Landon Donovan, we welcome you to North County.
Donovan, among America’s most celebrated soccer players, moved into Del Mar recently. He adds to an impressive local roster of decorated players, which includes women stars Alex Morgan and the iconic Shannon MacMillan.
Both those ladies reside in Cardiff, but if you see Donovan around town, he’s not there to visit them.
“Someone told me Seaside Market had something called ‘Cardiff Crack,’’’ Donovan said.
Donovan got a great assist and it didn’t come from a foot. Instead it’s the word of mouth that sent another newbie to embrace the marinated steak.
“I’ve eaten at a lot of nice places,’’ Donovan said. “But I went on a Taco Tuesday, and went home to my wife and said, ‘We’ve got to get this stuff.’’’
Now, just might San Diego be the right stuff for Major League Soccer?
Donovan was on the USS Midway Museum flight deck on Monday, as San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer presented MLS Commissioner Don Garber with the city’s application for an expansion team.
San Diego is in the running with 11 cities for one of the four squads to be announced at the end of the year.
“Are you ready to bring soccer to San Diego?’’ Faulconer asked.
The marriage of the beautiful game with America’s Finest City is a no-brainer for Donovan.
“You would think so,’’ said Donovan, who won six MLS Cups with the San Jose Earthquakes and Los Angeles Galaxy. “I think there are upwards of 5,000 people that cross the border to watch the Xolos play. And I’ve met a bunch of people who are Galaxy fans and they have just been waiting to support a local team. I think if done the right way, this can be successful.’’
Garber agreed as he spoke of the “special” circumstances making San Diego a viable candidate. Everything from the weather to the vibrant youth leagues to the proximity to Mexico are feathers in San Diego’s cap.
While futbol isn’t football, that shouldn’t scare off people. The Chargers, when leaving town, left open a door the MLS would love to partially fill in Mission Valley, playing in a 30,000-seat stadium.
“Obviously what has gone on with the Chargers there’s a vacancy there and people want to get behind something special,’’ said Donovan, America’s top-scorer in international matches. “And I think this is an opportunity. People are dying for this.’’
Others speculate soccer will be popular over their dead body. That response isn’t foreign to Donovan’s ears.
“I’ve dealt with that my whole career,’’ he said, fresh from retiring from the Galaxy last year. “What I’ve seen is those people had a big voice and there was many of them early on. Now it has slowly gotten less and less.
“It’s one of those things where you better get on the train or it will run you over. If not, then move out of the way and let us go.’’
Donovan noted that more than 20,000 fans attended the U.S.-Serbia friendly match on Sunday. The previous six exhibitions featuring the U.S. didn’t draw more than 11,000 patrons.
“So to almost double that, in what is not an MLS city, is pretty impressive,’’ Donovan said.
“We live in a society where we want instant gratification all the time. So we wanted 40,000 people at the game so when 20,000 people showed up, we feel a little disappointed.
“But the reality is the MLS commissioner and USA Soccer have done a fantastic job of growing this thing and that is really impressive.’’
That surge could land San Diego a pro franchise that embraces this region. And to those turning up their noses regarding soccer?
Some naysayers are tough to crack. Not so with Donovan, when it’s about Cardiff’s most famous food.
Follow Jay Paris @jparis_sports. Read his book, “Game of My Life Chargers” which is available at bookstores and at amazon.com.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports