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Back in Southern California, duo ready to start 2012 campaign

CARSON, Calif. – Maybe it was the anticipation of the U.S. National Team’s friendly against Italy, an eventual 1-0 victory for the Americans Wednesday in Genoa, that had the LA Galaxy’s Landon Donovan starting to feel better.

He said he woke up that morning, still in Arizona after being forced to withdraw from the U.S. squad, believing the worst of the flu and bronchitis finally was behind him. He has continued to make steady improvement since then, culminating with his second training session with the Galaxy at The Home Depot Center on Sunday.

He said is feeling about 90 percent for Wednesday’s first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Toronto FC at the Rogers Centre (5 p.m., FOX Soccer). The Galaxy then return home to open the MLS regular season against Real Salt Lake on Saturday, followed by a return MLS engagement with Toronto at home the following Wednesday.

Donovan, who turned 30 on Sunday, said it has been a frustrating two and a half weeks since he became ill at the tail end of his loan to Everton FC, where he made nine starts and had six assists. He said he did some light running and occasional work with a ball during the team’s just-concluded stay in Tucson, Ariz., where it won the Desert Diamond Cup on Saturday, but little else.

READ: LA Galaxy beat New England in a penalty shootout, 4-2, to claim Desert Diamond Cup title

“I’m not quite healthy, but we’re getting there,” he said. “Sometimes the flu or sickness doesn’t care what’s going on. It’s just going to do what it’s going to do.

“The frustrating part is I was fit and as healthy as I’ve felt in a long time. When you don’t train for two weeks and you’re ill, it takes a lot out of you. This week has been trying to get some fitness back and get myself sharp again.

“That’s the way it goes. Hopefully maybe that two-week break is good in the long run.”

Another familiar face in Sunday’s training session was Robbie Keane, who was back from his overseas loan, during which he had three goals in six games with Aston Villa.

“It’s obviously good to be amongst the lads,” said Keane, who turns 32 in July.

Keane, who said he kept in regular contact with David Beckham, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena and first-year assistant coach Jovan Kirovski, said he was thrilled to have returned from England and was looking forward to staying with the Galaxy “for a long time.”

And those reports in which Keane reportedly said he would have preferred to stay with Aston Villa? Don’t believe them, he said.

“I don’t know where that came from, to be honest,” he said. “The quotes from me, I’d like to be handed them and see exactly what was said. I think it’s just people stirring things up.”

What isn’t in question is that Keane is looking forward to a full season in MLS. He said he feels in top shape – Donovan said he has been particularly impressed with the Irish international since his return to Southern California – and has high hopes for himself and the team.

“I believe it’s going be a big season,” he said. “Certainly for me, I feel very sharp, very fit. I believe it will be a big season.”