Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By IVES GALARCEP
CARSON, Calif. — We still don’t know what Landon Donovan will be doing, or where he will be when the next MLS season kicks off in March, but whether or not the LA Galaxy star follows through on hints of retirement, or chooses to prolong one of the best careers in American soccer history, Donovan will have the 2012 MLS Cup to add to his lofty list of accomplishments.
On a night that began with a nightmarish miss that threatened to let the underdog Houston Dynamo spoil David Beckham’s Galaxy farewell, Donovan and the Galaxy stepped up in the second half and took over a game they looked to be in jeopardy of losing.
Rather than dwell on that first half miss, Donovan shook it off and stepped up his play in the second half, culminating in what wound up being the game-winning penalty kick to help give the Galaxy the 3-1 victory, and give Donovan his record fifth MLS Cup title (tying record holders Jeff Agoos and Brian Mullan).
“A lot went through my mind,” Donovan said of the first-half miss that could have ruined his day. “When you’re in a moment like that you feel like you let the team down.
“It sat with me until halftime,” Donovan said. “I took a few minutes at halftime, sort of collected myself and tried to stay present, because you can’t change it.”
What Donovan could do is change the script for Saturday, and write himself a much better ending by stepping up and converting a penalty kick to make the score 2-1, giving the Galaxy the lead for good.
“It took some balls for him to step up and take that penalty,” David Beckham said of Donovan’s winning PK. “I could see what he was like after that chance leading up to halftime.”
By helping the Galaxy turn around a match they trailed at halftime, Donovan helped write a winning final chapter for his own career if he chooses not to return. Donovan wasn’t ready to reveal a decision, insisting that he hasn’t made one yet.
What Donovan would reveal is that he plans on taking an extended break.
“I have to listen to my heart and gut, and right now my gut says to get away for a while,” Donovan said. “I had a really nice moment where my sister got to come down on the field and (the baby) was sleeping on her. It sort of put it all in perspective and makes me realize I want to be closer to my family for a while and then figure out soccer later.”
The general consensus among the Galaxy is that Donovan will be back in 2013. Nobody is pretending to know for sure, but the sense in the locker room is that some time off should be enough to help Donovan re-charge his batteries and recapture his love for the game.
“I probably would be,” Arena said when asked if it would be surprising if Donovan retired. “We will be fully supportive of whatever Landon wants to do. He has still so much to offer the game as a player. I think hopefully, with a little bit of rest, he’ll be ready to get back at some point.”
“If I was a betting man, which I am, I would say he comes back,” said Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee. “When? I don’t know. I hope he goes to Hawaii. He can go for as long as he wants. I don’t think we can start much worse than we did this year so as long as he’s back before game 14 I think we’re good.”
Even Donovan doesn’t know for sure what the next step in his soccer career is, but he does know what the next step in his life will be. Some time off, some quality family time, and some peace and quiet after a wild 2012. He has done enough this year, and more than enough in his illustrious playing career to earn that time off and that chance to take his time making a decision on his future.