Landon Donovan's decision to retire at the end of the season will leave a void in the LA Galaxy, but also in Major League Soccer as a whole. Who will take his place?
Landon Donovan's statement moments after last week's MLS All-Star game pertained to his reduced rule in All-Star week proceedings. But the way he made the statement, just a day before announcing his retirement, made it clear he was aware that it was time to move on, and there were new players to step in and fill the void he would soon be leaving.
Replacing Donovan won't be easy, and you can argue it will be impossible. Along with his ability on the field, which helped him set the MLS record for goals, and helped him win five MLS Cup titles, Donovan was a marketing dream. He combined good looks with an approachable personality and passable Spanish that made him perfect for the league's push to tap into the Latino market.
Throw in his wildly successful U.S. national team career, and Donovan was the kind of player MLS could have only dreamed about building around during a very important dozen years in the league's development.
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You have U.S. national team stars such as Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, who will be called upon to help fill the void starting in 2015 from an American perspective. Then you have the influx of international stars coming in, like Frank Lampard, David Villa and Kaka, who arrive next season. You also have a LA Galaxy ownership group with the resources to go out and sign a high-profile player to fill Donovan's designated player slot.
In the long term, MLS will need some young talents to really blossom, and here is where things get a bit tricky. The league needs young talent to emerge and shine, but holding on to those players is getting tougher and tougher as foreign clubs show increased interest in the league's top prospects.
The league does have some very encouraging youngsters, such as the Galaxy's Gyasi Zardes, Chicago's Harrison Shipp, Real Salt Lake's Luis Gil, Columbus' Wil Trapp and Seattle's DeAndre Yedlin, but it is difficult to imagine any of them staying in MLS for long if their career trajectories continue to move upward.
Take Yedlin, who was busy putting the finishing touches on a transfer to Europe in the same time frame that Donovan was busy announcing his retirement. If the speedy and stylish fullback were going to stick around MLS for a few years, he could definitely be seen as one of those marketable talents capable of filling the Donovan void. But he looks destined to head overseas after just two seasons in MLS.
As Donovan said, times have changed, and the painful truth is that chances are we won't see anyone like Donovan in MLS again, and replacing him with any one player will be virtually impossible. Realistically speaking, if any player is going to come close to matching Donovan as a MLS icon, that player has yet to take the field yet.
YEDLIN TRANFER UPDATE
DeAndre Yedlin was at CenturyLink Field on Sunday night for the Seattle Sounders' 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo, but he did not play in the match. He was left out after flying to and from Europe over the past three days to finalize a transfer move.
As of Sunday evening, no transfer had been completed, but Yedlin is expected to finalize a move this week. As Goal USA reported last week, Yedlin's impending transfer will allow him to remain with the Sounders for the rest of the 2014 MLS season before embarking on his European adventure.
Where is he headed? Goal USA reported Tottenham as the frontrunner last week, and nothing has changed on that front despite persistent rumors that Italian side Roma is still in the mix. Sources have confirmed to Goal USA that Roma is not in contention for Yedlin's services.
GOAL USA's MLS WEEKLY AWARDS
Player of the Week: Chris Schuler. The Real Salt Lake center back scored two goals, and anchored the RSL defense on the way to a shutout that helped Nick Rimando break the MLS career record.
Team of the Week: Vancouver Whitecaps. Carl Robinson's men put a halt to Sporting Kansas City's eight-match unbeaten streak — and their own five-match winless skid — by posting an impressive 2-0 victory on Sunday night. The win has propelled the Whitecaps back into playoff position in the Western Conference.
Rookie of the Week: Harrison Shipp. He didn't duplicate the hat trick he scored against the New York Red Bulls earlier in the year, but he was still a handful throughout Chicago's 1-0 win over New York on Sunday.