Arena: Donovan to return the last week of March

LandonDonovanMLSCup1 (Getty)

BY DAN KARELL

American soccer fans have been given another update on the status of Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan.

Speaking with LA Galaxy Insider ahead of the Galaxy’s CONCACAF Champions League match against Costa Rican side Herediano on Wednesday, coach Bruce Arena revealed that Donovan would return to the team by the last week of March.

Arena wouldn’t be specific on which date exactly his staff expected Donovan to return, but admitted that it would be any time between March 24-March 31. The Galaxy opened their season on March 3, playing without Donovan for the first time since he joined the team in 2005. Assuming he is fit, the 31-year-old midfielder could potentially suit up for his club on either March 30 at Toronto FC or April 6 against the Montreal Impact at home.

The news ensures that Donovan will miss out on the upcoming US Men’s National Team World Cup Qualifiers against Costa Rica on March 22, and Mexico on March 26. The next international match that Donovan could potentially play in is against Belgium on May 29.

Donovan had most recently been seen on the University of Southern California campus, speaking to journalism students, before going on an unpaid trip to Cambodia.

What do you think of this development? See Donovan making an immediate return to the lineup? Do you believe he’ll be a part of the USMNT in the future? Does it make you mad to see him coming back right around the same time the U.S. will be playing Mexico in World Cup qualifying?

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66 Responses to Arena: Donovan to return the last week of March

  1. Vic says:

    He should play out this season and his contract will expire. Take a break and sign with Everton at the end of January instead of the beginning. (Beckham signed with PSG end of January which allowed for a bigger break) Donovan should then play in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and then retire from internacional football. This will allow Donovan a decent break so if he wants to continue with Everton he won’t be burned out.

  2. Rex says:

    He should definitely pay for that trip. Do you know what Cambodians do to debtors?

  3. Brian says:

    what Vic said makes so much sense.. except I think the ship has passed on Everton.. I’m not sure they would want Donovan anymore but that’s just my speculation.. I personally think he still can perform at EPL level but I do love to see him play for my Galaxy so I’m torn

  4. Old School says:

    “before going on an unpaid trip to Cambodia.”

    I recall reading on this site he went on vacation to Cambodia. Which was odd, to begin with. Instead, he doing some sort of charity work?

  5. A says:

    What does “unpaid trip to Cambodia” even mean? Is it referencing that the Galaxy didn’t pay for it? Because I would be shocked if the Galaxy were financing anything he’s doing while not fulfilling his contract and leaving the team hanging.

    • Gnarls says:

      No, it means his pay is being docked while he’s not playing. In other words, he’s not receiving a paycheck until he comes back.

  6. Drew says:

    Really could care less if he is in a US jersey again or not. Pretty much lost a lot of respect for the guy after the HON loss. I see guys like Dempsey, Bradley, and Howard who’d kill to represent this team. I guarantee if they watched a loss from home, that’s all that would take for these guys to get motivated to play again. Donovan has done so much for this sport, but you’re playing for your country and 10 other guys. If you’re not fully committed let the next guy step up. Find yourself or do whatever you need, but if you don’t bleed red, white, and blue please give me someone who does.

    • Tony in Quakeland says:

      Funnily enough, after watching that pathetic, dreary loss to Hondurous, I CAN’T WAIT to see Donovan back in a US jersey…

      • Michael says:

        + 1

          • Yevgeniy says:

            +3

              • Lil' Zeke says:

                +5… but thanks for playing Tony

              • Lil' Zeke says:

                er, Drew

              • Riggity says:

                ….+94. that’s good in theory but it’s not like we have 3 pr 4 younger Donovans fighting to get on the field. And holy crap the guy has represented his country over 100 times, he says he needs a break and all of a sudden he doesn’t bleed red white and blue?

              • Drew says:

                Whoa lol.. I thought that might wake some people up… Look Donovan has been our most effective and consistent player and in no way am I saying it’s going to be east to replace him. But if you cant get up for MEX in WCQ then i doubt in a month you’ll be good to go. He should be out there, but it’ll take longer for me to accept his dedication than others. Even the way he talks not is like “Soccer shouldnt define who I am”, and ” I have other things I want to do”. Just doesnt sound like hes anxious to get back on the field, which I believe is going to be a problem down the road when he is inevitably called back to camp. Hey let the dude prove me wrong, but for now he’s in the dog house

      • Charles says:

        I hope that by fully commited, you don’t mean like the lackluster efforts of many against Honduras?

