Ahead of D.C. United's match at StubHub center tonight, and prior to Ben Olsen presenting Landon Donovan with a retirement gift, we caught up with the soccer legend and former D.C. United head coach Bruce Arena.
You’ve played at 18 matches at RFK, you’ve scored 10 goals there. Are there any moments or games that really stand out to you?
Landon Donovan: Have I really? I have a couple. One is scoring a hat trick there, although I remember they took one goal away from me and said it was an own goal so it was technically two. The other was playing Panama, the 6-0 game with the National Team. That trip was memorable because, we played in El Salvador before, and Bruce [Arena] gave me the armband for the first time with the national team, and then it carried over into that game. I just remember being so excited about it, that was such a fun night. I guess the third would be the post-Charlie Davies accident game, which was in essence a meaningless game. But it became very meaningful for that, and the way it ended, when [Jonathan] Bornstein scored, and how special that night felt.
What is the crowd like at RFK?
LD: I would say that the D.C. crowd has probably, over the course of the first years of the league until now, had the truest real fan base that was exciting to play in front of. A lot of teams had a few hundred people who were starting to form a fan base, but D.C. had that Barra Brava that was always rocking, always jumping. You could see them in the stands, and it always made for a great atmosphere. You’d love to see them in a smaller, more intimate stadium and see what kind of noise they could make. They always made the atmosphere great. It was fun to play in front of them.
You’ve had such an impact on the game. Would you like to stay involved in MLS or soccer in America?
LD: I would love to. I am hopeful that I can continue to have an impact off the field in the way that I did on the field. I am not exactly sure what that means, but hopefully that comes to me in the next couple years. I enjoy it.
You’ve been with MLS since the beginning, what impact has Landon Donovan had on the league?
Bruce Arena: Well he’s had a great impact. Obviously, you just look at statistics, they speak for themselves. He is among the top few in the league in terms of winning MLS Cups, top in the league at being named an All-Star, leading goal scorer in the history of the league, probably the leading point person if there was such a category. So, he’s really done it all. He’s always been the brand of this league. People have always connected Landon Donovan with Major League Soccer. He’s had a tremendous impact through his career on MLS and the U.S. National Team.
Is it just his play on the field that sets him apart and has earned him such respect from his peers?
BA: Well, he’s a great personality. For his peers, on and off the field, he’s a great teammate, a great friend. We’re going to be missing a good person in the game, but I think it’s also the right time for him to leave. He’s really comfortable with this decision. Rarely in life do athletes get to control their own destiny, and he’s been able to do that. We’re going to wish him the very best, he’s not going to disappear from the Galaxy and I’m sure he’s not going to disappear from the U.S. Soccer scene.
What’s it like visiting RFK?
BA: For me, RFK will always go down as one of the great venues for soccer in this country. There have been great teams from D.C. United, great international games played there, friendlies, World Cup Qualifiers, World Cup matches, so it’s certainly one of the great stadiums in our country. As a team, we at D.C. United loved the home-field advantage. Visiting teams didn’t particularly like being there but loved that fact that you could go and play on a real soccer field. There’s always been a great field there, the players on both teams both always enjoyed playing at D.C. United.