BY PATRICK MacDONALD
Everyone can exhale now; Landon Donovan is not retiring.
It was announced late last week that the most decorated striker in American Soccer history is due to return to the L.A. Galaxy. However, his comeback is penciled in for the end of March (at the earliest) by which point the Galaxy will have played a number of games already. On top of that, the U.S. will have two more qualifiers under it’s belt for which an out of form Donovan is most definitely a scratch.
One can respect another man’s need to figure out what he wants to do with his life; that much was said when Robbie Rogers made his big announcement. However, when such a huge decision affects so many others, when is enough, enough?
It makes all the sense in the world for the front office of the Galaxy (and Jurgen Klinsmann for that matter) to give Donovan all the time he needs. He is, after all, the biggest star in U.S. Soccer, and has given so much to both club and country. Putting his indelible stamp on five MLS Cups and a World Cup group victory have surely earned him some leniency with the bosses. It is unlikely any two high profile organizations in the world would endure this kind of a waiting game if it weren’t for the talent waiting at the other side.
But what about his teammates?
It’s highly unlikely that any reporter will get any member of the Galaxy or United States Men’s National Team to say anything condemning Donovan. His companions would need only look at Donovan himself to see the fallout of calling out a high profile teammate like he did with David Beckham. (Leave the calling out to Amobi Okugo instead!)
However, “The Decision” has to be frustrating Donovan’s teammates. The Galaxy know all too well that coming out of the gates slow makes for a far more stressful season than necessary; they need only look at recent history. Yes, they recovered well to win MLS Cup last year, but that isn’t a formula for success. Making things difficult didn’t make it any easier for them to achieve that end.
This year, they’re in a similar boat as they have two March Champions League matches. Sure they don’t have a Mexican team to face, but last year they dropped to lowly Toronto FC. Dismissing Herediano would be a mistake and having all hands on deck is of the utmost importance if they have any aspirations of moving on into the tournament.
Landon Donovan has every right in the world to do his soul searching and figure out what he wants to do with his life. However, at a certain point he has to take a look and see how his indecisiveness is affecting his teammates. A late March or April start will already raise eyebrows amongst his peers. Any combination of scenarios that sees the Galaxy washing out of CONCACAF Champions League, going 0-for-March or even the USMNT finishing the first three qualifiers without any points will direct all the finger-pointing squarely onto his shoulders – and not just from the press corps.
If he has finally found himself, maybe it is time he re-finds his teammates as well. He will need them, especially if his sides falter and questions start coming at him from all angles. If he doesn’t, who knows? He may wish he never came back at all.