LA Galaxy standout Landon Donovan is a valuable player for the Galaxy for several reasons.
Aside from the obvious—97 career regular-season goals speak for themselves—Donovan is one of the team’s leaders.
In his absence, the Galaxy must then deal with both the offensive void and the leadership absence. Filling the spot on the lineup is simple enough—the Galaxy have plenty of depth to choose from. But how do the Galaxy go about making up for Donovan’s leadership?
“There’s not one guy who is going to fill Landon’s shoes,” Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee said. “It’s got to be everyone. Landon’s best quality outside of scoring goals or getting assists was leading by example. Every day in practice and on the field, his work rate, that’s something we can all attempt to emulate.”
Along with MLS leading goal scorer Edson Buddle, Donovan is with the U.S. national team in Princeton, N.J., at World Cup training camp. Donovan likely won’t return until July.
While with the Galaxy, Donovan is often seen during games talking to fellow players, intervening with the referee on his teammates’ behalf and chasing after balls across the field. With that gone now, the team must account for that as well.
On the Galaxy’s roster is almost an even split between young, talented players and experienced, capable veterans—and it’s that mix that could carry the team through this lack of leadership.
“There’s definitely a lot of guys with experience a lot of young guys too,” Galaxy midfielder Clint Mathis said. “Bruce has set up a good mix of guys here.”
Mathis is one player who has a chance of seeing an increase in playing time. As an attacker, Mathis could help create chances in Donovan’s absence. The 2002 World Cup veteran could also be a leader for the team on the field.
Another player who could see himself blossom into more of a leader is Omar Gonzalez. In March, the reigning Rookie of the Year said one of his goals this season was to take on more of a leadership role.
Now is his chance to continue evolving that part of his game.
“I’ve just got to be back there with [fellow center back Gregg Berhalter] and just try and get people in the right positions help people stay focused in the game, as well as keep myself focused,” Gonzalez said.
What if some bad situation arises and Gonzalez needs to help settle things?
“The key is just to have a short memory," Gonzalez said. "If something bad does happen, you’ve just got to forget about it right away because you can’t keep thinking about things. That just ruins future plays. Just keeping a short memory will just help with that.”
Whatever the case, whether it’s the veterans or the younger players who pick up the leadership slack, Mathis said the team has enough quality around to do just that.
“I definitely think we have enough guys to take on that extra role in leadership and what not,” Mathis said. “We’re definitely going to take on more responsibility in that regard but I think if we continue to focus on how well our defense has been playing, we’ll keep ourselves in good shape.”