MLS- LA Galaxy

After nearly two years away, Donovan looking to help injury-plagued Galaxy with return to field

Photo by Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Photo by Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Prior to Thursday, Landon Donovan was anything but a professional soccer player. He was an analyst, one seemingly becoming more comfortable in a suit and tie after a career in cleats and shorts. He was a coach, one charged with guiding the next generation of American stars hoping to emulate even a chunk of his success. He was even an owner, one that was beginning the process of making his mark on an English Premier League club.

That all changed on Thursday afternoon. After nearly two years, he was back.

Donovan confirmed on Thursday that he has called off his retirement to rejoin his longtime club, the LA Galaxy, for the rest of the 2016 season. The forward said that he told himself to “never say never” when he walked away from the game 20 months ago, but he always believed it was highly unlikely that he would step foot on the field again. But even after riding off into the sunset with an MLS Cup in hand, Donovan just could not stay away, for a variety of reasons.

One of them was a sense of duty. After seeing the Galaxy pillaged by injury after injury, the 34-year-old star felt a desire to step up in the club’s time of need. Following the Galaxy’s game against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Aug. 27, Donovan received some half-hearted messages asking him to come back.

The other reason, Donovan says, is that the move gives him a chance to bring his son, Talon, with him on one final ride. For years, Donovan was jealous as he watched from afar as his teammates brought their loved ones onto the field after a game to share what he saw as a special moment. Now, he will have that chance to show his first child a glimpse at the game that his father loves.

In the end, the stars aligned, making a return one that made sense. Donovan says that he was never “banging down anyone’s begging to play soccer again,” but given the situation at hand, it was an ideal scenario for him to return to a club he calls home.

“My goal here is to help. I don’t have this crazy urge to go running around a soccer field again, but I do like to help, ” Donovan said in a video released by the club. “I love this team, I love this club and I love this organization, and it seemed like the situation played out in a way where the team could use a little bit of help, almost probably exclusively, in a reserve role or as a substitute to help try to fill the shoes of Gyasi (Zardes), Nigel (de Jong) and some of the other guys that are injured.”

“At this point, I’m not going to fill Gyasi’s shoes. I’m just not that player any more, but if I can help in small ways, on the field or off the field, and help the team, maybe, win a sixth championship, that would be awesome.”

Donovan says he realizes that he is “far away” from peak fitness. After two years away, the 34-year-old forward says he feels significantly different than he did at his best, even after an accelerated fitness plan designed to get him back into game shape. Still, Donovan says he is not expecting to go 90 minutes straight away, and maybe not for the rest of the year. However, he feels he can contribute in spurts in situations that call for his abilities.

While he may not feel like the Donovan of old, his number selection, in one way, hearkens back to his early career. With Giovani dos Santos currently sporting the No. 10 shirt, Donovan will return in the No. 26. The number is a special one to Donovan, as it represents both his son’s birthday and the first number he wore with Bayer Leverkusen as a 17-year-old prospect.

“I’ve already had dreams about what it’s going to be like putting the jersey on and going back on the field,” Donovan said. “I anticipate a good reception, and I also realize that the impetus is on me now to perform still. I can’t just put on a jersey and go out there and expect to be the same player. People are paying money. They’re fans for a reason. I can’t go out there and not perform.

“I’m looking forward to, hopefully, a good reception, but I want to reciprocate and give them what they expect. It’s not going to be perfect, there will be bumps along the way, but the ultimate goal is that, on Dec. 10, I want to be holding a trophy again, and I want to be doing that with this team.”

Here’s a closer look at Donovan’s first interview since returning to the Galaxy:

  • BombVoyage

    Is the Galaxy youth system so bad that they have to call in a player who is not match-fit and hasn’t played a competitive match in nearly two years?


    • Bryan

      The remind me of some of the Yankee teams in recent years(though they seem to finally have some younger guys playing). Nothing in the farm system. Pry the old vets can carry you….


    • Benjamin C.

      Their youth development has been lauded for a while now, but Arena must not have any faith in guys like Jamison, Lassiter, or Villarreal. They can’t even sniff the first team.


    • Old School

      Arena sold players near their mid-20’s to buy/sign players near their mid-30’s this off-season. This is his philosophy.


    • Gary Page

      When everyone is available, the Galaxy have Keane, Dos Santos, Zardes, Magee, Boateng as attacking options. Lletget has had trouble getting on the field when players are healthy. The Galaxy has lost Arriola and Wright from their youth system, probably because they didn’t want to wait and the team recently loaned out Jack McBean, who has looked promising, so he could get more playing time. It’s not that their youth system is poor, but their regulars are so good. Steres went from their youth team to a semi-regular starter this year, but that is a position where they aren’t as deep. Also, a halfway decent Donovan is going to be better than even a good youth player not named Pulisic.


  • Rob

    This is going to ugly quickly……. But then, this is Mls, the league that bought that petrified traffic cone they call Andrea Pirlo.


  • Beto

    bring out the MLS-Retirement League jokes..

    actually really looking forward to this! given his age and ability I bet it does not take a while to get back into gear.


  • Jack

    Landon just wants a couple goals and a few assists so that Wondo or Davis don’t break his records.


  • TheFrenchOne

    Admittedly, I’m a huge LD fan. But he sounds like he has realistic expectations of what he’ll be able to contribute this season. Whether the haters can save the hate until/if he flounders and, on the other end of the spectrum, his fans can keep their expectations in check, is a different story.

    I think his legacy is safe. The only way he can tarnish it is if he robs a convenience store on the way to a game. This playing stint is just an alternate ending. Just sit back and see how it plays out


  • danny kissinger

    Glad to see him back playing, although I am also skeptical of what he can do. Should take him at least a month to get up to speed and performing well, assuming he doesn’t get any knocks. He should have never retired in the first place, but his fragile psyche couldn’t cope with being cut from the NATs by Herr Klinsmann.


  • Brain Guy

    I suppose it will actually end up somewhere in the “meh” zone, but this story has a couple of potentially bad endings – failure for LD and a loss of some of the luster on his stellar career, or a black eye for MLS as a retiree who hadn’t played in almost two years excels and shows the real quality of the league’s talent.


  • Concorde

    This is American sports, give-the-fans-what-they-want, stuff. It’s the entertainment business there. It’s all fine with me and will be interesting to see how he plays. But probably most MLS-only fans don’t know any better. From my outsider point of view, it is a mild indictment to the league to re-package a player – MLS and the Galaxy are making us believe it could help them to a championship – who says he “doesn’t have any desire to go chasing Kaka around the field” anymore. Sorry, but that’s so retirement league.


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