First Goal, May 19, 2001: It took Landon Donovan little time to adjust to the MLS game. After coming to the Quakes on loan from Bayer Leverkusen, Donovan would score in just the 7th game of the season. In the 84th minute of a 1-0 game vs. the MetroStars, the 19-year-old Donovan received a deep pass from Richard Mulrooney, placing it in the top left corner, beginning a run that would end with an MLS record 145 MLS goals in 340 games.
2001 MLS Cup: Less than six weeks after the attack on the Twin Towers, Landon Donovan and the San Jose Earthquakes provided a bit of cheer to the nation looking for a place to find a bright spot. The game began with a 21st minute goal from Luis Hernandez, but just minutes before halftime, Donovan struck a one-touch ball into the top corner, leveling the match. The game went to overtime, only to be finished off with a Dwayne De Rosario winner and dropping the LA Galaxy to 0-3 in MLS Cup Championship games.
While the game winner didn’t come from Donovan’s foot, his presence was felt throughout MLS.
June 22, 2002: Most won’t remember the date, but the moment sticks in the minds of all die-hard Earthquake fans. Following the USMNT’s defeat to Germany in the 2002 World Cup quarterfinal, Landon boarded a 13-hour flight back to San Jose, landing two hours before the Quakes match against Colorado. While he didn’t start the game, score, or even make a Landon-esque pass, the 10,000 fans at Spartan Stadium stood and applauded when he entered the match in the 85th minute. The American hero was back in San Jose, and the fans wanted to know how much they loved him.
2003 MLS Cup Run
Western Conference semifinals, leg 2: Down 2-0 on aggregate to rival LA Galaxy, the Quakes looked as though they were finished for the season after goals by Carlos Ruiz and Pete Vagenas dropped the them a 4-0 series hole.
Enter Donovan and a soccer story for the ages. It’s only fitting that Landon would lead a five-goal comeback, highlighted by a 90th minute Chris Roner goal that forced extra time. The game was capped off five minutes into extra time when Donovan, feeding Rodrigo Faria, struck home the golden goal, taking the series and completing what's widely recognized as the greatest comeback in MLS history.
Western Conference Championship: Another game and once again extra time was needed. This time, Donovan finished things off himself, as he buried the sudden-death winner in the 117th minute, defeating Kansas City 3-2 and leading the Quakes to their second MLS Cup appearance in three years.
MLS Cup: In front of a sellout crowd of 27,000 at the Home Depot Center, Ronnie Ekelund, Richard Mulrooney and Landon Donovan helped San Jose explode for an MLS-record four goals in the season finale, besting the Chicago Fire 4-2 for the club’s second MLS Cup.
Donovan, who was awarded 2003 MLS Cup MVP, led the way for San Jose with two goals, four total in the playoffs, becoming the first player to do so in league history.
First Hat Trick in Quakes History: On September 20, 2003, Donovan paced the Quakes to a 4-1 victory over the Kansas City Wizards with the first of his MLS-record five hat tricks. The night also saw Landon reach double-digit goals for the first time in his career. Scoring on the only shot of the first half in the 26th minute, #10 took the game over in the second half, scoring twice to become the first-ever San Jose player to put forth a three-goal effort.