Welcome back, Landon.
Once again, you are following your gut, ignoring potential critics, and Major League Soccer fans should be delighted that you decided to come out of retirement after 21 months to rejoin the L.A. Galaxy for its playoff push.
Count this reporter among the followers of the game who will be tuned into FS1 on Sunday at 7 p.m. as the Galaxy plays Orlando City. To be honest, I hadn’t planned to watch this match. But now that Landon Donovan is playing, I am intrigued.
You’re 34 years old now, father of an infant son, and you haven’t played a competitive match since Dec. 7, 2014. So, surely you won’t be in peak form. But nobody in U.S. or MLS history has scored more goals than you, nor won more MLS Cups (six). You played in three World Cups, and, in my opinion, should have played in four.
When you’re in the game, there’s always a chance for a magical moment, a perfect pass, a clever move, a lethal strike. And, who better to lead in the locker room? That is why it makes perfect sense for the Galaxy to take a chance and sign you for the final six matches of the season.
Yes, the team has Giovani dos Santos, Robbie Keane and Mike Magee. But Gyasi Zardes is injured, and you bring experience, wisdom and that promise of magic to the team as it heads into a crucial stretch. As the face of American soccer for so long, you will also sell tickets and draw a lot of media attention.
“Landon had a desire to play again, so in this case, if you’re going to gamble a little bit, this is a pretty good guy to gamble with,” Galaxy coach and general manager Bruce Arena told reporters.
Donovan explained his decision on Facebook. Two weeks ago he was working as an analyst on the Galaxy-Vancouver game and three L.A. players sustained injuries, including Zardes. Then, Nigel De Jong was transferred to Galatasaray. Some Galaxy staffers who remain close to Donovan jokingly asked if he was ready to return to the field.
“Over the ensuing days, I began to think about their inquiries and it struck me that perhaps this is something I should consider,” Donovan wrote. “I care so deeply about the Galaxy organization, and I believe I could help in a small way to aid the team in its quest for a 6th MLS championship. Further, the opportunity to have my son Talon on the field with me after a game was a feeling that I would never be able to replicate.
“I then had a candid conversation with Bruce Arena, and we began down the path of deciding whether this made sense. We both agreed that if this was going to happen, the expectations would be minimal and he would use me in situations that made sense for the team. I’ve spent a lot of time speaking with my family and close friends over the past several days, and we all agreed that this would be a wonderful opportunity and a win-win situation for everyone.”
Donovan has always followed his heart, even if others didn’t understand. He left Germany to return to MLS and critics called him soft. Citing burnout, he took a sabbatical from the U.S. national team even though he knew it didn’t sit well with coach Jurgen Klinsmann. And now, he is doing it again. He’ll be wearing No. 26 in honor of Talon’s birthdate — Jan. 26, 2016.
“I know this won’t be received well by everyone. That’s OK. I’ve always made decisions in life based on two guiding principles: my own happiness and the happiness of those I love and care about. Being on the field again, being able to help an organization that has meant so much to me and having my son in my arms after a game will undoubtedly make me and all my loved ones happy. That’s all that matters.”
Amen, Landon. Good to have you back.
▪ UM freshman Fisher shines: University of Miami freshman Kristina Fisher wasted no time making an impact. Through six games, the Jupiter native has six goals and had five assists. Her 17 points rank fourth in the nation, and she was named national college player of the week on Aug. 23 after scoring two goals with an assist in 49 minutes during her college debut against North Florida.
The Hurricanes (5-2-0) play their final non-conference match at 1 p.m. Sunday against FIU (0-5-1) at Cobb Stadium. Admission is free. The first 100 fans receive UM water bottles.
▪ Miami FC hosts Mexican Heritage Night: Miami FC returns to FIU Stadium on Wednesday to play the Carolina RailHawks, and the team hopes to match the nearly 10,000 fans who showed up for the last home game. The game is being billed as Mexican Heritage Night. The first 2,500 fans receive a Miami FC Mexican Heritage shirt and mini Mexican flag. Also, first responders get in for $1 with their ID.
MLS: East — NYC (44), Toronto and New York (43), Philadelphia (40), Montreal (37). West — Dallas (51), Real Salt Lake, Los Angeles (44), Colorado (43), Kansas City (39).
NASL: Cosmos (27), Edmonton (24), Indy (21), Minnesota (20), Miami FC (19).
English Premier League: Manchester City (12), Chelsea and Manchester United (9), Tottenham (8), Liverpool, Arsenal, Hull, Everton (7).
La Liga: Real Madrid (9), Sevilla (7), Las Palmas, Barcelona (6), Atletico Madrid, Villarreal, Alaves (5).
Sunday: Roma vs. Sampdoria (8:55 a.m., BEIN), Swansea City vs. Chelsea (11 a.m., NBCSN, TELEM), N.Y. Red Bulls vs. D.C. United (1 p.m., ESPN), L.A. Galaxy vs. Orlando City (7 p.m., FS1).