On Thursday, October 9 around 1:00 pm, I had just gotten out of my last class of the day and was ready to drive home. I was looking forward to just relaxing and taking it easy on what was now my fall break, seeing as I didn’t have anything planned. That all changed when I received a call from an old high school friend. As soon as I answered the very first words he said were “hey man, I got three tickets to Landon Donovan’s last USA game up in Connecticut, you want to go?” I was completely shocked to say the least. There was absolutely no way I was going to turn down this once in a lifetime opportunity. So around 10:00 that night, we, along with a third friend, set out toward New England.
The trip from where we left (eastern Kentucky) to East Hartford Connecticut, where the game was, took about 11 hours of driving. Along the way, we made a detour to Philadelphia to enjoy the historic sites and kill some time. The tour of Liberty Hall was completely free and completely worth it. It was pretty cool having the opportunity to see the place our Nation was founded. If given the chance, I would love to make a second trip to the wonderful city.
Anyway, back to soccer. When we arrived to Rentschler Field (home of the UCONN football program), the atmosphere was terrific. The stadium was completely packed and the support from the fans was incredible. Landon Donovan was named the captain for the match, and the plan was he would just play the first 30 minutes, giving him time to rest for his MLS game the following Sunday. Landon played for what was more like 40 minutes, and then he was finally substituted off ... for the last time ever. As he was walking off, the fans -- myself included -- gave Landon Donovan the standing ovation that he most definitely deserved.
After the game, Landon took part in multiple interviews, and was honored with a very special presentation, along with a video presentation attributing his most impressive USA achievements. I made my way down to the supporter’s section and got a picture with Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, along with his signature. As we were walking out of the stadium, we found the USA bus. As the players were loading up, I managed to take some pictures with Chris Wondolowski (USA forward), Nick Rimando (USA goalkeeper), and the head coach of the National Team -- Jurgen Klinsmann!
This was an experience that I will never ever forget. Landon Donovan has given so much to this sport and to this nation. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity see his final minutes in a USA jersey, and help give him the thanks that he deserves. I think it will be a long time before our country sees another legend like Landon Donovan.
Until next time, Kelby