Landon Donovan had a message for opposition teams after scoring his first goal of the MLS season: "Don't count the old guy out just yet."LA Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza predicted before the club's match against Sporting Kansas City Saturday night that Landon Donovan would score.
He was right.
Donovan's first goal since his return from a playing hiatus followed an assist that broke Sporting KC's shutout streak at 545 minutes -- the fifth longest in MLS history -- and helped the Galaxy on the way to a 2-0 home win Saturday.
"Tonight it was nice to actually make a tangible impact," Donovan said. "That has to be the goal from now forward."
Against Kansas City, Donovan made only his second MLS start of the season and fifth appearance overall in 2013. The U.S. international returned late from the offseason following an extended sabbatical.
"It always takes four or five games to get back into the swing of things," Galaxy forward Robbie Keane said.
After a couple rusty displays, Donovan returned to something resembling his usual form against Kansas City.
One of his trademark counters down the wing in the 27th minute led to the first goal. Marcelo Sarvas stripped Oriol Rosell, and Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes claimed that, after a heavy touch by Rosell let Sarvas get a piece of the ball, it bounced up touched the Brazilian's hand.
"Absolutely. 100 percent. I saw the replay," Vermes said. "Handball? He should have just palmed it. He should have got a foul for palming, that's how bad that was."
Referee Jair Marrufo did not whistle an infraction and play continued. Sarvas fed Donovan, who sped down the left flank, where he had exploited the space behind Chance Myers several times.
"Their outside backs really like to go forward," Donovan said.
In the box, Aurelien Collin stood off Donovan, allowing the 31-year-old to measure a low cross, which Sarvas, who had continued his run, tipped over the line. Sporting Kansas City hadn't conceded in five games straight.
"It breaks us a little bit," Vermes said of the goal.
The Galaxy continued to force turnovers in midfield, aware that SKC had played a game on Wednesday on the East Coast, a 1-0 win over the New York Red Bulls. Both Vermes and Donovan mentioned that the six-hour flight Thursday and fatigue likely hindered Kansas City's performance.
"They're a team that likes to press, and we wanted to flip the tables a little bit, see how they handle it. They didn't do so well with that," Donovan said. "They were never really comfortable."
The pressure paid off with the clinching goal in the 74th minute. During a Kansas City attack, the Galaxy pushed the ball out of defense swiftly. Paulo Nagamura slipped on the halfway line and Keane tore away toward Jimmy Nielsen.
"I was debated whether to actually make the run at first," Donovan said. "Robbie, from there, probably 95 times out of 100 is going to score. And so I just decided to go. I wasn't sure if he saw me. I didn't think he saw me, to be honest."
But Keane did see the run. In the box, the LA captain unselfishly dished the ball to his right, allowing Donovan score his first goal of the season.
"He's a class player," Donovan said of Keane. "I could sense that he wanted to get me going. That's what a leader does. If he took the shot he's probably going to score, but he wanted to get me a tap-in and I appreciate it."
With his first goal and first assist of 2013 out of the way, Donovan hopes he can quickly return to the form which made him the all-time top scorer in U.S. national team history and a five-time MLS Cup champion.
"I'm almost there," the 31-year-old said. "Just a little bit more sharpness, but I felt almost back to normal. I felt like I was very close to 100 percent tonight. Don't count the old guy out just yet. I've still got a little bit left in me."
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