Jozy Altidore has hailed US teammate Landon Donovan ahead of the forward’s final national team appearance in Friday’s farewell match against Ecuador in Hartford, Connecticut.
Having announced that he will retire at the end of the 2014 MLS season at the age of 32, Donovan is set to captain the side for the first 30 minutes, before bringing down the curtain on an illustrious career in the stars and stripes.
The game will be the three-time World Cup veteran’s first for the US since his controversial omission from Jurgen Klinsmann’s World Cup squad for Brazil, with the pair’s relationship still understood to be strained.
With a record 57 goals and 58 assists in 156 caps since his debut in October 2000, Donovan’s name remains synonymous with the US game's growth and Altidore admits that playing alongside him since breaking into the setup in 2007 has fulfilled a long held dream.
‘Landon was a big inspiration for me,’ he wrote on ussoccer.com. ‘In 2002, I watched the World Cup with family in Haiti. There were only a few games you could get, and we saw the Portugal game and the Germany game.
‘The way he played inspired me to want to play for the National Team. I just wanted to one day do what he did and play alongside him.
Altidore went on to describe Donovan’s memorable last-minute World Cup goal against Algeria in South Africa 2010, which sent the US through to the second-round as group-winners over England with a 1-0 win.
‘After the ball went in, I just remember jumping on the dog pile,’ he said. ‘We were so close the whole game and couldn’t find a breakthrough. I just remember the relief and the joy. It was an amazing feeling.
‘It gives me goose bumps every time I see it because it was such a surreal moment. It’s a goal that will be remembered for a long time and I’m happy to be a part of it.
‘I was told I’ve been on the end of the most of Landon’s 58 career assists for the National Team. I’m not surprised. I was at my most comfortable when I was playing with Landon.
‘He was such an easy player to play with and great players in any sport always make the team function better. He was able to find his teammates from any place on the field.
‘It was an absolute privilege to be a part of his career, there’s no other way to put it. I’m going to miss him. I’m going to miss watching him play.
‘It’s tough to see him retire because it’s an end of an era. There will never be another player like him.’
Having broken the MLS all-time goal and assist records this season, the long-serving Donovan will return to the LA Galaxy following his international bow with the aim to add a sixth MLS Cup to his already impressive résumé, in what would be a fitting end to his career.