Landon Donovan remembers his first goal in MLS. It came in 2001 against U.S. teammate Tim Howard. "I think Richard Mulrooney played a long ball and I got behind their defense and I remember as I got closer to Timmy he kept backing up, which was a little strange," Donovan, then playing for the San Jose Earthquakes, said. "I think he was trying to play mind games with me. He kept backing up and giving me space and I hit it to my left and scored. It was probably more relief than joy, but it was a great moment."
Howard, the former MetroStars keeper, doesn't have the same recall. "I don't particularly remember, but Landon's a good friend, obviously, so I can appreciate his back and forth," Howard said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday. "I think he scored on me more than once. It's not saying too much." It's been a long time since Donovan has faced Howard in anything but a U.S. training session, but the two will resume a friendly rivalry next Wednesday when the MLS All-Stars face Howard's English Premier club Everton at Rio Tinto field in Sandy, Utah.
Since Howard left MLS seven years ago, he and Donovan have turned into two of the U.S.'s biggest stars. "We both have taken off big-time since then," Donovan said. "This is, in a way, a little bit of coming full circle to play against him again." Both players look forward to a competitive game. "I think in the past the All-Star Game had a bit of a different feel, but I think there's a genuine excitement from the players to play in these games," Donovan said. "You realize quickly that opponents come to these games and take them very seriously, mainly because they're in the midst of their preseason and they're fighting for spots."