Now Landon Donovan is retiring from the sport a year later. He announces it the day after he scored the match winner in his fourteenth straight and final MLS All-Star Game. It all feels like a great bit of gamesmanship.
The rest of the year will be full of tributes, probably not on the level of Derek Jeter's victory lap; but certainly a nice tip of the cap from all those teams who have come of age in MLS' second act.
There's no separating Landon Donovan and MLS' second act. The 2002 World Cup when Bruce Arena led the team to a surprise Quarterfinal berth, when Arena beat Mexico dos a cero, when Landon Donovan became a household name.
People started to care about the national team in a different way. The 1994 World Cup got everyone's attention and the 2002 World Cup promised there was something here worth paying attention to.
The 2002 MLS All-Star Game had that United States team take on the MLS All-Stars, that's how popular the US team became. Donovan scored against the All-Stars in that one.
All those new eyeballs got to see this kid Landon Donovan grow into something amazing. MLS' all time leading scorer. At the top in just about every United States men's category. Five MLS Cups.
For the last twelve years Landon Donovan has been synonymous with soccer in the United States. He's still called Captain America by Spanish announce teams despite rarely wearing the armband for the US. Being left off the national team World Cup roster was a national news story the likes of which US soccer rarely sees.
His presence on the soccer field will be missed.