Donovan shows 'brilliance' in All-Star game
By Matt Schwab, Special for USA TODAY
SAN JOSE, Calif. Landon Donovan shined brightest in Saturday's Major League Soccer All-Star Game at Spartan Stadium, scoring four goals, including a natural hat trick in the first 19 minutes.
Donovan, 19, was voted MVP of the match after helping the West tie the East 6-6 before a boisterous crowd of 23,512. The San Jose Earthquakes rookie had a seemingly effortless breakneck pace, delicate first touches and accurate finishes.
"The kid is brilliant," East coach Ray Hudson said. "That's the true word. He's not just a good footballer; he's got that God-given brilliance. That can not be described."
Donovan described his overall experience he established All-Star Game records for goals and points (eight) as "beyond my wildest dreams, for sure. That's something very special."
After the East rallied from a 4-0 deficit and led 6-5 on a goal by New England's Catι in the 87th minute, Donovan worked a little more magic. In stoppage time, he ran onto a Matt McKeon pass on the left side of the penalty area, gently touched the ball ahead with his right foot and sent a low shot with his left foot past goalkeeper Tim Howard to force the tie.
West defender Marcelo Balboa, who has represented the USA in three World Cups, thinks the emergence of young players such as Donovan and East starter Santino Quaranta, 16, is good for MLS.
"Let's face it, in every league there's always a generation of young kids coming up, and I think this league has done wonders helping these kids out," Balboa said.
"Landon's doing a great job. DaMarcus (Beasley), the (Mike) Petkes, the Howards you saw them playing today, it's the next generation."
Bra-vo: The MLS All-Star Game by the numbers: 60 shots, 26 saves, 12 goals, 10 fouls, two sports bras and one penalty kick.
After Jim Rooney scored for the East in the 84th minute, he ripped off his East jersey a la U.S. women's team star Brandi Chastain and circled back toward the midfield with his arms extended, airplane-style, wearing a black sports bra with a large Nike swoosh. He was mobbed by his laughing teammates.
Not to be outdone, Donovan also traipsed around in a black sports bra (sans the swoosh) after his game-tying goal in the 92nd minute. Rooney said he dreamed up his sports bra plot during the MLS skills competition. He got the bra from a female friend in the league office.
"It was mine and John Spencer's (a West All-Star) idea," Rooney said, "People didn't think I was going to do it, and I said, 'I'll guarantee it. If I get a sports bra, I'll do it.' "
For his part in the shenanigans, Donovan said, "It was all for Brandi. I hope she was watching."
Commissioner speaks: During his state-of-the-league address Friday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber spoke of expansion in 2003 and an increase in league-wide attendance.
He said MLS attendance is up nearly 12% compared to last year. Garber said the league is engaged in discussions with interested groups in New York City; Rochester, N.Y.; the Philadelphia area; Houston; Milwaukee; St. Louis; Seattle; Atlanta; Louisville; and the Carolinas. The league expects to make an announcement by the MLS Cup on Oct. 21.
Garber stressed the importance of teams playing in "appropriate venues." The league has just three of those: Spartan Stadium, Lockhardt Stadium (home of the Miami Fusion) and Columbus Crew Stadium. But more are on the way, he assures. Negotiations are ongoing.
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