Landon Donovan made his competitive return a month into the 2013 MLS season, entering in the 61st minute of a 2-2 draw with Toronto FC.Landon Donovan is back. The all-time leading scorer for the U.S. national team played the final half hour against Toronto FC on Saturday, after returning to training midweek for the LA Galaxy.
The substitute appearance marked Donovan's first competitive minutes since the 2012 MLS Cup final, when he helped the Galaxy to a second consecutive title win. Citing burnout and emotional exhaustion, the 31-year-old took a self-imposed sabbatical which ate into the opening of the season.
Donovan rejoined his teammates on Tuesday for a trip to the White House, and trained through the week ahead of the trip to Canada. Coach Bruce Arena had suggested the Designated Player might not be match fit until late April, but gave Donovan half an hour in his first week back.
“Bruce and I spoke a lot during the week,” Donovan said. “Fitness-wise I felt great. Obviously, I have a ways to go soccer-wise, but you've got to get minutes to get better. It was good to get some time today and obviously in the end it worked out.”
Within a minute, Donovan spurned an open chance when Mike Magee found him alone in the box. Donovan scuffed his shot straight at the goalkeeper. More competitive minutes should scrub away the rust, according to the attacker.
“Oh yeah, I mean the whole game was like that,” Donovan said. “I gave away a lot of passes that I wouldn’t normally give away. I’m just not sharp in a soccer way and I’m probably going to need a week or two and then that will come back.”
With Donovan misfiring, teenager Jose Villarreal provided the equalizing goal, executing a snap scissor kick deep into stoppage time to secure a 2-2 draw.
“It’s good to have him mentally and to have him physically on the field too,” Villarreal said. “It’s great. He’s probably one of the greatest players in U.S. history so having him on the field with us is awesome. I’m just happy he’s back.”
Villarrreal wasn't the only one who enjoyed seeing Donovan on the field once again.
“It was a lot of fun,” Donovan said. “I haven’t felt that way playing in a very long time. That was the desired goal when I stepped away and it was nice to be back.”