KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The greatest player in U.S. soccer history and the first player in international history with at least 50 goals and 50 assists for his national team will appear in his 13th consecutive MLS All-Star Game tonight at Sporting Park tonight.
Landon Donovan was a late addition to the MLS roster, replacing LA Galaxy teammate Robbie Keane for the exhibition game against AS Roma, which is at 6 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN2.
Fresh off leading the U.S. men’s national team to the CONCACAF Gold Cup championship — earning the Golden Ball as tourney MVP with five goals and seven assists along the way — nobody would have blamed Donovan if he had begged out of all-star duty.
Instead, he’s happy to represent the MLS and eager for the showdown with U.S. men’s teammate Michael Bradley and Roma.
“When I’m on my deathbed, I’m not going to look back and say, ‘Yeah, I made 13 straight All-Star Games.’ But I’m very proud of it — I really am — and I like to be part of this group of guys,” Donovan said of tonight’s game.
Donovan is particularly thrilled with the experience since arriving Monday afternoon in Kansas City.
“To be honest, before I got here, it was sort of, ‘OK, it’s another one,’â€‰” Donovan said. “But since I’ve been here I’ve been really impressed by all this — by the support from Sporting KC, by the people in town and just the excitement around the game. . . . I’m actually genuinely excited now.”
Meanwhile, Donovan’s teammates — many of whom also played in both the Gold Cup and for the MLS All-Stars — are thrilled to have the face of U.S. soccer for the last decade back and in form.
“I think I have to say he’s the best player in U.S. history, because he’s shown it consistently through the years,” said reigning MLS MVP and three-time all-star Chris Wondolowski, who matched Donovan’s five goals in the U.S. men’s Gold Cup run. “I can’t even fathom 50 goals and 50 assists with the national team, but the last month he’s continued to show how amazing he can be. When he’s motivated, he’s one of the best players in the world and it’s something special to see.”
For Donovan, the All-Star Game remains special as well.
“To me, it means something and we have an opportunity to show ourselves well,” Donovan said. “This whole trip has been fantastic since the minute we got in yesterday afternoon. Everybody’s taking it the right way, so we want to put on a good show (Wednesday).”
While Roma may not be as internationally heralded as previous All-Star Game opponents Manchester United or Chelsea, which lost to the MLS last season in Philadelphia, Donovan feels like a bigger spectacle.
“From the minute we got to the airport, you can see there’s real excitement around this game and they’ve done a really good job,” Donovan said. “This to me feels bigger than any event I’ve been a part of in the 13 years.”