Landon Donovan Embraces His Inner Heel

Landon Donovan on a mission is frightening.

In six days the Seattle Sounders, will be put in the less-than-enviable position of trying to stop Donovan’s swashbuckling ride into the sunset. In the second leg of the conference semifinals, Real Salt Lake thought they had the Galaxy right where they wanted them: tied 0-0 with a shot at road goals. But Los Angeles went all medieval on their ass when Donovan scored only the third playoff hat trick in MLS history.

Landon Donovan wants to retire a champion. He saw his once-reluctant running buddy David Beckham bow out of MLS with back-to-back championships. He’s been a winner his entire career and he doesn’t expect anything different. Except… in the wake of this summer’s Klinsmanngate, maybe he does. For the first time in his (domestic) career, Donovan didn’t make selection. Pro sports is mostly a confidence game and Donovan’s was surely shaken. He responded to the jilting by playing perhaps his finest season. He has earned more points this season (49, on 10 goals and 19 assists) than any other season of his career other than 2008’s superlative 20 goal/9 assist season. On the pitch, Donovan is determined to prove his doubters wrong. That requires a healthy dose of ego.

Like an old man who just doesn’t give a damn any more, Donovan’s let his sculpted, media-friendly facade fade. At times this season Donovan has been downright insufferable. In an interview following the dismantling of RSL, he said, in reference to whether L.A. preferred facing Seattle or Dallas, “We beat both in our season series.” Maybe he’s been taking jerk classes from coach Bruce Arena but after that response, I just wanted to punch him. Yes, Seattle and L.A. played three games this season and the aggregate score was 5-4 L.A. But who won the Supporters’ Shield? It takes either a monster ego, or quite a spin doctor, to change the narrative of “who was the better team” when L.A. had two straight shots at proving their superiority and failed. Landycakes.

Donovan is embracing the smugness that makes a neutral fan hate the Galaxy. All season he’s run his mouth while embracing the ego-stroking retirement tour. He’s even perfected prick-in-chief Arena’s galling strut. It’s ironic that Donovan’s departure coincides with his finally embracing the banner of douchebaggery in Los Angeles. He always positioned himself on the babyface side of the character spectrum. How he is a total heel.

Los Angeles is arrogant, but Seattle has swagger. This weekend the Sounders and Galaxy square off for what will surely be an epic Conference Final. A determined Landon Donovan will take the field with his cocky L.A. teammates expecting ascension. But you know what? We got Clint Dempsey. Deuce is a grade-A punk. When he puts on that ain’t-no-one-gonna-stop-me face, like he had before the Ghana game in Brazil, he is a man to be reckoned with. And I’d take a mildly perturbed Deuce over a pissed-off Landycakes any day.

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