“I can’t even chase my son around my house, so, I don’t think so. Yeah, I’m done. I’m done. No more playing for me.” Famous last words for a guy who was retiring for a second time at the end of 2016. Landon Donovan had retired after the 2014, having won the MLS Cup with the LA Galaxy. He then came back to help the Galaxy in the final stretch to the playoffs in 2016. It wasn’t exactly the most brilliant of homecomings. After that season, he uttered the above words.
Now he’s joining Club León in Liga MX.
— Club León (@clubleonfc) January 16, 2018
Don’t get me wrong, Landon Donovan is a US soccer legend. Who could forget his goal in the 2010 World Cup against Algeria?
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I remember exactly where I was when I watched it. He was solid for the LA Galaxy and for the USMNT, at least up until his relationship issues with Jurgen Klinsmann. But that’s a story for another day.
Landon’s stats are pretty good. He was property of the German Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen early in his career, but spent most of his time with their reserve team. Leverkusen loaned him to the San Jose Earthquakes, where he scored 43 goals in 109 appearances over his 4-year loan spell. He then signed with the LA Galaxy, and his trajectory continued to skyrocket. Over 10 seasons with the Galaxy, Landon scored at least 10 goals in all competitions 9 times. As a national team player, he scored 57 times over 157 caps, and orchestrated 58 assists. He now leads MLS in all-time goals (145) and assists (136).
An American Abroad
For a guy who walked away from the game twice, I’m surprised by his return. Why come back now? What is there to prove? That you can play in Mexico as an American athlete? BINGO! That needs to be it.
Donovan has played abroad on more than one occasion, and it never seems to have gone as well as it should have. He didn’t do enough to convince Leverkusen to keep him, thus was continuously loaned out. When he did prove himself, the LA Galaxy wouldn’t allow his loan spell to be extended. In 2010, while on a two and a half month loan spell with Everton, Donovan scored 2 goals, registered 6 assists, and looked to be a big part of a growing force on the blue side of Liverpool. Unfortunately for the Toffees, he had made a promise to Galaxy leadership and coach Bruce Arena (my least favorite American coach) that he wouldn’t leave. I think this was the biggest mistake of his career, and that he’s trying to make up for it now.
There’s a void within him that must be filled. I can’t blame him. The need to prove oneself in a community that has had mixed feelings about you is a pretty significant driver. Will this move prove to be a good one, or will it be a bust?
Life South of the Border
“I know that if I commit myself to this there is no chance of failure so it’s incumbent on me to make sure I commit myself,” said Donovan in a news conference after his unveiling. The biggest question about this move is whether or not he can make a true impact. Club León has begun the season taking 6 points over their first two games, setting themselves up for a big match against Cruz Azul this weekend. If Donovan can make an impact, when will that be and what state will the team be in when he does?
There’s a legitimate possibility that he doesn’t make his first appearance for 6-8 weeks. The main concerns are his pace, stamina, and ability to stay healthy. He’s 35 years old and hasn’t played since 2016. The odds aren’t exactly stacking up in his favor. Match fitness is going to be tough to achieve. It’s going to take hard work and patience from Donovan to get back on the pitch, but it won’t be easy. When he does get back on the pitch he’s going to be re-living the US/Mexico rivalry regularly. Prominent Mexican players will place a target on his back, and do what they can to get the best of him. He needs to prepare for hard tackles, heightened emotions, and some fierce competition. It won’t be easy.
Whether it’s truly to test himself, or to be the center of attention again, this is happening. I don’t believe he will be a great success, however it’s an interesting prospect to keep our eyes on. “I don’t believe in walls, I always wanted to play in Mexico because I grew up in California playing with Mexicans since I was like 8 or 9 years old”, said Donovan. Here’s to your (potential) success, Landon. I don’t think you can hold up, but go ahead and prove me wrong.
The brave don’t live forever but the cautious do not live at all. I’m excited for this new adventure 😎⚽️🦁💚
— Landon Donovan (@landondonovan) January 13, 2018