Landon Donovan is set to train today with the Los Angeles Galaxy for the first time since announcing he is returning to the Major League Soccer team after nearly two years of retirement.
Donovan, considered to be the greatest American male soccer player, announced Thursday he decided to return after watching the Galaxy fall victim to a series of injuries to key players, including Jelle Van Damme, Steven Gerrard and Gyasi Zardes.
“Since my retirement, I have remained in close contact with many of the staff and players on the Galaxy,” the 34-year-old Donovan wrote on his Facebook page.
“I spoke with some of them that week and they jokingly asked if I was ready to make a return to the field to help fill some of the void left by the injuries and departures.”
Donovan noted that he has not played for nearly two years and likely could no longer fill the shoes of the injured players, but he believes “I could help in a small way to aid the team in its quest for a 6th MLS championship.”
Donovan said he spoke to coach-general manager Bruce Arena and “we both agreed that if this was going to happen, the expectations would be minimal and he would use me in situations that made sense for the team.”
“I’ve spent a lot of time speaking with my family and close friends over the past several days, and we all agreed that this would be a wonderful opportunity and a win-win situation for everyone,” he wrote.
Said Arena: “I don’t think I need to tell anyone what Landon has accomplished in our sport. He’s truly been a great player. Now Landon wishes to take on another challenge and I believe he has all the qualities necessary to be a player who can help the LA Galaxy in 2016.”
Donovan signed Thursday for the remainder of the season and is eligible to play Sunday against Orlando City SC at StubHub Center.
Donovan joins a team that is tied for second in MLS’ 10-team Western Conference with six games remaining with a 10-4-14 record, including a 1-1-6 mark in its last eight games.
Donovan retired after the 2014 season, saying that “after spending half my life as a professional soccer player, I also am excited to begin a new chapter and pursue other opportunities that will challenge me and allow me to grow as a person.”
Donovan holds the MLS records for goals with 144 and assists, with 136. He is also the U.S. men’s national team’s all-time leading scorer with 57 goals and 58 assists, the only American with both 50 goals and assists. He played in three FIFA World Cups, and his five goals in those tournaments are the most by an American player.
Donovan attended Redlands High School and Redlands East Valley High School. He began his professional career in 1999 with Germany’s Bayer 04 Leverkusen. He was loaned to MLS’ San Jose Earthquakes in 2001, remaining with the team through 2004. He joined the Galaxy in 2005, is the team’s leader in goals (112) and assists (107), and helped them win four MLS Cups.