(February 20, 2013)-Landon Donovan let it be known earlier this week through his agent that he would be making his return to his MLS team the L.A. Galaxy at the end of March. The defending champions are set to start the 2013 season on March 3 and will be without their captain for most likely a month while Donovan works to get back into shape.
“After a series of collaborative discussions between Landon, his representatives and our key club leaders, we have agreed to allow Landon to remain on an extended leave of absence,” Galaxy Coach and General Manager Bruce Arena said via a statement by the L.A. Galaxy on Sunday. “We understand this agreement is not ideal, but we are confident it will allow Landon the time he needs to be both mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming season.”
One of the most recognized players in U.S. soccer history and the all-time leading goal scorer for the Galaxy, Donovan said last December after hoisting his 5th MLS championship trophy that he wanted to step aside from the game and was uncertain about when or if he would return. Citing both mental and physical fatigue, there was strong speculation that the 30 year old may walk away from the game for good.
While Coach Arena would no doubt prefer that his star midfielder start the season with the rest of the team, it is a long season and most likely Donovan will only miss a handful of games. And the Galaxy are quietly probably thankful one of their biggest stars is returning after losing the very popular David Beckham to Paris-Saint Germain in France.
The real question in the next few months is what will be Donovan’s contribution towards the U.S. Men’s national team as they continue their way towards qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. A dismal showing against Honduras on February 6 produced a 2-1 loss and while it marked only the beginning of their qualifying stage, it showed that Coach Jurgen Klinsmann is far away from leading a top-tier team.
The U.S. Men will next match up with Costa Rica on March 22 in Colorado and then Mexico only four days later at the famed Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Both will be important games for the Americans and based on Donovan’s timeline it is doubtful that the man who has scored the most goals for the national team will even be suited up.
Yet even if Donovan is not ready to play in either qualifier, this is the best time to have one of your most valuable players reenergizing himself for the long push towards Brazil. Between June and October there will be seven more games that the national team will be a part of in hopes to secure a spot the following summer at the World Cup. If these few extra weeks off this winter give Donovan the needed desire to keep playing at the high level we have seen him play over the past decade, then consider it well worth it.
With 144 caps there is no other player that has played more games than Donovan over the last 12 years for the U.S. and his 49 goals are the benchmark in which his fellow teammates strive for. For now the national team will need to prepare for those two games without Donovan but can secretly hope that his extended vacation will be enough to drive him towards leading the team to Brazil. And while it may be a tough road the next few months without him, it will be a very welcome site to see a refreshed and energized Donovan retake the pitch this spring.