Landon Donovan says return to Major League Soccer 'just felt right'
Landon Donovan says he was perfectly happy being retired from playing soccer, but when the opportunity to return to play for the LA Galaxy came about, "it just felt right."
Donovan, 34, announced on Thursday that he would be coming out of retirement to re-join his longtime club after leaving the game following the Galaxy's 2014 MLS Cup win against the New England Revolution.
The Galaxy are currently second in the Western Conference, but have been beset by a rash of recent injuries to Jelle Van Damme, Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes.
Donovan said when the idea first came up it sounded crazy, but the more he thought about it, the more it seemed like something that would be worth giving a shot.
"This all emanated very recently and came about very quickly," Donovan said. "After the Galaxy-Vancouver game almost two weeks ago. That game, if people remember, there were three injuries Van Damme, Gerrard and Gyasi and we found out the next week that Gyasi was out for the rest of the season and that Nigel de Jong was being transferred to Galatasaray.
"And I received a few somewhat half-hearted friendly joking texts from some of the players and a few people within the staff saying 'are you going to come back? Are you going to come back and help?'
"I thought, well, if this is something the team really wants and needs and thinks I can help, then maybe it's something I should consider. So that was kind of the start of the process."
Donovan scored 160 goals and dished out 150 assists during his MLS career, but he admitted that he'll need to work his way back into the team and knows that there will be limitations on how much and how often he can play.
"I'm under no illusion that I'm going to be able to come back and play the whole 90 minutes, maybe not for the rest of the year," Donovan said. "But what I talked to Bruce [Arena] about was that I can probably get fit enough and get back into the groove enough that I can maybe make a few plays on the field that'll make a difference in the long run.
"I think some of my qualities, even though the physical is gone a little bit, in a game I think I can make a difference. I think in the locker room and away from the field I can help make a little bit of a difference. And if all those little things add up to one play or one moment that can help propel a team to a championship that would feel great for me."
Another reason Donovan is excited about his comeback is that he'll get the chance to share his professional playing career with his son Talon, who was born after he had first retired from MLS. His son's birthdate, Jan. 26, 2016, was also one of the reasons that Donovan decided to wear the number 26 in his return.
"So 26 came about, my wife suggested it actually, she said, 'what about the number 26' and I said, 'why 26?' She said, 'that's the day Talon was born,' our son.
"So that resonated and that made sense and then when I went back and just looked at numbers I had worn, the first number I wore at Bayer Leverkusen when I was 17 was number 26. So that kind of brought the whole thing full circle."
Donovan said it still feels crazy when he says he's returning to play out loud, but that the excitement is real and that he hopes it will be a fun experience that will benefit a club he holds close to his heart.
"I wasn't banging down anyone's door saying I want to come out of retirement, but when this came about it just felt right.
"Soccer has meant a lot to me and has been a big part of my life and I want to show [Talon] not just tell him, so that was a big part of it too."
Donovan began his professional career in 1999 when he signed with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen. In search of playing time, he was loaned to the San Jose Earthquakes in 2001 and proceeded to win MLS Cups there in 2001 and 2003.
He returned to Leverkusen after the 2004 season, but he quickly soured on life in Germany and was transferred to the Galaxy for the 2005 season. After landing in Los Angeles, Donovan won four more MLS Cups, two Supporters' Shields and a U.S. Open Cup.
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