If you’ve ever played adult soccer as an Angelino, this scenario sounds familiar to you. It’s Sunday morning and you’re still asleep when the phone rings. Your friend hurriedly claims their star forward is in Vegas and can’t make it, but even though you aren’t on the team, can you please head down to Whittier Narrows to help the team out?
Now just pretend that Vegas forward is Gyasi Zardes, and you get a pretty good idea how Landon Donovan ended up in a Galaxy uniform.
He's back. pic.twitter.com/tOEduyVv7u— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) September 8, 2016
It’s official: Landon Donovan, the all-time leader in goals (144) and assists (136), is back in MLS with the Galaxy. The question now is, how effective will the 34-year-old be in a league that has improved considerably since Donovan left?
Match fitness is the biggest concern. Landon himself said he would need six months to get back into proper shape, a standard timeframe for how long a professional soccer player needs to be effective. There’s a reason even after robust pre-seasons, most teams take months to really hit that top gear.
It doesn’t help Donovan hasn’t played a competitive match since MLS Cup 2014. Unless LD has been training in a top-secret underground bunker somewhere, he needs to start getting as much touches as he possibly can ASAP.
As far as Landon’s physical health, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Sure Donovan is older, and there were concerns about his pace before he retired, but Landon is still a world-class athlete complete with an exceptional soccer acumen. Crucially, Donovan has enjoyed two precious years of rest for his body to heal after running his body into the ground for so long.
Mentally, Landon also needs to be dialed in from the beginning, which is not always easy, especially when dealing with what will be a ton of pressure to perform.
Listening to Donovan speak, you get the impression Landon doesn’t expect to contribute right away.
But if anyone can pull this off, its LD. Landon might not score goals right away, but LA have one heck of a wild card to utilize down the stretch. And just imagine what Donovan teaming up with Giovani dos Santos in the midfield could look like.