As recently as June, Landon Donovan was a 34-year-old retiree broadcasting U.S. games in the Copa América for Fox Sports. He was taking courses for his coaching badges. He was enjoying his first year as a new father. He had moved to the San Diego area with his wife, Hannah. He was playing a lot of tennis. In early July, he announced his role as part owner of Premier League's Swansea City.
Donovan, the all-time MLS leader in goals (144) and assists (136), the player who was so important to the league that it named its MVP trophy after him, is nearing the official completion of a deal that would see him come out of retirement and rejoin the Galaxy, SI.com has confirmed with multiple sources. Blake Thomsen of The Cauldron first reported the story.
According to a source with knowledge of the deal, which could be announced as early as Thursday, Donovan will play for the rest of this season with the Galaxy and has not yet committed to continuing beyond that. He will fill the spot of the recently departed Nigel de Jong on the roster, meaning Donovan will not be a Designated Player. While player selection is up to Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, Donovan could play as early as early as this Sunday against Orlando City (FS1, 7 p.m. ET).
What does it mean for Donovan? Well, despite not giving any hints of a return, he clearly has missed playing. He retired two years ago at age 32, a remarkably young age, even if he had been playing as a professional for 15 years already. Donovan talked openly of dealing with depression and struggling to find the motivation to continue the grind of soccer week after week, year after year.
But he left the sport while still playing at a high level. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann had controversially dropped Donovan from the 2014 U.S. World Cup team, but Donovan ended his LA career with an MLS Cup trophy, his third in four years and record sixth of his career, and put up superb numbers: 10 goals and a career-high 19 assists in the 2014 MLS season.
Now Donovan is back. “He’s our Brett Favre,” one MLS insider told SI.com on Thursday.
The Galaxy could use him, too. LA is in third place in the Western Conference with six games left in the regular season stretch run. The team sold de Jong to Turkey’s Galatasaray and has lost Gyasi Zardes for the rest of the regular season with a broken foot, but it has plenty of talent, led by Robbie Keane, Giovani Dos Santos and Steven Gerrard. At his best, Donovan is just the kind of player who could bring out the best in Dos Santos in a way that we haven’t totally seen yet in MLS.
More details will emerge in the coming days on Donovan’s return, but it’s hard to imagine that he would return if he didn’t think he could still excel in this league.
Whatever happens, it will be a lot of fun to find out if he can still bring it on the soccer field.