Table-topping LA will have tall order to replace Donovan
Through their first 15 games of the season, Landon Donovan has, as expected, been one of the LA Galaxy’s top players. With a league-high eight goals to his credit, Donovan has helped the Galaxy top the standings and take home 1.93 points per game, best in MLS.
But now, Donovan’s mind and mentality will change focus. For the next three or four weeks, the Galaxy captain will try and help lead the US to regional glory.
Donovan departed Los Angeles after the club’s 1-0 win at New England and will play for the US against Spain on Saturday, a day after his club hosts D.C. United without him.
Despite his value to the Galaxy, Donovan said his departure is no cause for concern.
“I’m not worried about us leaving,” said Donovan, who is also joined in his exodus by teammate Donovan Ricketts, a member of Jamaica’s Gold Cup squad. “Our team is accustomed to dealing with absences.”
Donovan has already missed time this season, sitting out a three-game eastern road trip that saw the Galaxy return with five points. LA’s first multi-goal effort of the season came with Donovan gone.
Part of the team’s success this season has been the effectiveness of players lower on the depth chart. Heading into Friday’s match against DC, 20 players have seen time on the field. Some, like Frankie Hejduk, have played in just few games while others, like Jovan Kirovski and Bryan Jordan, have not played as many minutes but they have combined for 10 games played.
Only three players have played in all 15 games — Todd Dunivant, Chad Barrett and Sean Franklin — and of those, only Dunivant has played every minute.
Perhaps the most telling statistics is this: 13 players have played in at least 10 games while Michael Stephens (nine) and Paolo Cardozo (eight) are in shouting distance of double digits. Seattle — the only other team to have played at least 14 games — have 10 players who have seen double-digit games.
“We’re not a team that plays the same 11 or 12 or 13 guys the whole year,” Donovan said. “Some teams do that, but that’s not been the way we’ve operated over the last three years.”
Ultimately, though, Galaxy players will have to absorb Donovan’s loss. Mike Magee, Stephens, Cardozo and Chris Birchall have all started games, and it’s likely two from that group will pair with David Beckham and Juninho come Friday.
Regardless of how his absence is handled, Donovan is not going to fret while he’s helping the US try to recapture the Gold Cup title.
“I don’t worry about how we’re going to do,” Donovan said. “We’re going to do fine.”