Tim Howard has paid a glowing tribute to former Everton and long-time US teammate Landon Donovan, ahead of the LA Galaxy forward’s final national team appearance in Friday’s farewell match against Ecuador in Hartford, Connecticut.
Having announced that he will retire from all forms of the game at the end of the 2014 MLS season, the three-time World Cup veteran is set to captain the side for the first 30 minutes, before bringing down the curtain on a career which has produced a record 57 goals and 58 assists in 156 appearances since his first cap in October 2000.
Teammates with the US for over a decade, as well as with the Toffees during Donovan’s two brief loan stints in 2010 and 2012, Howard’s self-imposed international sabbatical means he won’t be lining up alongside Donovan against Ecuador, but the goalkeeper has taken to Facebook to write of his respect for the greatest legend of the American game.
‘#TBT There's an argument about who is the best, and you have to have a debate about it. He's in the top one or two to ever put on a U.S. jersey. I don't think that's a stretch at all; that's reality. He's always had pressure on his shoulders from the time he was a kid breaking through. He always had expectations on him. That's a big difference from a lot of other players.
‘The one thing that stands out for me is just how great he was. We use the word "great" often and I often don't think it's warranted, but with Landon it is. It's impressive how long he stayed at the top. That longevity, that for me is greatness, when you can be at the top for such a long time.’
Aged 32, the farewell match is set to be Donovan’s first for the US since his controversial omission from Jurgen Klinsmann’s World Cup squad this summer, with the pair’s relationship still understood to be strained.
‘This summer, obviously, was tough, not only for me, but for my family,’ Donovan said before meeting up with the US squad. ‘And you don't want your last memory to be getting cut from the team, and my family didn't either, so this will be a nice way to hopefully put a ribbon on my career. And I'm excited to have a chance to say goodbye to a lot of people who have been supportive of me.’
Donovan has been in fine form in MLS in the meantime, setting both the all-time goal and assist records, while helping Bruce Arena’s side to joint-top of the Supporters’ Shield standings with three games left before the post-season, as he bids to add a sixth and final MLS Cup to his collection to bow out with.