Major League Soccer

Landon Donovan Ends His Retirement, Rejoins Galaxy

An American soccer icon has returned to the game, and will spend the rest of the 2016 season playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy. ASN's Brian Sciaretta believes this is great news for the player and the sport.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
September 08, 2016
7:00 AM

THE AMERICAN SOCCER COMMUNITY is having a pretty good week.

The United States men's national team qualified for the Hexagonal, Christian Pulisic showcased his special talent in two World Cup qualifying wins, and now Landon Donovan has announced that he is coming out of retirement to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy for the remainder of 2016.

Donovan, 34, announced his retired in 2014 after helping the Galaxy win that year's MLS Cup, initially stepping away from the game at the tender age of 32. 

Jurgen Klinsmann cut Donovan from the 2014 World Cup team, and the attacking midfielder responded by dominating the league. Klinsmann gave him one final goodbye cap against Ecuador that fall but it was a weird experience with the controversial World Cup omission still on the minds of many.

While an international comeback will be the longest of long shots (albeit very fun to think about with the upcoming home World Cup qualifier against Mexico in two months), it's great to have Donovan back in the game. And the Galaxy need the help after the season-ending injury to Gyasi Zardes and Nigel De Jong's abrupt move to Turkey. Bruce Arena will no doubt find a way to utilize the best player the United States has ever produced.


Even if he is eventually surpassed by another American player, Donovan's career changed the course of American soccer and he will always be the most influential player in American soccer history. Why? Because for a long time there were serious doubts that soccer would amount to anything in this country. When enthusiasm lagged, Donovan was there to carry the torch for MLS and the U.S. national team. Top prospects like Christian Pulisic, Paul Arriola, Kellyn Acosta, Rubio Rubin, and Lynden Gooch have a much stronger foundation to help build the sport in the U.S. because of Donovan.

For evidence of his influence think about this: Without Donovan, the U.S. does not advance out of group play at the World Cup in 2002 and 2010, thereby having a drought from 1994 to 2014 where it does not reach the round of 16. Does the sport survive in the United States with that sort of futility? He put the team on his shoulders many times in qualifying, Gold Cups, and also at the 2000 Olympics.

On the international stage, Donovan walked away with a staggering 57 international goals and 56 assists. He didn’t just rack up stats against minnows either. His resume boasts goals in meaningful competitions against Italy, Brazil, Ghana, Slovenia, Poland, and of course his dramatic stoppage-time goal against Algeria to put the U.S. team into the knockout stages at the 2010 World Cup.

Donovan tormented the United States' arch rival, Mexico, throughout his entire career. His scored his first international goal against El Tri on October 25, 2000 and closed his international account in a 2-0 win over Mexico in Columbus in 2013. Mexican fans grew to hate Donovan—and grudgingly respect him—after the U.S eliminated its neighbor in the Round of 16 at the 2002 World Cup. 

The Ontario, Calif., native will bolster the Galaxy's attack, but in returning to professional soccer he stands to help himself, too. Following his retirement, Donovan spoke of depression and became a vocal advocate that this country needs to do more to support those with mental illness. While stopping short of saying that depression forced him out of the game or that it was the reason why he needed to take a sabbatical in 2013, it certainly led many to draw that conclusion.

Since he left in 2014, Donovan became a father and has spent time working with young players to help them develop. He has coached MLS' Homegrown game during all-star festivities and even showed up in New Zealand to work with the U.S. U-20 team ahead of the 2015 World Cup.

Now with the national team with Donovan an afterthought, it seems like the perfect time for him to come in, help his old team out, and eventually leave the sport on the right terms. If he can work some magic on the field in the meantime, it will only make it better.

It should be a fun ride.

What's your take on Donovan's return to the game? Tell us in the Comments section below.

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