He is a 10-time MLS All-Star, a three-time MLS Cup champion and a former MLS MVP. Needless to say, Landon Donovan needs no introduction. But after going on preseason loans to Germany and England respectively in 2009 and 2010, Donovan would spend much of March being introduced to his new Galaxy teammates.
However, that all changed this season as Donovan passed up loan opportunities in order to give his body a well needed rest. He arrived at The Home Depot Center in late January revived, refreshed and ready for the start of a new season with the Galaxy, a season that he hopes ends just like the 2001, 2003 and 2005 campaigns, with him holding the MLS Cup.
With seven weeks of preseason now in the past and the start of the 16th season of Major League Soccer now upon us, we caught up with the Galaxy captain to see what he thought about how last season ended and where he thinks the club is headed in 2011. Here is what he had to say…
How disappointed were you with the way last season ended?
“It was really disappointing, especially the way it ended. We played a good, very good 25 minutes in the Conference Championship against Dallas and then we allowed a goal, and we just kind of unraveled. That was disappointing because I think we deserved to give ourselves a better chance than that.”
Given all that happened in your career in 2010, has it been difficult to close the chapter on 2010 and begin to prepare for 2011?
“Not hard, actually. I have learned that living in the past, both the negative past and the positive past, does me no good. I used that time to physically unwind and let my mind relax, and then I started getting excited for this year. There is no benefit in me thinking about the good and bad of last year. The reality is now it’s time for this year.”
This is your first preseason with the club since 2008, how much has this helped you?
“It helps a lot. The main way it helps is with the new guys. The old guys, the guys that have been here a long time, it is easy to come back and find a rhythm and figure out how to play. The guys that are new here, not only is there the on the field, figuring out how the guy wants the ball played, where he likes to run, how he moves, but also there is a lot of opportunities to chat with the new guys, learn about them, learn what they like to do off the field, learn about their history, and that kind of stuff is really important and it is hard to do that in the midst of the season because you are going from game to game and it is sometimes hard. That is why it is good to have some time with these guys and learn a lot about them.”
You were very public about your need for some time off during the offseason, how much do you think that has helped you so far?
“So far, I am seeing really, really big benefits from it. Mostly, I am really excited every day when I come in. I am really looking forward now to our first game, and physically my body feels healthier and stronger than it has probably in at least three years. That part of it also gives me a mental edge because I know I have the strength and the ability to really be productive on the field.”
There are 11 new faces in the squad this season, what have you noticed from them and how is this year’s squad different from last year’s?
“Well as a starting point, Bruce filled a lot of holes that we had last season. He brought in Juan Pablo Angel to be our primary goalscorer. He also added Chad Barrett, Adam Cristman and Miguel Lopez who can all play as forwards and that helps our depth a lot in that position. He has brought in a few guys who play in wide positions and that will help us. He brought in a few defenders and that will give us some depth with all of the games that we are going to play this year. He brought in a playmaker, the kind of guy we haven’t had in a few years, in Paolo Cardozo. That gives us the chance to play in a little bit of a different style than we are used to. The main thing is that he has made our team better, not only on Saturdays, but in training too.”
In 2010, the team got off to a great start, only to fade a bit over the second half of the season, how aware of this are you and what do you need to do to avoid that this year?
“Well the reality in Major League Soccer is that no team has any financial advantage or otherwise that the other leagues around the world have. If Barcelona stalls in the middle of the season, you say ‘wait, what’s going on’ because they are worth so much more than all the other teams. In our league, all of the teams are equal. They are playing by the same rules, so there is rarely going to be a year when you start off not losing your first 12 games and continue that streak throughout the season. It was bound to happen at some point that we were going to fall off a little bit, but I think we were very good last season. We were very consistent last season. We expect the same thing this year.”
The club will play a record number of games this season. As a result, are you more cognizant of trying to stay focused on the game at hand without looking at the bigger picture?
“You have to do a little bit of both. You have to be aware of what’s coming throughout the season just so you are mentally prepared for it, but as far as what you do on a day-to-day basis, you have to play the right way, you have to train the right way every day, and just because we play more games, it doesn’t give us any excuses to back off at all. We also have bigger rosters now and we have a team with many, many players that are capable of playing and contributing. We have all the tools to be successful this year and now it is on us to perform.”
What are your goals for the upcoming season? Do you set both individual and team goals before a season?
“As far as a team goal, it has to be giving ourselves a real chance to win every game we play in. That doesn’t mean we win every game, but there is no reason we shouldn’t go into every game and not feel we are favored to win the game. Obviously, having won the Supporters’ Shield left a good taste in our mouth and we want to repeat. Then, when we get to the playoffs, it’s about being a little bit better in the moments that count. We learned some valuable lessons last year, we learned some valuable lessons a couple of years ago, and we try to be better at that. Then, having the ability to switch gears and play in the Champions League where games will look a little different. We will be playing in different environments and we have to be mature and use our experience to our advantage.”
This article was originally published in the LA Galaxy Gameday Program. Be sure to pick up one of the new Gameday Programs, filled with exclusive content, match info and fun facts, the next time you're at The Home Depot Center for a Galaxy home match!