CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan is returning to the Los Angeles Galaxy after a nearly two-year retirement with a single goal: Help bring the MLS Cup trophy back to StubHub Center.
The Galaxy announced on Thursday that the league’s all-time leading goal scorer would be coming out of retirement for the remainder of the 2016 regular season. Donovan, 34, last played in the 2014 MLS Cup Final when he led Los Angeles to their fifth MLS Cup.
Now after two years removed from the field, Donovan understands that the task will be a little bit different for him this time around, but the Galaxy legend remains committed to the cause.
“I’m under no illusion that I’m going to be able to come in and play 90 minutes, maybe for the rest of the year. But what I talked to Bruce about was that I think that I can get fit enough and get back into the groove enough that I can make a few plays on the field that will make a difference in the long run,” Donovan told LAGalaxy.com. “This team is loaded with talent, they’re a team has had a lot of injuries, but they still find themselves in second place in the West. They don’t need much, but losing Gyasi [Zardes] and losing Nigel de Jong does hurt a little bit.
“I think some of my qualities, even though the physical [attributes] have gone a little bit, I think can make a difference in a game or in the locker room and away from the field. If all those little things can lead to one moment, that can propel the team to a championship that would feel great for me.”
According to Donovan, the catalyst to his return occurred in the days following the Galaxy’s scoreless draw with Vancouver Whitecaps FC last month. Against Vancouver, the Galaxy saw Jelle Van Damme, Steven Gerrard, and later, Gyasi Zardes succumb to injuries that will cause them to miss much of September, and in Zardes’ case the remainder of the regular season.
After a few joke texts from friends and former teammates as well as some reflection with his loved ones, Donovan approached Bruce Arena with a proposition: A return to action for the American soccer hero for the remainder of the 2016 campaign.
“Bruce was typically Bruce, as we first talked, he said that we’re interested in this, but you haven’t kicked a ball in 22 months, and you can’t come in expecting that everything is going to be like it was before,” Donovan recalls. “I said, ‘Bruce, my goal here is to help. I don’t have some crazy urge to kick a soccer ball again, but I do love this club, I do love this team, and I do love this organization. And it seems like the situation where the team could use a little bit of help almost exclusively in a reserve or substitute role to help fill the shoes of a Gyasi, Nigel, or some of the other guys that are injured.
“At this point in my career, I know that I’m not going to fill Gyasi’s shoes, I’m not that player anymore, but if I can help in small ways on the field and off the field and help the team win a sixth championship then that would be awesome.”
An eternal favorite among Galaxy fans, Donovan expects a warm reception when he walks on the field Sunday when Los Angeles host Orlando City SC. Donovan will be available for selection for the Orlando match and is likely to be used in a reserve capacity for Bruce Arena’s squad.
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Although hearing the cheers from the Galaxy faithful will be deeply meaningful for Donovan, what he’s truly after is another celebration in early December.
“I’m looking forward to a good reception, and I want to reciprocate and give them what they expect,” Donovan said. “It’s not going to be perfect, there’s going to be bumps along the way, but the ultimate goal is that on December 10th, I want to be holding a trophy again, and I want to do that with this team.”