Trips to Cambodia; impromptu discussions with USC students … is this the beginning, or the end for Landon Donovan? The 31-year-old is scheduled to make his long awaited return to the Galaxy this month, but what does that even mean? Four writers (our fifth was sent off with a red card) discuss Donovan’s uncertain future.
What should we expect from Landon Donovan when he returns to Galaxy this month?
John Halloran, Bleacher Report: Well, to be frank, you shouldn’t expect to see him on the field. After his extended sabbatical, even LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has said that Donovan won’t be ready to play until the end of April. When he does come back, he should be the same Landon Donovan he has always been. Even at 31 years of age, and with a passion for the game that he admits is waning, he is still one of the best players in MLS. He also has a great on-field connection with Robbie Keane and the two can absolutely shred a defense when they get connected.
Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times: We should expect him to need at least three weeks to be fit enough for MLS game action. I wouldn’t expect to see him in a game before late April. The most interesting thing for me is what kind of reception will he get from his teammates? Publicly, everyone has spoken in support of him. But privately many around the Galaxy have expressed frustration about Donovan’s lack of commitment to the team and the organization.
Bryan Byrne, Soccer Cleats 101: The time off should do Landon some good and I am sure he will be chomping at the bit to get back on the pitch. We don’t always get to see whats happening in the daily life of a pro player and there is a lot of pressure involved on and off the pitch. Let’s hope the spell away really reinvigorates him and gives him his passion for the game back.
Francisco Ramos, Soccer Writer/Comic: I think we should expect the same Donovan that we originally had with the LA Galaxy. Hopefully, he didn’t take this retirement too seriously, and he isn’t like 20 pounds overweight and in no running shape. However, if that’s the case, it gives me a chance to be part of the LA Galaxy, or better yet, the LA Galazy.
On a scale of 1-10, how concerned should we be about his commitment to
US Soccer and the game as a whole?
Halloran: 8. There is no question that Donovan is on his way out of the game. Being the face and backbone of U.S. Soccer and MLS for the last decade has clearly taken its toll. Both with his MLS teams and the USMNT, Donovan is always expected to be the difference maker and, throughout most of his career, he has rarely missed a start for either side. While the LA Galaxy might be fine without him–they did very well this weekend without him–the USMNT is still clearly not ready to move on. The U.S. player pool has plenty of good, young options at the wing, but none of them are even close to Donovan in terms of their overall game, or the impact they can have on a match.
Baxter: Very much. He’s made it clear that soccer is not his No. 1 priority right now. And that’s fine; I don’t have a problem with that. But I think Juergen Klinsmann has a huge problem with it. If the U.S. starts winning, we may not see Donovan during qualifying. If they don’t get their offense straightened out, though, Klinsmann has some tough decisions to make regarding Landon.
Byrne: 5/10. Things in US soccer are moving forward very quickly and unfortunately I think Landon is being left behind. That is not a bad thing as it simply illustrates the growth of the game here. It is concerning that he is feeling burnt out, I mean you look at players like Ryan Giggs and you have to wonder why he is struggling to find passion especially after his positive spells in England. But for every player it is different and I think the fact the Landon has had to essentially be the poster boy for so long has impacted him in an unfavorable fashion.
Ramos: I’ll go with negative one. I don’t think we should be concerned at all that Donovan is going to play for the US National team. That IS the only reason he’s coming back to the LA Galaxy – he just wants to get in shape to get ready for the World Cup Next Year. He knows the US will advance to the World Cup no matter what, so he’s taking his sweet time to get ready so he can eventually play the meaningful games.
We debate Landon’s place in US Soccer history after the jump.