Landon Donovan has a history of coming through in big moments. Unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight for the wrong reasons as the World Cup approaches, the all-time leading goal scorer in the history of U.S. men's soccer came through yet again.
Donovan, who played for the United States at the World Cup in 2002, 2006 and 2010, experienced the deep low of not being included on the U.S. roster for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil that was revealed on Thursday. The snub by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann came as a surprise to the 32-year-old California native as well as to fans, teammates and pundits across the globe.
"I'm disappointed. I'm sad," Donovan told reporters on Saturday after returning from the U.S. team camp to his day job with the Los Angeles Galaxy of the MLS. "I'm human, and I wanted to go. I really wanted to go. I'm at peace with it. I respect the decision. I just feel in my heart that I deserve to be there, and that's the pill that's hardest to swallow."
After a day of practice, Donovan was back in the starting lineup for the Galaxy. He took the field at the StubHub Center on Sunday with the No. 10 on the back of his uniform and 134 career regular-season goals on his MLS resume. That total tied him with Jeff Cunningham for the most scores in league history. The record-tying goal came late in the 2013 season and Donovan had yet to score in his first seven appearances for the Galaxy in 2014. That scoring drought may have played a role in Klinsmann's decision to leave the leading scorer in the history of the U.S. men's soccer team off the 23-man roster for the 2014 World Cup.
"The other strikers we see that inch ahead of him," Klinsmann told reporters on Friday in an attempt to justify his exclusion of Donovan. "We feel those guys are a little step ahead of Landon in certain areas. That's why we made that decision."
It took Donovan, who has scored more World Cup goals (5) than Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robin van Persie combined, less than two minutes into the Galaxy's match against the visiting Philadelphia Union to show just how inch-perfect his skills can still be. After the Galaxy won a free kick in the Union half of the field, Donovan served up a long free kick that teammate Leonardo headed into the net for the first goal of the game.
WATCH: Landon Donovan Sets Up A Goal
The Galaxy took the 1-0 lead into halftime but it didn't take long after the break for Donovan to get back into the flow of the game. In the 49th minute, Donovan clinically buried a cross from teammate Robbie Keane for his record-setting 135th career MLS regular-season goal. The score doubled the Galaxy lead to 2-0.
WATCH: Landon Donovan Scores Record-Breaking Goal
After Keane tallied a goal of his own in the 64th minute, Donovan added goal No. 136 to his record-breaking day. In the 81st minute, Donovan scored his second goal of the match to stretch the Galaxy lead to 4-0. Taking a pass from Keane in the Union penalty area, Donovan evaded a defender with a quick touch with his right foot and then rifled a low, left-footed shot past goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
WATCH: Landon Donovan Scores Goal No. 136
After his historic outing, Donovan understood the story that he had found himself in. He also gave a typically candid account of what his performance meant to him.
“It’s been a long week. It’s hard not to make it about me, and I don’t necessarily want it to be that way, but you know that I’ve sacrificed a lot to be in the position that I’m in,” Donovan said after his team's 4-1 win, via the Galaxy's official website. “I was very happy for myself, I’ve dedicated a lot to this, and I thought I deserved what happened today."