Diss Landon, My Landon?


The San Jose Earthquakes are hosting the L.A. Galaxy today at Buck Shaw Stadium on El Camino Real in Santa Clara. With the Galaxy come Landon Donovan and the Earthquakes have been hyping that fact to promote the match. It worked; the game is sold out. I had considered going to the game today but the scheduling didn’t work out. I was going to take my son for the fun of seeing Donovan, the hero of Team U.S.A. soccer, but I have since learned it isn’t that simple. Real Earthquakes fans, I’m learning, hate his guts.

Donovan started his MLS career at San Jose and was wildly successful, leading the club to championships in 2001 and 2003. The local fans loved him and were hugely supportive. Then in 2005 he was acquired by archrivals the L.A. Galaxy.  Many in San Jose saw it as betrayal and have not forgiven him, though it wasn’t entirely his doing.

In parallel however Donovan has become nationally popular playing for Team U.S.A. in international football matches. He wore the red, white, and blue in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and in the 2002, 2006, and most recently 2010 FIFA World Cup finals. He will forever be remembered for his late goal on June 23, 2010 which lifted the U.S.A. over Algeria, earning us the top spot in the group and advancing us to the knockout round. My son and I watched that match that morning and when Donovan scored we lost our freaking minds, jumping around, embracing, hollering with elation.

National hero, local villain. What’s a fan to do? The San Jose Mercury News interviewed some Earthquakes superfans and it’s clear where they stand:

“When he puts on the U.S. national team shirt he’s Landon Donovan, Team USA,” said Alex Davidson, leader of the Quakes fan club the Casbah. “As soon as he takes that shirt off he’s the guy who betrayed us.”

San Jose’s Brando Erazo, a member of the 1906 Ultras fan group, is even less poetic: “I still hate him. Nothing will ever change it. I don’t care if he ever comes back here.”

CIMG0034Perhaps it’s good we aren’t going today. I can’t call myself a loyal Earthquakes fan or a huge soccer fan. I’ve only been to one Earthquakes game and I only pay attention to international soccer every four years when the World Cup rolls around. I hate to think what would have happened if I had brought my son to Buck Shaw today and we blithely cheered Donovan as he took the field. At the one game we went to, the final home game last season against the New York Red Bulls, I was surprised and impressed by the vigor and volume of the San Jose fans with their non-stop songs, noisemakers, and loving support. They are fantastic.  San Jose isn’t known for hooliganism, but I’d hate to go down in history as the guy who sparked it.

MLS Soccer

San Jose Earthquakes v Los Angeles Galaxy
Aug 21 – Saturday, 1:00PM
Buck Shaw Stadium
500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara 95050

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