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Throwback Thursday: Landon Donovan’s dream debut

He came out the gate and helped the USMNT beat their archrivals.

Landon Donovan #13

On October 25, 2000, the United States took the field for a “friendly” match against their archrivals Mexico. Over 61,000 people were present at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum for this match between CONCACAF’s two giants. This game was typical of a USA-Mexico matchup, with hard challenges and passionate play dominating the match.

In the 32nd minute, Chris Henderson strained his calf, and his early substitution paved the way for the debut of an eventual USMNT legend: Landon Donovan. Donovan, then 18 years old, had just come off his star appearance for the United States in the Sydney Olympics, and he was hoping to make his mark with the senior squad. You can say he did just that.

The first half was scoreless, but shortly after the restart, Clint Mathis streaked down the middle with the ball before slipping it to Donovan, who had ran past the last defender. He sashayed past the goalkeeper before slotting the ball home for the match’s first goal.

Just under 20 minutes later, Mathis and Donovan connected again, with Donovan receiving the ball down the left side and then working past a defender before sending a cross into the box. 23-year-old Josh Wolff was waiting to collect the ball and bury it home for the game’s final goal and his first international strike. It was Donovan’s first assist as well.

Dos a Cero. It was a scoreline that would become real familiar to the United States over the next decade and a half. It was present on that night at the Coliseum. And Landon Donovan was at the center of it all. Landon Donovan would go on to become the all-time co-leader in goals scored for the United States (with Clint Dempsey) and the career assist king as well. Both of those tallies began on a night where he came off the bench and helped the USMNT beat Mexico by that familiar scoreline.