After an almost two-year break from professional football, Landon Donovan has returned to LA Galaxy and the MLS for the remainder of the 2016 season – and immediately envisaged winning the next championship title with his old love.
So came the 83rd minute in the match between LA Galaxy and Orlando City SC. Los Angeles are leading 4-1 when the fourth official displays a substitution that is frenetically cheered by every one of the 27,167 spectators at the StubHub Center: Landon Donovan was making his comeback for LA to thunderous applause.
The now 34-year-old retired from his active career after winning the 2014 title -- 21 months later he announced his comeback. “I decided to play again for Galaxy for the remainder of the 2016 season”, Donovan said at the beginning of September. He will be available for the last six matches of the regular season as well as for the play-offs: “An opportunity opened for me, and after discussions with my advisers it felt right to return to the club that means so much to me.”
The former Bundesliga player, who played 13 league matches with Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich and won the German A-Youth title with Leverkusen in 2000, had a contract with Galaxy from 2005 until 2014. During that time he scored 134 goals in 299 competitive matches and recorded 105 assists – a record for Galaxy. In addition he achieved four championship titles (2005, 2011, 2012,2014) as well as the Cup event in 2005 with the record-winning American champions (5 titles). Accordingly Donovan’s coach Bruce Arena was happy: “I don’t have to tell anybody what Donovan has achieved in our sport.”
With that Arena hit the bull’s eye. With a total of 144 goals and 136 assists Donovan is the best attacker in the history of the MLS. In addition Landon Timothy Donovan, born in Ontario in California, is also the US national team’s record goalscorer. He was elected the best player in the USA numerous times, and in the 'All Time Best XI' by media representatives, coaches, players and referees on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the US Football Association in December 2013. However, the possibly greatest honour he received was when the election of 'Most Valuable Player' was re-named 'Landon Donovan MVP Award'.
After six American championship titles – two with San José (2001, 2003), four with LA – Donovan would like to celebrate his seventh title this season.“I have no illusions that I can play the full 90 minutes again”, disclosed the US international with 157 caps. “I think that some of my qualities, even though the strength is a bit diminished, can make the difference in a match; or in the dressing room and off the pitch. If all these small things help carry the team to the championship, it would feel great for me“.
This aim seems very realistic so far, with the team from California performing well. Though David Beckham’s former team are currently battling with some injuries, with further injured players in addition to Steven Gerrard having to be replaced, LA hold second place behind FC Dallas in the Western Conference. After 29 rounds Arena’s team registered not only the third-best defence but also the best attack in the Conference with 49 goals.
LA want to make up for last season, the first without Donovan. Galaxy managed only fifth place in the Western Conference. Though they reached the knock-out stage, they were eliminated in the first round – the worst result since 2008, when LA even failed to qualify for the play-offs.
Such a result should be preventable this season. After a very good season so far, the signing of the club’s legend triggered new euphoria.“Landon is an icon for LA Galaxy and the city of Los Angeles”, said the club’s president Chris Klein. “It is his wish to play again and win a further championship title.” That’s well possible. After his successful comeback there are just five more matches until the play-offs. And Donovan certainly knows how to win titles.