The LA Galaxy's 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," midfielder Chris Klein joked.
Head coach Bruce Arena agreed.
"He does looks pale," Arena said. "Those are the hazards of living in England."
Tuesday marked his official return to the club after completing his impressive loan to Everton, for whom he played 13 games, scored two goals and had three assists. His Galaxy teammates understandably were thrilled to see Donovan again.
"It's always good to have him back," forward 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."
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 is No. 1 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 -- the next-closest was Edson Buddle with five -- and six assists and helped lead the club to last November's MLS Cup final, where 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 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."
Arena said he was not surprised at the impact Donovan had in England.
"It was beneficial for him," Arena 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."
Todd Dunivant said he could detect a definite spring in everyone's step during practice -- especially in Donovan's.
"He's happy to be back, and we're obviously thrilled to have him back." Dunivant said "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."
Larry Morgan is a contributor to MLSnet.com.