        • Ryan in NYC by way of NC says:

          I hear what you’re saying, Charles, I do. But as a competitor or teammate, I don’t want you going into battle with the team unless you’re 100% committed. LD was clearly not in a good place mentally or physically and felt he needed to what was best for Landon. People in other professions take sabbaticals from time to time right? Why are he hating on him for actually taking the time to get his s**t together?

    • kmac014 says:

      Um didn’t he let the next guy step up cause he’s not fully committed?…

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      I don’t think he’s ever re-committed to the USMNT, FWIW. I think people see it as the logical next step but there are players like Friedel who internationally retired while carrying on their club play.

      Kinda like Holden, I think it’s the fanbase getting wound up about the issue, pro and con, because the central figure is non-commital.

  7. Sabella says:

    As great as Donovan is, on a go forward basis, he is a risk to the Nats set up. We really can’t afford to have a player who isn’t giving 110%. No doubt he has been the game changer for us over the last decade. I just don’t know if he is in the right place mentally for the USmnt.

    • GW says:

      Sabella,

      Which was why Donovan took a break.

      • Sabella says:

        I get it. At this point though, if Landon decides to rejoin the Nats set (and Klinsi decides to call him in), the truth is we don’t know if LD is goin to have his game face on. I think I would rather have Shea and Zusi playing like its the most important games of their lives in lieu of a quasi-committed LD.

        • Riggity says:

          HE WOULDNT BE COMING BACK IF HE WASN’T FULLY COMMITTED. Say what you want about Donovan but if he isn’t fully committed I am sure he WON’T accept a call up t the NATS. Where do people get this logic? I understand why you would question is commitment but I don’t understand wh you would think he will play for the USA if he’s not fully committed? International soccer is about commitment, if you aren’t committed you won’t even be called in, it’s not like playing for the Galaxy and your weekly paycheck.

        • GW says:

          Sabella,

          Well, it’s up to JK to gauge that.

          But then you probably don’t trust JK.

          The truth is you are so used to Donovan always being so reliable that you have taken him for granted.

          Put it another way, how can you trust the commitment of any of these guys?After all they are not paid for this.

          At least Donovan was honest enough about his state of mind. Maybe Jozy’s problem is he just isn’t committed to the US.

          Lots of you used to question Dempsey’s comittment to the US even though he always showed up. I remember tons of posts back in 2009 about how Clint only played for Fulham and just showed up for the US.

        • The Imperative Voice says:

          Even if I approved of your argument there are ways of handling it short of a cut off nose to spite face exclusion. You handle it like Chandler, he plays a friendly before he plays a quali. Or he comes off the bench so it’s not risking the match. If he plays like Old Landon, voila, you have your answer. But to some extent this is an all star team that rises and falls with the quality of its components, and there is a general consensus the wing play is lacking and that we can do better at forward than Jozy/Boyd/EJ/Wondo. Landon at 90% would solve those issues better than many of the incumbents and competition at 100%.

          The Chandler example also speaks to your theories about his emotional readiness. He’s a pro who usually “shows up.” He has had some bad games or plays, and is not the toughest defender. But he is enough of a pro where if he says he needs a break to play like he wants, there’s a good chance when he comes back he’ll be in the right place.

  8. el paso tx says:

    Good for galaxy,maybe he can play against monterrrey in champions. Is he bringing lampard with him or kaka.

  9. Beast says:

    Think its funny that Donovan says he needs a break. Top players like Messi and Ronaldo play year in and out on the pitch. Even Dempsey plays alot of games in a tougher league, and Demps doesn’t like to complain about playing games. I realize he’s human, but with his salary and his profession, suck it up buddy.

    • Rick says:

      Yeah, but Messi and Ronaldo take breaks in the off-season. Do you realize that 4 of the last 5 years Donovan didn’t take a break and went and played overseas?

      • Brian says:

        I don’t buy it.

        Until this year, the European off-season was a lot shorter than the MLS off-season and the European off-season coincides with the Euros, Copa American, and the World Cup.

        Every year Ronaldo and Messi have been on teams competing in their domestic league, Champions League and the FA Cup or Copa Del Rey. On top of that, the MLS season consists of less games and the Galaxy haven’t gone deep in any cup competition in recent years with the exception of last year’s CCL.

