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.
To put the Bayern starting 11 in perspective, only one (Austrian defender David Alaba) started for the German side in the second leg of their Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid in April. Four of the substitutes that day were in Wednesday's starting lineup.
The Bayern bench was a Who's Who featuring goalie Neuer, defenders Dante, Jerome Boateng, Philipp Lahm and midfielders Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Mario Goetze, Thomas Mueller and Schweinsteiger. Teenage American defender Julian Green also started on the bench but came on in the 37th minute.
Neuer and Brazil's Dante came on some 15 minutes into the second half. Boateng soon followed, with Mueller, Lahm, Goetze and Schweinsteiger entering in the 80th minute. Robben came on in the 86th minute.
Bayern Munich now heads home for its 2014 team presentation Saturday at Allianz Arena. The team then plays Borussia Dortmund next Wednesday in the Supercup.
Bayern led 1-0 at the half thanks to some heroics from goalie Nick Rimando. The all-stars' defence collapsed in on itself several times in the first 45 minutes, allowing for good scoring chances.
Porter switched 10 players at the break but waited a minute or so into the half to bring Donovan on. He replaced Red Bulls star Thierry Henry, who had some stellar moments in the first 45 minutes.
"For him to play in a game like this with that sort of intensity and that sort of commitment says a lot about who he is as a player and a person," Donovan said of Henry. "Because he could easily have played this game and not cared. And he absolutely cared. He was tackling, he was running, he was chasing guys.
"I told him it's an honour to be subbed in for him. He's had an unbelievable career. I was proud to come on for him."
Said Porter: "Well none of us know his future, right? But I felt he (Henry) deserved that tribute at the start of the second half no matter what his future is. He's been great for the league."
Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley was chosen as part of the Fan XI in online and social media voting. Porter fleshed out the rest of the roster.
Bradley started and had a quiet 45 minutes, his passing radar a little off. The U.S. international was not reading too much into the result, but said he enjoyed his all-star debut as an MLS player.
"The whole atmosphere and the energy surrounding the game was special," he said.
Johnson, captain of the Portland Timbers, came on in the second half. The vocal fans in self-proclaimed Soccer City U.S.A. showed him plenty of love throughout the night, while loudly booing Clint Dempsey and the other Seattle all-stars.
After banners were unfurled and cannons and fireworks set off, the game kicked off before a loud crowd.
Dempsey and fellow Sounders striker Obafemi Martins started up front, with Henry and Graham Zusi on the flanks and Cahill and Bradley in central midfield.
Lewandowski put on a show in the 33rd minute, dancing over the ball in the all-stars' penalty box, freezing Yedlin before passing to a teammate.
Rimando prevented a goal in the 28th minute, acrobatically clawing away a close-range shot from Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri.
The 36-year-old Henry showed his class in the 41st minute, controlling the ball with his foot and then thigh before sending a volley from well outside the penalty box just over the crossbar.
Wright-Phillips tied it up in the 51st minute with a left-footed rocket that beat goalie Tom Starke, who ranks no higher than No. 3 on the Bayern goalie depth chart, from just outside the penalty box.
Seattle midfielder Osvaldo Alonso was shown a yellow card for a 64th-minute foul on Shaqiri that had Guardiola complaining from the sideline. Johnson was carded in the 89th minute.
"I'm not talking about that," Guardiola said of the cautions.
The Bayern manager suggested that Schweinsteiger may go home with some sort of knock from the Johnson challenge. The club's official Twitter account later said the star midfielder had a bruised ankle.
Guardiola was clearly upset as the game ended, avoiding Porter as the all-stars coach tried to chase him down to shake hands.
"Coaches get heated," said Porter, downplaying the Bayern boss's apparent displeasure.
The all-stars are now 6-4 against touring teams since 2005, with losses to Roma, Manchester United (twice) and West Ham.
Bayern, the first German team to take on the all-stars, won the Bundesliga in 2013 for the 24th time, while winning the German Cup and reaching the Champions League semifinals.
The German side opened its North American tour last Friday with a 1-0 win over Chivas Guadalajara at the home of the New York Red Bulls.