TORONTO – Landon Donovan’s first appearance on the field since MLS Cup 2012 wasn’t easy, but then again, the LA Galaxy forward knew that. Now with his first appearance under his belt, he’s just focused on slowly, but surely getting back to the level that many have grown accustom to throughout his career.
Just five days after rejoining the Galaxy after a two-and-a-half month absence from the game, Donovan made his season debut in the 61st minute of LA’s match with Toronto FC. The appearance came as a surprise to some after Donovan had hinted that he was initially targeting an early-April return, but after training for four days in Washington, D.C. and a few conversations with head coach Bruce Arena, he was back.
“Bruce and I spoke a lot during the week. Fitness wise I felt great,” said Donovan after the 2-2 draw. “Obviously I have a ways to go soccer wise. But you’ve got to get minutes to get better and so it was good to get some time today and obviously in the end it worked out.”
Seconds into his shift, with the captain’s armband back on, after a surprise gesture from defender Todd Dunivant; it looked like Donovan would find the back of the net. However, despite finding himself through on goal alone on TFC goalkeeper Joe Bendik, Donovan fired his shot straight into the ‘keeper’s gloves.
“It was a great ball by Mike [Magee]. I thought the first touch was good and I went to shoot it and it was a little behind me so that’s the part that I need to get better and that will come as time goes on,” Donovan told reporters.
The 31-year-old admitted that it was just a moment that showed while he feels plenty fit; he still has lots of work to do before he reaches the dizzying heights of the past.
“Oh yeah, I mean the whole game was like that,” Donovan said. “I gave away a lot of passes that I wouldn’t normally give away. I’m just not sharp in a soccer way and I’m probably going to need a week or two and then that will come back.”
Donovan’s return may have drawn plenty of attention, but it was young star Jose Villarreal who stole the show with a stoppage time goal that helped the Galaxy earn a point on the road. A 19-year-old talent, who like Donovan at that age, looks poised to contribute in a major role for the Galaxy in the future.
“He makes plays. At any level, anywhere in the world; players that can make plays are commodities,” said Donovan. “You could see today, he gets a couple of chances where he makes good passes to guys and then he gets the one chance to finish and he scores. That’s what you want. That’s what you want out of your forwards and your goal scorers and he won another point for us.”
But Villarreal admitted that he was just happy to have Donovan back in the fold with the Galaxy.
“It’s huge. It’s good to have him mentally and to have him physically on the field too. It’s great,” said Villarreal. “He’s probably one of the greatest players in US history so having him on the field with us is awesome. I’m just happy he’s back.”
Finally back on the field and showing the spirit and fire that has led the Galaxy to consecutive MLS Cup championships, Donovan revealed Saturday was as good as he’s felt since his “late teens or early 20’s.”
“It was a lot of fun. I haven’t felt that way playing in a very long time,” said Donovan. “That was the desired goal when I stepped away and it was nice to be back.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com