Arena: Donovan returns to L.A.

Galaxy coach and players glad to have their captain back

Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy

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Los Angeles Galaxy captain Landon Donovan looked like his old self on Tuesday in his first practice with the club since returning from a 10-week loan to Everton of the English Premier League. He ran around with his usual abandon, finished with his typical precision and basically picked up where he left off since he was last seen in these parts late last year.

His Galaxy teammates said they detected only one difference in the 28-year-old.

“We’re tanned and ready to go, and he looks like he’s been hiding in a closet for a few months,” Chris Klein joked.

“He does looks pale,” head coach Bruce Arena agreed. “Those are the hazards of living in England.”

At Everton, Donovan played 13 games, scored two goals and had three assists. His impact in England came as no surprise to Arena.

“It was beneficial for him,” the coach said, “probably more mentally than the games themselves because he always had the tools to be able to compete at that level. He demonstrated more to himself that he can do that. I think he comes back a more confident player.”

Donovan, about to enter his sixth season in Los Angeles, is seven goals shy of becoming the Galaxy’s all-time leading scorer. Cobi Jones tops the list with 70 goals, followed by Donovan with 64, Carlos Ruiz at 51, Mauricio Cienfuegos at 35 and Eduardo Hurtado with 30. Donovan also is coming off a season in which he had a team-high 12 goals and six assists and helped lead the club to the MLS Cup final, which it lost to Real Salt Lake on penalties.

Donovan was unavailable for comment Tuesday, choosing to address the press for the first time on Wednesday, but his teammates were effusive in their praise of the reigning MLS MVP.

“It’s always good to have him back,” Alan Gordon said. “We’re proud of him and how he played over there. Obviously, he means a whole lot to this team and his leadership.”

“It’s almost like he never left,” Klein said. “On the field, he just adds a dimension and quality you can’t replace. It’s good to have him back on the team and work into what we’ve been working on this preseason.”

Todd Dunivant said he could detect a definite spring in everyone’s step during practice.

“He’s happy to be back,” Dunivant said, “and we’re obviously thrilled to have him back. He’s proven himself to this league year in and year out and the rest of the world, and now he’s shown the English league he’s one of the best players in the world. It’s great to have him back.