CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan returned to the LA Galaxy after a self-imposed absence from the game, but on Monday, he trained with the club for the first time at The Home Depot Center. Now with his first training session under his belt, Donovan could make his 2013 home debut in the CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal first leg against Monterrey on Wednesday. BUY TICKETS
WATCH: Donovan's first touch tests Joe Bendik
Donovan and the Galaxy took to the training field on Monday after a 2-2 draw on Saturday against Toronto FC in which the forward made his 2013 debut by going 29 minutes. In that time, Donovan was active, but was unable to finish a dangerous scoring opportunity just seconds after entering the match.
Since returning last week, Donovan has stressed that he is feeling a sense of renewal, but is acutely aware that minutes won’t come for free.
“Hopefully, we’ll see how it feels on Wednesday. We’ll see how I react this week during training, but Jack [McBean] and Jose [Villarreal] have done a great job, if Robbie [Keane] is fit and healthy then he’s obviously playing. Mike [Magee] has done well there,” said Donovan. “I have to be respectful and wait my turn and I’ve got to produce. I don’t just get free minutes because I’m back. I have to earn them. I’m aware of that I’ll be ready to go whenever they need me.”
Regardless of how positive the Galaxy forward feels about returning to the game, he admits that he’ll only be truly happy once he’s able to fully contribute at a level that helps the Galaxy generate victories and that starts with Wednesday’s CCL match.
“If we were playing a reserve game tomorrow then I’d be excited. I’m just excited to be back here and playing. But I want to contribute, it’s not just ‘oh, this is great, I get to play soccer again,’ I want to be a contributor,” said Donovan. “ I had a chance [against Toronto] to contribute immediately and I didn’t take it so I want to get better at that and make sure that I’m helping my team win not just being on the field running around.”
As for how much Donovan could play on Wednesday, both Donovan and head coach Bruce Arena agree that he is still some time away from a full 90 minute appearance. While the emphasis of bringing Donovan along may take focus in another match, Arena told reporters on Monday that LA won’t be focused on improving Donovan’s fitness against Monterrey. Instead, his team is focused solely on trying to get a result.
“This game is going to be used the best way that we can to win. We’re not worrying about Landon’s future in this game; we’re worrying about doing what we have to do to get a result. Whatever that means, in the end,” said Arena. “This will not be a liberal policy on Wednesday to move someone along. Our complete focus is getting the type of result that we need to position our team to advance in this round.”
LA will face a stiff test from Los Rayados, who have won two consecutive CCL titles and boast a compliment of internationals like Chilean forward Humberto Suazo, Ecuadorian midfielder Walter Ayovi as well an assortment of Mexican stars. Currently in seventh place in the 2013 Clausura, Monterrey are undefeated in their last five contests and are coming off a 3-0 victory over Liga MX rival Pumas UNAM.
The challenge will be a difficult one, but Donovan is confident and eager for Wednesday.
“In my opinion, they’ve been the best team in this region for two or three or four years. It would seem like if you’re going to win the champions league then you have to go through them at some point. We’re really excited about the opportunity,” said Donovan. “We think that we will match up really well with them, we think that there will be two really good games and we think we have enough to get by. It’s on us to put it on the field. Obviously, when you compete against a team that’s got a payroll of two or three or four times more than you, there are some natural disadvantages, but we think that we’re good enough to compete against them.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com