We judge great players in any team sport by how much better they make their teammates. That’s one of Landon’s strengths – making everyone around him better. That’s a sign of a truly great player. Being with him in the National Team, whenever I was in a good position or he felt you were in a good spot, the ball was coming. That’s something I miss and something we’re all going to miss, him playing those right passes and making everyone around him better. It was the greatest element of Landon’s game to me.
The play that started the goal against Algeria was actually kind of nerve-racking because they had the ball out wide with numbers in the box. I remember their guy crossing it and just hoping it didn’t land to their forward. But it did, and when it left his head it looked like he was going to score. I remember Tim [Howard] catching it, breathing a sigh of relief and just turning up field to see if we had an advantage. I watched Tim throw it out to Landon and sprinted the length of the field alongside Landon just hoping he’d pass it to me and I’d be in a good spot to affect the play.
He laid it off to me and I looked up and saw Clint [Dempsey] in the box. He was on the second post and I just tried to softly give it to Clint for the tap-in and the ’keeper made a good save. Landon, like he always does, made a good play on it, followed it up with a good intuition of the play and scored.
On a break like that, there really isn’t any other player you’d want to see with the ball at his feet in that situation. One of Landon’s biggest strengths is when he has space. If you look at some of his best goals or some of our best goals as a team, they’re when Landon is attacking with numbers and in space. He’s so good at taking advantage of the space. His speed was always such an asset.
After the ball went in, I just remember jumping on the dog pile. 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. I couldn’t see Landon in the pile. Everyone was there by the time I had gotten over to that part of the field. It was already a decent dog pile and I just added to it. 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.
And then there was the hat trick I scored against Trinidad & Tobago and he had all three assists. That was a game when I was just beginning to start regularly for the National Team. I remember around that time Landon would sometimes have a word with me before games. It gave me so much confidence in my game and the belief that I could do well. He was really instrumental for me and a lot of guys around my age who were just starting our international careers.
It sucked to find out Landon was retiring. Everybody had an opinion or disagreed with things he did in his career, decisions he made, but one thing you can’t take away from Landon is the kind person he was. He was a player who pushed soccer in ways that maybe no other American player will. At a unique moment, at a unique time, he was there representing the country. For him to propel the game in our country and propel the status of the league says a lot about him as a player. 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.
The fans’ appreciation of Landon is self-explanatory. He’s a guy who for a long time has been involved in every great moment we’ve experienced as a National Team. Then you look at what he’s done in MLS. He’s made guys want to come back and play in the league: That says a lot. He gives guys a desire to come home and continue the push – what he pushed for so long – in terms of expanding the league and soccer in America.
Landon was a big inspiration for me. 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.
It’s tough to see him retire because it’s an end of an era. There will never be another player like him.