CARSON, Calif. – It was just before the start of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in early July when LA Galaxy President Chris Klein and Landon Donovan went out for breakfast. Klein was trying to gauge the future intentions of the popular midfielder, who not only was in the final year of his contract but recently had returned from a self-imposed, sabbatical from the game, returning in late March. Klein was more than curious as to what Donovan had in mind, specifically as it related to the two-time defending MLS Cup champions, and got the answer he was looking for.
“He said he wanted to be here,” Klein said Wednesday when the club officially announced Donovan, in his 13th season with MLS and ninth with the Galaxy, had signed a multi-year contract. “But he also said he wanted to feel valued and feel wanted.
“I was pretty confident that we could get this done. We’re extremely happy.”
Donovan went on to have a memorable Gold Cup, during which he scored five goals and led the U.S. to the championship, and he has played superbly with the Galaxy with seven goals and seven assists in 16 league games.
The 31-year-old is the club’s all-time leading scorer with 99 goals in 210 games since he joined the club in 2005 and is only four goals away from becoming MLS’ all-time leading goal scorer. Jeff Cunningham holds the record with 134 goals. Donovan also has been the club’s top goal scorer in six of the last eight seasons.
Getting Donovan resigned – the Galaxy also recently signed their two other designated players, Robbie Keane in January and Omar Gonzalez earlier this month, to new deals – was important not only for the club’s future but the game in this country, according to AEG President and CEO Dan Beckerman, who took over for Tim Leiweke earlier this year.
“I thought about it a lot,” he said with a grin. “I thought about it at home, I thought about it driving in, I thought about it when I was in the shower in the morning and having dinner at night. I thought about it a lot because it was critical.
“It’s not just what’s great for the club and the fans but for the league. And going into a World Cup year (2014 in Brazil), having the best American players playing in MLS, it’s critical. He could have played elsewhere; he could have played in Europe quite easily. There’s no doubt in my mind he had all kinds of opportunities to go play in Europe. But going into a World Cup year not having the best American players playing in our league would have been a major blow.
“It was important. There was a lot of pressure.”
Galaxy general manager and head coach Bruce Arena understandably was thrilled at what eventually transpired. But not, he said, without a few misgivings along the way.
“There were doubts whether we could keep Landon here,” he admitted. “Obviously we demonstrated to Landon we wanted him to finish his career with the Galaxy. The last couple of weeks I felt comfortable that he was going to be here.
“We’re thrilled to move forward with the Galaxy and have Landon be a big part of it. His role on the field is incredible. His role in the locker room is fabulous. He’s a great influence on our players. His role with the front office and community is invaluable as well.
“We think he’s the full package, and we’re thrilled he will fulfill his contract here and hopefully win more championships with the Galaxy.”