Landon Donovan, arguably the greatest American soccer player, will be the captain of United States Men’s National Team when he makes his final appearance in a friendly against Ecuador on Friday.
Donovan, who holds the U.S. men’s record with 57 goals scored and announced his retirement in August, was famously left off this year’s World Cup roster. His relationship with head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been icy ever since.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Donovan said Jurgen’s rejection “didn’t leave the best taste” in his mouth, but when U.S. soccer president Sunil Gulati offered him the chance to play for the national team one last time, he could not turn it down.
“The more I thought about it, the more I realized this was something that I think would be really special, not only for me to feel and receive, but also my opportunity to say thank you,” Donovan said. “I’ve met so many people here in L.A. that have said, ‘We’ve booked our flight, we got our tickets, we’re going to Hartford to say goodbye to you.’ For me that makes it special.”
On Tuesday, Klinsmann announced that Donovan would wear the captain’s armband in Hartford. He said Donovan would play for about 30 minutes.
As MLS Soccer puts it, it’s bound to be an emotional swan song, but it’s still an open question whether the gesture by Klinsmann heals the wounds of being left out of the World Cup roster this summer.