Landon Donovan returned to MLS on Sunday, making a cameo appearance in the LA Galaxy's 4-2 win over Orlando City. He entered in the 83rd minute with the game already won. Afterward, Galaxy
coach Bruce Arena said that was the only circumstances he'd have played Donovan.
"You see he has a long way to go," said Arena of Donovan, who re-signed to a short-term contract on Thursday and trained with the Galaxy for the first time in
Friday. "He’s on the treadmill now. It’s going to take a while, we knew that. Probably no other circumstances would have allowed me to play him today, but I wanted him to get out there and
reward the crowd for showing up and all. It helps Landon see how far he has to go.”
Donovan said it was fun to be on the field at StubHub Center, where he played 10 years for the
"I realize I have a long way to go," he said. "I might have played five minutes or so and maybe completed one pass. It makes you realize it’s a whole different level. I have
to get myself going again so I can really contribute, because not every week is going to be a charity five or 10 minutes.”
Donovan admitted he went straight to the treadmill after
“Did you watch me play?" he said. "I need to get fit. I came into a game where both teams were exhausted and I was the slowest player on the field. So I need to get myself
ready to compete in a real way. Bruce and the coaching staff need to know that when they put me in, it can mean something. So tonight worked out well. But I need to be able to contribute.”
Donovan said he was nervous playing his first MLS game in 20 months.
“It’s just weird to be back in this mold because it’s real," he said. "It’s really
intense. The league has gotten dramatically better since I’ve been gone. When I looked at Orlando’s lineup, I mean they have really, really good players all over the field. It’s just
amazing to see how this league has changed. There’s no room to be not fit, not sharp. I’ve got to be on it if I want to contribute.”
The Galaxy has dealt with a slew of
recent injuries and the transfer of Nigel de Jong, but it took its goal output to nine in three games with Sunday's win.
Donovan came on for Raul Mendiola, who was making
only his second MLS start. Rafael Garcia made his first start of the season and just his sixth in five in midfield. Arena praised the work of the midfielder.
people as a starting point," Arena said, "but you don’t win any games that way. But they work real hard in training and they have a great work ethic. They understand what they can bring to the
team and they force themselves on you."
Giovani Dos Santos, whom Donovan had never played with in MLS, scored two goals and assisted on the other two to give him five goals and
four assists in his previous three games.
“He’s doing very well," said Arena of dos Santos' work. "This was a little bit of an issue, but I think he’s now a year into
playing on a full-time basis. As heralded as he was and is, he has not played on a regular basis in his club careers. Now he’s a year in and this season is probably the fullest season he’s
had in his career. And you can see that he’s now getting fitter, getting more experienced, understanding this league and understanding the things that he needs to do to make himself a better
player and also make our team a better team. And you can see that happening."