CARSON, Calif -- After years of being criticized as not being a winner for the Los Angeles Galaxy, Landon Donovan finally proved otherwise.
The 29-year-old scored the game clincher in Los Angeles' 1-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo to win his second title with the Galaxy. The goal secured Donovan's third MLS Cup MVP award but the forward downplayed the significance of moment focusing on the team's win instead.
However, Houston's coach Dominic Kinnear said he was proud that Donovan will finally get the recognition that he long deserves.
"He's a great player," Kinnear explained. "I think the questions about Landon [his desire to win] are always silly to me. What he's done for American soccer both domestically and internationally, we all benefit from it."
He added, "The guy is a fantastic player. He's a role model on and off the field -- any team in MLS would want him. When you have a player like that on your team, you have a good chance to win games."
Donovan has taken some criticism for his decision to skip the United States' friendly away against France but his coach Bruce Arena and his star teammates David Beckham and Robbie Keane all praised the 29-year-old's effort on MLS' biggest stage.
"It was great that Landon was the MVP tonight," Beckham said. "He deserved to score that goal. It wouldn’t have mattered who scored it, but he scored it and it won us the match. We’re lucky to have a player like him."
Teammate Keane added that he knew the instant he fed Donovan the ball that the forward would finish the opportunity.
"You are always confident [with him]," said Keane. "It was a great finish."
Arena and Donovan have had a long history together that dates back to his rise to stardom on the national team.
The 60-year-old has shared in some of Donovan's successes like the 2002 World Cup but experienced some of his lows as well. He coached him during the 2006 World Cup debacle and the forward's missed penalty kick in the Galaxy's loss to Real Salt Lake in the 2009 MLS Cup final. In finally winning a title with Donovan, Arena praised his commitment.
"This was important to Landon," said Arena. "I could see as we started to get in the middle of the week he was starting to get his old self back. Landon’s a great player, and he knew this was an important game to set up his game tonight. I thought Landon played real well.”
In contrast to Beckham and Arena's elated celebratory postgame personas, Donovan was measured and reflective in almost of all his response. It was clear to see that moment lifted a weight off his shoulders.
“The actual goal doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. I, for the last month have been, like the rest of these guys have been so determined to win," said Donovan. "I didn’t care who scored. I just wanted the ball go in. I mean that full heartedly."
"Winning feels so good. The goals come and go, but the moment is what I will remember.”
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