Landon Donovan has decided to return to Germany to play soccer for Bayer Leverkusen. It's the right decision for Donovan, who at 22 needs to compete at the highest levels in order to improve his game, and it's the right decision for the U.S. national team, again because Landon's game will only get better now that he'll be exposed to top-flight competition on a regular basis. It's a bittersweet moment for Bay Area sports fans, though, because we've been blessed watching Donovan with San Jose for the last four seasons.
When Donovan arrived in 2001, the Earthquakes had missed the playoffs four years in a row, in a league where almost everyone makes the playoffs (80% of the teams for much of the league's history). In Landon's first year with the club, San Jose won the MLS championship, an achievement they duplicated in 2003. The Warriors are a joke, the 49ers and Raiders haven't won a Super Bowl in a long time, the Giants have never won a World Series and the A's have been away from the big title for more than a decade. But Landon Donovan came to San Jose, and the Quakes won two titles.
With San Jose, Donovan was an All-Star every season, an MVP in one of those matches. He was also the MVP in last year's MLS Cup championship match. He had 42 goals and 35 assists in 101 Quakes matches, including 10 goals in 14 playoff games. He has been named the U.S. Player of the Year in each of the last three seasons ... in 2002 he was the youngest player ever to win it, in 2003 he was the first player ever to win it twice in a row, in 2004 he made it three straight. He has 18 goals for the men's national team, including two in the 2002 World Cup.
And he's only 22 years old.
So yes, we'll miss seeing him at Spartan Stadium. But it's the right decision.