        Donovan doesn’t have the drive that Ronaldo, Messi, or even Beckham has and that has lead to his ‘exhaustion’. Keep in mind there is a difference between drive and competitiveness. The closest example of Donovan and his personality is the eccentric Hidetoshi Nakata of Japan who walked away from the sport at age 29 or 30 despite being the best Japanese player at the time who had played in Serie A and EPL.

        • the unmistakeable Ronaldinho says:

          I guess you didn’t know his break is reportedly for mainly non-soccer related issues. The guy has a life outside of the game and it wasn’t in good shape. He needed a break, its almost over, hes coming back. Can this topic please die soon?

        • The Imperative Voice says:

          People could also throw around comparisons of players like Owen who started similarly early and started to fall apart in their mid 20s. Messi is only 25 so he hasn’t hit the wall yet.

          FWIW, many of the Big Teams stagger their preseasons in ways where general first teamers and prospects may show up at different times than the Meal Tickets. If the Meal Tickets play in the Euros they get to go on vacation before coming back.

          And you’re neglecting that Landon has been all things to everyone, Galaxy games, Everton loans when that’s off, US games in between, and he was the dominant callup in that period, not taking Gold Cups or friendlies off like some players.

    • Dimo says:

      He’s played more games than Clint by a long shot. LA, USMNT, and three loan spells in the past 4 years. That’s go-go-go with no rest. Messi and Ronaldo weren’t brought up with the job of promoting and starring their national team. Yeah, some people would love to be in Landon’s shoes. But they’re not. If he didn’t take the break he’d either, a) retire early or b) play poorly due to lack of motivation. What he has done took guts. And I expect the USMNT will be rewarded for it. Just wait.

      • baropbop says:

        Don’t forget CCL, exhibition preseason games, us open cup, confederations cup and more. He has played so much it’s ridiculous.
        He deserves a break and he did it at the right time and notified everyone in advance, what more do you want?

    • GW says:

      Beast,

      Have you discussed this with Professor X? Great name.

      Comparing Leo Messi and Christiano Ronaldo to Landon Donovan seems like a bad idea.

      Leo and Christiano can both make a legitimate claim to being, arguably, the greatest player of all time. And they are far from done.

      Landon is arguably the greatest American player of all time but that is realistically at least one or two levels below them.

      So it is true that the pressure on them is far greater than the pressures on Donovan but then so are the rewards they reap.

      Which is the whole point.

      Leo and Christiano are still young enough that they have realistic goals left to achieve. For example, both have yet to win the World Cup and both may have a realistic shot at it. If one of them does that then they will have cemented their legacy.

      Landon on the other hand has achieved just about every realistic goal he can and, at his age, has no easily achievable realistic goals left.

      All that is for him left is winning the World Cup and leading Everton to a trophy

      Winning the World Cup is achievable but will require quite an effort on his part and a big effort from the entire USMNT. And a little luck.

      Leading Everton to a trophy is less straight forward. The Galaxy want to hang on to him and won’t sell him for a price that Everton would be willing to pay for a 31 year old. Moyes loves him but not at the likely price Everton would have to pay. Not for a guy whose legs may be going. And who knows if Moyes is going to stay there? That ship has probably already sailed.

      Donovan knows better than any of you just what it would take to achieve these things and I think he has to figure out if he is willing at this point to put in the effort for the “second act” so to speak and whether it is even a good idea. Maybe he should just bow out now while the US still has time to learn how to play without him.

      Besides, Dani Alves just came out with an interview where he said Barca’s recent slump was due to everyone being burned out. And I notice Xavi is out with a thigh injury. So maybe those guys are beginning to succumb to the pressure as well.

  10. Aaron says:

    So, isn’t just a rewording of information from a couple of weeks ago?

    • Brian says:

      This is news because Bruce address the situations again. Previously he had only stated Donovan was returning at the end of March. Today he clarified that Donovan would be returning during the last week of March.

  11. bottlcaps says:

    I don’t expect LD to start a regular season game until early April. I doubt his match fitness is where it should be compared to the rest of the team. I expect he could come off the bench in March and play for about 15 minutes before he becomes gassed. Remember he has not played in any competitive match since the MLS Cup. To think he could gain match fitness by late March is a little too much to hope for.I expect he will use all of April to gain match fitness and only become a semblance of his old self late April/early May.

