Closing the gap on a 2-0 deficit last week was one thing. But scoring a crucial last-minute goal in Wednesday’s World Cup match against Algeria was even sweeter for Landon Donovan, who wiped away tears after helping Team USA advance to the next stage.
“This is unbelievable. We’re not done yet,” he said after the match. “We’re alive, baby!”
Who’s the guy being hailed as the American hero? Here are five things to know about the 28-year-old (often shirtless!) Ontario, Calif., native.
1. He used to bend it with Beckham
When the English superstar signed a deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, Donovan, then captain of the team, relinquished the title to David Beckham and formed a strong partnership with him. But a few months after Donovan gained the club captaincy back – when Becks was on loan to AC Milan in early 2009 – he called Beckham a bad captain and teammate in the book The Beckham Experiment. Though he didn’t apologize for his comments, he said he would sit down and “talk it through” with the Brit.
2. He’s so Hollywood
The 5’8″ midfielder married actress Bianca Kajlich on New Year’s Eve 2006 in a Santa Barbara wedding that featured In-N-Out burgers and a karaoke machine at the afterparty. Two years later, Donovan and the Rules of Engagement star quietly split. But during a post-win interview Wednesday, he gave her a shout-out – “Hi Bianca” – before signing off from the sidelines.
3. He’s not afraid to show skin
Often known to take off his shirt on the field immediately after a match has been completed, Donovan even had some fans at the World Cup hold signs asking him to toss his jersey in the crowd. And like fellow football stars Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo who’ve famously bared their ripped physiques, Donovan stripped down for a recent Vanity Fair photo shoot.
4. He has a twin sister
Starting an early soccer career – he signed with German club Bayer Leverkusen at 17 – Donovan dealt with the pressure of being called the “savior of American soccer” when he was just 19. And it didn’t exactly thrill his mother, Donna Kenney-Cash. Seeing the difference between Landon and his twin sister Tristan, she told Sports Illustrated in 2001 that he was “more like a 25-or 30-year-old while Tristan acts like any other kid her age.” He also has an older brother, Josh.
5. He loves being back on Team USA
After joining one of Germany’s clubs in 1999, Donovan “wanted to get out of Germany so bad,” he told Sports Illustrated two years after he was loaned back to the States to play for the San Jose Earthquakes. And Donovan seems to be happy exactly where he is now. “Everywhere I go, someone might notice me and say something but it is not like my daily life is crazy,” he says. “I kind of get all the benefits of being a celebrity or being famous, but none of the downside, like there might be in England.”