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Arena wary of World Cup stars' fitness and fatigue

Landon Donovan could use a break.  

Since leaving the Los Angeles Galaxy in mid-May, Donovan traveled to the East Coast for U.S. World Cup training camp, played in one friendly, went to South Africa for the World Cup and played in one tune-up match, three group stage games and one elimination match.

Then, he went back to the East Coast for a two-day media blitz before finally arriving back home in Southern California on Thursday.

Despite complaining of a hamstring injury, Donovan played all 90 minutes in a 3-1 win over Seattle on Sunday. And while he helped the Galaxy to a 3-1 win, one thing did not change: He still needs that rest.

“We spoke about getting some rest at some point,” Donovan said. “I don’t know whether it’s now or down the line. I’ve played a lot of games this year and my body is pretty worn out. I need some time to rest.”

Donovan set up the game’s first goal on Sunday when he found fellow World Cup veteran Edson Buddle in the middle of the penalty area on a corner kick in the 19th minute. There were other opportunities early on that Donovan could have put away—or gotten off a shot on goal, at least—but was unable to as his explosiveness seemed lacking.

Chalk that up to fatigue, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said.

“You could see early in the game Landon’s legs were still a little heavy and hasn’t quite obviously recovered from the games, the travel and all of that," Arena said. "We thought that could happen in the game [on Sunday]. Certainly to Landon’s credit, his desire to be here and be on the field and try to make us successful were certainly there.”

While he played in his first game back, Donovan might not exactly pick up where he left off and continue playing 90 minutes every time out. In fact, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said Donovan might not participate in the Galaxy’s upcoming league match.

“If he needs some time off, we’re going to give him some time off,” Arena said. “That may be a decision we make this week. There’s a chance he won’t go to New England.”

Donovan, of course, isn’t the only Galaxy player to return from South Africa. Buddle was also on the World Cup team but played just 39 minutes in South Africa. Late in the first half, Buddle lay on the ground in apparent pain. Buddle was removed in the 62nd minute.

Arena said Buddle’s Achilles tendon took a bit of a beating during the match.

“He just got kicked basically and got kicked there again in the second half, and that’s why we took him out,” Arena said.

Buddle said his issues were more with lack of match fitness than outright fatigue, and that he probably wouldn’t get away with asking Arena for some down time.

“Unfortunately he won’t take that for an answer,” Buddle said. “Definitely sharpness for each game is missing because I haven’t played in a while, but I think as the time goes on and I get more games, I should get a lot sharper.”

Ultimately, playing games with Buddle and Donovan in the lineup in July and August is important, but it is more important to have them fit and available towards the end of the season.

“We just want to be careful with these guys,” Arena said. “Landon [has] more of a fatigue issue. With Edson, not that much activity over the last six weeks [but he has still] had to deal with the travel and the time zones and everything else, so he’s not fully there and is going to need a little bit of time.”