Playing with a Legend

By Korey Donahoo (AO Co-Founder)
All photos taken by Brenda Moffitt

Two weeks ago, while many of us were in San Diego cheering on our beloved yanks, two very remarkable achievements were reached by two all time greats… Landon Donovan and Roger Federer.

Both are reaching the ends of their careers at the top of their respective sports. Both have gone multiple years without any major victories or career spikes. But on that same weekend in January, these two mid-thirties GOATs both got another taste of what it was like at the top… Mr. Federer by winning a Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, and Landon Donovan by bagging 8 assists in the annual AO Cupcake Cup.
At the final whistle, when asked for comment, Mr. Donovan said “I’ve scored goals in the Premier League. I’ve won six MLS Cups. I’m both the league’s all time leading goal scorer and all time assist leader, and I’ve scored five goals in three World Cups. But this, today… this tops everything.” (could not be verified)
Back to reality. It was absolutely insane to be able to play on the same field as the greatest US player of all time. And the fact that he is still only 34, still close to the peak of his abilities, and was willing to come knock the ball around, get back on defense, and set up player after player for screwup after screwup was absolutely incredible.
Having played my whole life, I was curious about a lot of things… “is he really that much better than where we are at? What parts of his game are gonna stand out against us normies? Will he run around, or just Yaya-Toure-it around the field?”
The answer… Yes, he is that good. A couple things really stood out to me. He walked out onto the field, no warmup, no socks, and he could immediately just blow by anyone at any time if he wanted to. Of course, it was a fan friendly, so he didn’t burn many people, but it was patently obvious that he could.
He would receive an ill-advised pass with 3 defenders around him, and his first touch was out of pressure and opened the whole field up every time he got the ball… it was just like breathing to him. Then he would pick out a 30 yard ball across the field, floated perfectly onto someones foot. Over and over and over.
He was talking the whole time, giving people “man on” and “turn”… He called the ref “middle man”, which stood out to me for some reason. He almost never took shots, always looking to set up other AOs, but the one time he did shoot, he collected a bouncing ball, juggled over an onrushing defender, and blasted a volley that was well saved.
And he was very gracious. He took pictures with everyone. He seemed genuinely happy to be there.

@landondonovan10 arrives for the fan-friendly #CupcakeCup in San Diego today. #USMNT

A video posted by American Outlaws (@americanoutlaws) on

My favorite moment was when we was leaving and the crowd and everyone there were giving him a round of applause, and he tried to quiet everyone saying “stop, stop stop… thats enough… OK, keep going”
Definitely an experience I’ll never forget. Huge thank you to Landon, to all the AOs who came out to play in the friendly, to AO San Diego who did an amazing job organizing, and to everyone in the section the next day who roared our guys to a “thrilling” 0-0. Onto the next one.
By Korey Donahoo (AO Co-Founder)
All photos taken by Brenda Moffitt