KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Landon Donovan heard the chants, the digs at his age, the notion that a 34-year-old man could come back and make a difference after more than 21 months away from the professional game. Then he silenced them.
When Donovan came on in the 74th minute on Sunday, his second outing with the Los Angeles Galaxy since his un-retirement earlier this month, Sporting Kansas City's fans – particularly those in the raucous Cauldron section – greeted him with jeers of “AARP!”
Boom. Mic drop – and it happened right in front of those chanting the loudest, right behind Sporting's goal at the north end of Children's Mercy Park. Donovan turned toward the stands, stared down the fans and put both hands to his ears in an “I can't hear you” gesture, and then ran to celebrate the first goal of his revived career.
“Listen, I've got an 8-month-old at home,” Donovan deadpanned after the match. “Diapers are expensive. I wish I was getting the benefits of AARP right now. But I think they probably realized I might have a little time left in me, this old guy.”
That was as boastful as Donovan got, though. What mattered, he said, was that his goal meant something to a club fighting for playoff position in the tough Western Conference.
“Ten years ago, I would have been really excited for me,” he told reporters. “I told you guys and my family when I came back, 'I want to help this team.' And I felt like last week, I was useless on the field, and I don't like that feeling. And this was a game that needed a play.
“I talked to Bruce weeks ago, and he said, 'We need you to come in and make a few plays that count. So I was happy, after the effort that they all put in, that I was able to help them get something out of it.”
That something stood up for a road point that kept the Galaxy within striking distance of Supporters' Shield leaders FC Dallas in the West, four points off the pace with four matches to go for both sides.
“When you look at the season, this team's given away a lot of points at the end of games, but we're the only team that's only lost four games,” Donovan said. “I don't think anyone's really all that close, maybe a couple with five or six losses. In the end, you do want to win, but to come back in a game like this, in a situation like this, in a stadium like this, against this team, is a pretty special result.
“I think it could look a lot like that in the playoffs. We've got to be able to come to a place like this and get something out of it.”