4 postseason goals. The next year Landon had another successful season with the Galaxy, although he missed eight games while playing for the U.S. National Team at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. He still managed to tie his career high in goals with 12. Unfortunately his success in the U.S. didn’t translate to Germany as the Americans were knocked out during group play.
Although Landon and the Americans struggled in Germany, Landon has a gaudy international record over the course of his career. Landon is at the top of the USA’s all time goals and assists lists. He is also the youngest player in U.S. history to reach 100 caps (international appearances). In 2007, Landon had another great season leading the Galaxy with 8 goals and a new career high 13 assists. Landon was involved in over half the team’s goals and was named to the MLS All-Star Team for the seventh straight year. That year Landon joined an elite list comprised of only eight players in MLS history to have both 60 goals and 60 assists. Even more impressive is the fact that he accomplished this at only 25 years of age.
The 2008 season proved to be another banner year for Landon as he scored 20 goals and assisted on 9 others. He and newly acquired David Beckham formed a dynamic offensive connection to help the Galaxy rebuild. In his best season to date, Landon won the MLS Golden Boot, was named to the MLS All-Star Team for the eighth consecutive year, and was named to the All-League Team for the second time.
During the 2008 and 2009 MLS seasons, Landon split time between the Galaxy and the US National Team as the US attempted to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. The US had a productive year, defeating #1 ranked Spain to advance to the Finals of the 2009 Confederations Cup. The victory over Spain snapped Spain’s 35 game unbeaten streak and is widely regarded as one of the biggest wins in American soccer history. Later in 2009, the US finished first in CONCACAF to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. Landon continues to be the dominant force in US Soccer, boasting 120 caps and 42 international goals and being named the Honda Player of the Decade.
In 2009, Landon once again got off to a quick start to the MLS season. With the help of David Beckham and Head Coach/GM Bruce Arena, the Galaxy was a vastly improved team. Landon and the Galaxy won the Western Conference and stormed into the 2009 Playoffs and into a berth in the MLS Cup. Throughout the season, Landon was the unquestioned leader of the Galaxy, scoring 12 goals, assisting on 6 others, being named to the MLS All-Star Team for the ninth straight year and to the All-League Team for the third time, and being crowned MLS MVP for the first time in his career. Additionally, during the Galaxy’s successful playoff run, Landon broke the league record for playoff goals with 17 and moved up to sixth in MLS regular season goal history with 96. After the 2009 MLS season had finished, Donovan joined English Premier League side Everton on loan in January 2010. During this period, he played in thirteen games in all competitions, scored two goals, and was named the club’s Player of the Month for his performances in January.
In 2010, Landon scored his 100th goal of his MLS career and became the all-time leading scorer in LA Galaxy history. However, the Galaxy fell just short of the MLS Cup when they lost to FC Dallas in the semifinals. The 2010 season was also the year of the World Cup in South Africa. Landon started and played in all four of the USA’s tournament games before the team lost to Ghana 2-1 in the round of 16. Despite the loss, the USA’s World Cup run was a dramatic success as they ended up winning their first round group for the first time since 1930. Landon scored two goals in the group stages including a last gasp winner against Algeria, which not only won the group for USA, but also won Landon the ESPY for the greatest sports moment in 2010 (he also won the ESPY for the best MLS player of 2010 and Under Pressure Award). Donovan tallied one last goal in the 2010 World Cup with a penalty kick against Ghana, but it wasn’t enough, and the US bowed out of the World Cup, with fans at home proud of their efforts.
Landon is continuing his good form in 2011, leading the Galaxy through a successful MLS campaign while simultaneously featuring for team USA.