Less than three months after he was deemed surplus to requirements by U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann, Landon Donovan offered a timely reminder of his game-changing talents.
The Los Angeles Galaxy star celebrated his record 14th all-star selection with the winning goal in a 23-minute cameo Wednesday as the MLS all-stars defeated Bayern Munich 2-1 at the AT&T MLS All-Star Game.
“Certainly I’ve scored more meaningful goals but it was a lot of fun,” said Donovan, who celebrated the goal by grabbing the MLS badge on his jersey.
“I’m proud to be a part of this league,” he said of the gesture. “For many years, those of us that were in this league were sort of looked down upon, for staying here and playing here.
“This was a big moment for our league. We understand that the game doesn’t count for anything. We know Bayern are in their pre-season and their best players didn’t play. But they were still competitive and those guys wanted to win just like we did. And any time you can get a result against a team like that, it’s good no matter what the circumstances.”
Donovan, MLS’s all-time leading goal scorer with 138, was named man of the match.
Bayern sent on seven of its stars in the second half, with six of them coming on with 10 minutes or less left.
Manager Pep Guardiola was not happy at some of the all-stars’ challenges, which produced two yellow cards. The Bayern boss avoided all-stars coach Caleb Porter as he tried to shake hands after the game.
Donovan’s goal in the 70th minute came from a beautiful pass from Portland’s Diego Valeri in the penalty box. Donovan fought off two defenders and beat German No. 1 ‘keeper Manuel Neuer from close-range to knot the winner.
“I don’t know how he saw me,” Donovan said of Valeri. “It was a special play for him to get the ball there.”
“You give Landon a ball like that and he’s not going to miss,” said Canadian international midfielder Will Johnson, who plays alongside Valeri in Portland. “Great goal, two great players.”
The goal, Donovan’s first in an all-star game since 2002, makes him the all-time leader in MLS all-star goals with six (he scored four goals in 2001 and one in 2002). He was also named MVP in 2001.
“He’s a great pro and a god person,” Australian midfielder Tim Cahill of the New York Red Bulls said of Donovan. “But definitely someone that really carried American football for a long time.”
The 32-year-old Donovan gave way to Sporting Kansas City’s Dom Dwyer one minute after his goal as Porter emptied his bench. The L.A. forward later explained that with a league game Friday, the agreement was that he play 20-25 minutes.
Asked about the meaning of the goal in the wake of his World Cup omission, Donovan smiled.
“I’m trying to enjoy myself right now,” he said. “You know the summer was very tough for me. And I’m trying to enjoy playing. And in the last four games I’ve been a part of, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and I think when I enjoy it, I play better. So it was a good moment for me.”
Polish international Robert Lewandowski opened the scoring for Bayern before a vocal crowd of 21,733 at Providence Park on a glorious night.
MLS scoring leader Bradley Wright-Phillips of the New York Red Bulls also scored for the all-stars.
“Congratulations for the MLS,” said Guardiola, who called the game a good test for his team. “Congratulations to the people of Portland because the stadium was fantastic. The crowd was nice.”
For all the hype and star power, Wednesday’s game was essentially a matchup of an elite club team in pre-season mode and a jury-rigged MLS side. The all-stars had just two workouts ahead of the game and their roster tinkering continued through Tuesday.
Bayern was bolstered by the return of eight World Cup stars who made the 12-hour journey to the West Coast this week – essentially to satisfy sponsors and Major League Soccer.
But their presence was felt. German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, whose Twitter following numbers 1.13 million, received a warm welcome as he entered the stadium and walked pitchside to the Bayern dressing room.