  12. 2tone says:

    If he comes back to the USMNT, he comes back. If he doesn’t, then he doesn’t.

    But lets not kid ourselves here. Donovan can still be an impact player for the USMNT.

    • HoBo says:

      + 1,

      there’s a lot of people who love to talk crap about him and say they lost respect for him for taking some time away but who gives a rats ass because when he does come back he will help our nat team…plain and simple. As good as a lot of our players are, Donovan, when hes on (and hopefully that’s the case when he comes back) can change a game like no one else on our team.

  13. kash says:

    So am I the only one that believes he should be punished for this? If this was going on anywhere else he would be fined and probably benched for a good amount of time. Don’t get me wrong I understand that he has a whole nations pressure on him, but a contract is a contract. I still believe an example should be made, one more reason I don’t like bruce arena.

    • Fredo says:

      Bruce doesn’t like you.

    • jon says:

      i could see him getting benched a bit — not as punishment but just to give him time to get his fitness back. he’s obvioulsy not being paid is contract salary while on leave. other than that you don’t fine or punish the guy whose done perhaps more than anyone alive for the Galaxy, the MLS and us soccer program. Donovan totally earned his sabbatical, and bruce handled this one just right. yeah, lots of other players slog through and never ask for this kind of break, but i respect donovan for having the guts to ask for something he feels he needs, to hell with what others think.

    • GW says:

      The people who hold his contract, the Galaxy and MLS do not seem to agree with you.

      So if the people who are paying him the money have worked out something with him ( and who knows if that has happened) then why do you feel you need to take your pound of flesh as well?

      • Kash says:

        I totally understand, I’m not out for blood, but in times of frustration for players, managers aren’t as willing to let, especially there best player, go against there contract

    • Brian says:

      Sure, people share your frustration, but most people recognize that not getting paid for not playing is pretty much the equivalent to a fine.

      As far as punishing him, as someone very wise said “Special players get special treatment.”

  14. Don Pelayo says:

    AWOL

  15. lprevolution says:

    After reading these comments, I guess that I’d say that we can all agree that some just “retire” then “come out of retirement?” At lease he is still loyal to his club, right?

    Moreover, Americans seem to do a lot of things differently, and in this case he’s just adding to the off-the-field drama, to which we as fans respond. Whether you openly are for or against the “personal quest” that Landy has undergone, in the end, it is adding to the growing ethos of soccer as culture in the USA. All of which, for these reasons and more, I am intrigued, and satisfied enough to watch the next game he plays in either live or on screen.

  16. Andrew says:

    You guys have seen the pictures from Cambodia of what he’s doing there, haven’t you? Clearly he’s there to train with some reclusive soccer guru in the jungle.

  17. Bostitch says:

    Things like these is what makes people look at MLS as a fake league and soccer as a game for the weak

    • Brian says:

      However, those people generally lose credibility when they open their mouths and attempt to formulate a coherent thought because they are generally uninformed.

      Domestically, American sports are filled with examples of people doing this…Roger Clemens, Brett Favre, Tiki Barber come to mind as athletes who stepped away or played only when they wanted to.

      Internationally, Hidetoshi Nakata walked away from soccer at a younger age despite being the best player for Japan at the time.

  18. K says:

    why in March? Why not April? The regular season in the MLS is meaningless.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      FWIW, he is returning to the Galaxy in March but that may mean beginning training, it could be April before he sees a field.

      Based on last year one might say they could blow off the first few months and still win, like you say, but they’ve not started off particularly slow, and may be lining up a Lampard signing to boot, so those thoughts may be academic.

  19. B1879 says:

    The most interesting thing from the article is the Belgium friendly. I hadn’t heard about that.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      Yeah that is interesting, not on the official schedule yet. A little googling indicates that Kljestan has tweeted that he thinks it’s happening — Mr. Belgian @ Anderlecht — and that the Cleveland press has rumored an unconfirmed Cleveland-based friendly against Belgium on May 29.

  20. Schwartz says:

    Got a lot of respect for him and can understand taking time away from the game but it definitely hurts to see him not try to get it together to play a team like Mexico. You would think a qualifying game against your rival should be able to get someone out of a mental funk but unfortunately I guess not. Say what you will about taking someone else who will give 100% but the fact of the matter is Donovan on a bad day is better than the majority on the roster.