Scottsdale, Ariz. – Landon Donovan is the LA Galaxy’s longest-tenured player in this his seventh season and is a logical choice to assess this year’s edition.
After three weeks of training camp, he has arrived at the following conclusions: the Galaxy are better, deeper, younger, fresher and more energetic.
“We always feel like this is a team that should be very competitive,” he said. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be optimistic.”
The Galaxy had an unusually busy offseason which saw, for example, David Beckham train with Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League (although he is scheduled to return next week), Edson Buddle take his 17 goals to Germany and veterans Chris Klein and Eddie Lewis retire.
But the Galaxy also brought in Juan Pablo Angel from New York, where he scored 61 goals in all competitions in four seasons; Frankie Hejduk, the long-time captain with the Columbus Crew and Chad Barrett, a six-year veteran who has 34 career regular season goals.
Add in the likes of top draft pick Paolo Cardozo and Quilmes teammate Miguel Lopez, and the Galaxy underwent quite a transformation up front.
Donovan said he was not particularly alarmed at the number of changes.
“There’s an old adage, if it’s not broke don’t fix it,” Donovan said. “But there is something nice about having fresh faces, having young faces in there, guys who are really hungry to make an impact. And to have young guys who got a lot of minutes last year and now have another year under their belts.
“Then having some older guys who understand what it takes to win in this league. Between Juan Pablo, Frankie and Chad, they’ve been around some good teams over the years and they know what it takes to win.
“I think we certainly got deeper and all things considered we got younger and I think we got more competitive, and I think we’re going to need that with our schedule this year.”
The Galaxy’s 34-game regular season kicks off March 15 in Seattle, but they also will be busy with U.S. Open Cup matches and the CONCACAF Champions League. LA clinched a group stage berth in the latter after winning last year’s Supporters’ Shield, with group play beginning in mid-August.
Donovan, who turns 29 in March, said he’s getting ready for what figures to be another busy year. It certainly can’t get any more hectic than a year ago, when he played more than 50 games for the Galaxy, the U.S. National Team and on loan with Everton of the Premier League.
Donovan, who scored only seven goals in 2010 but did have an MLS-leading and career-high 16 assists, was asked how refreshed he feels at this point in camp. He said he will get a clearer reading in the weeks ahead.
“I think I’ll feel more refreshed in a couple of weeks as we get a little deeper in and I fully get my legs under me,” he said. “But it is nice to be starting from square one. In the past, to use the soccer game as an analogy, in the past I felt like I was starting in the first third or the middle third of the season every year. I felt like I was always trying to maintain enough strength and stability to get me through the season.
“This year I have the opportunity to build my body the right way, get myself prepared the right way, not only endure a long season but be successful at a high level throughout the entire season and not fade at the end of the year.”
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