Ahead of uncertain future, Donovan redeems himself with game-winning goal

The Galaxy captain had a shocking missed sitter in the opening minutes, but he recovered to net the MLS Cup-winning goal in LA's triumph over Houston for the second straight year.
CARSON, Calif. -- Landon Donovan sat behind the table in the press conference room in the bowels of the Home Depot Center as he was introduced to the media as "Forward, Landon Donovan" by MLS director of communications Will Kuhns.

"Not after that first chance," Donovan deadpanned.

Donovan, who has come up big many times on the grand stage for both club and country, muffed the most golden of opportunities early in the LA Galaxy's 3-1 MLS Cup triumph over the Houston Dynamo Saturday. After David Beckham played Robbie Keane out wide left with a gorgeous deep ball, the Irishman sent an inch-perfect cross for Donovan in the box, giving the Galaxy captain a wide-open sitter just a few yards from goal. No chance he misses from there.

The crowd's roar crescendoed. The confetti cannons went off. And Donovan pushed his one-timer wide.

"A lot went through my mind," Donovan said, with an MLS Cup winner's medal draped around his neck for a record-tying fifth time. "When you're in a moment like that, you feel like you let the team down. Candidly, it sat with me until halftime. I took a few minutes at halftime, sort of collected myself and tried to stay present, because you can't change it."

Donovan's 13th-minute miss stunned every one of the 30,510 spectators at the Home Depot Center, but he got his chance for redemption and took it well.

Ricardo Clark's handball off a scrum in the Houston box gifted the Galaxy a 61st-minute penalty kick, and Donovan, long the team's designated penalty taker, shook off uncharacteristic nerves and his short-term memory and struck to put the Galaxy ahead to stay.

"When the penalty came, I'm not going to fool anyone and say I was calm about it," Donovan said. "I was pretty nervous."

With the strike, Donovan delivered the game-winning goal for the second straight MLS Cup. He now has an MLS-record 22 postseason goals. A record five of those have come in MLS Cups, and he is the only player to score in four finals. Despite questions about his wavering appetite for playing the game and his willingness to give his all, Donovan willingly stepped back into the limelight and delivered.

"It took some balls for him to step up and take that penalty," Beckham said. "I could see what he was like after that chance leading up to halftime."

What's next for Donovan is the biggest question for the MLS offseason now that Beckham is off to his post-MLS exploits. Donovan has been candid about his future being up in the air and has hinted at a possible break, or even retirement, despite the 30-year-old still clearly having top-quality performances and big-moment awareness in his arsenal.

"I haven't made a decision in the last few days," Donovan said. "We're going to enjoy this, go on a nice vacation and we'll figure out what's next.

"It's just been a long two years for all of us. It's not a woe-is-me story, but I have to listen to my heart and gut. and right now my gut says to get away for a while. 

"I had a really nice moment, where my sister just had a baby and she got him to come down on the field and he was sleeping on her. And it sort of puts it all in perspective and makes me realize that I want to be close to my family for a while, and I can figure out the soccer part later."

Added Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, who has coached Donovan on different levels for more than a decade: "I probably would be [surprised if Donovan retired]. We will be fully supportive of whatever Landon wants to do. He has still so much to offer the game as a player. I think hopefully, with a little bit of rest, he'll be ready to get back at some point."


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