[MLS SPOTLIGHT]Landon Donovan will return to the two-time Los Angeles Galaxy for his 13th MLS season -- and ninth with the Galaxy. But he won't return to training until the last week of March -- which means he'll miss the Galaxy's first three league matches -- all at home -- its two Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal matches and the USA's 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico. For a look what the Galaxy's options are ...
LA Galaxy in March
March 3 vs. Chicago (MLS)
March 7 at Herediano (CCL)
March 13 vs. Herediano (CCL)
March 17 vs. Chivas USA (MLS)
March 23 vs. Colorado (MLS)
March 30 at Toronto FC (MLS)
“After a series of collaborative discussions between Landon, his representative and our key club leaders, we have agreed to allow Landon to remain on an extended leave of absence and return to training with the team during the final week of March,” Galaxy GM and manager Bruce Arenasaid in a club statement. “We understand this arrangement is not ideal," Arena's statement continues, "but we are confident it will allow Landon the time he needs to be both mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming season. We remain focused on our preparation for the start of the 2013 season and look forward to Landon rejoining us next month.”
How soon he returns to game action after resuming training with the Galaxy remains to be seen -- as will whether he make himself available for selection for the remainder of the USA's Hexagonal campaign. Another unknown: Donovan's plans after 2013, the final year of his current contract.
Donovan is one of only a dozen players still active who played in MLS in 2001, his first year in the league. He won titles with the San Jose Earthquakes in 2001 and 2003 and with the Galaxy in 2005, 2011 and 2013. His 124 goals are third in the league all-time behind only Jeff Cunningham(134) and Jaime Moreno (133).
Donovan's absence leaves the Galaxy thin up front. Edson Buddle was dealt to the Colorado Rapids in the offseason. For Saturday's match against South Korea's Gangwon FC, Mike Magee and Jack McBeanstarted. (Robbie Keane was back home in Ireland attending a family funeral.)
Until Donovan's return, Mike Magee is expected to start alongside Keane, and Colin Clark, picked up from Houston in the Re-Entry Draft, will start in Magee's place in midfield.
Marcelo Sarvasshould take David Beckham's spot in midfield that will also likely include Juninho and Michael Stephens. Another candidate is Jose Villarreal, but he is away with the U.S. U-20 national team.