Landon Donovan undecided on return to LA Galaxy next season
CARSON, California — Landon Donovan isn’t ready to decide whether he will extend his MLS comeback for another season with the LA Galaxy.
Three days after their elimination from the playoffs, the Galaxy also had no news Wednesday (Thursday Manila time) on the career plans of Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane. Gerrard is expected to make an announcement later this week, while Keane plans to wait until later in the month.
“I’m hopeful they continue to be part of our club,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “We’ll see. Only time will tell.”
The 34-year-old Donovan says he greatly enjoyed his comeback season, which ended with the Galaxy’s loss to Colorado on penalty kicks in the Western Conference semifinals. Donovan said he hasn’t spoken to the Galaxy or to his wife about the future.
“I enjoyed it a lot, and nobody wants to end that way,” Donovan said. “That’s tough, but that’s part of sports, and (I) came back with a little bit of a different perspective, where you can appreciate and enjoy the process more.”
Donovan, the top scorer in the history of MLS and the U.S. national team, ended a 21-month retirement in September. Wearing No. 26 instead of his usual No. 10, he appeared in six regular-season games and three playoff contests, adding one goal to his league-record total of 145.
Arena says he believes Donovan is “50-50” on a return for 2017, and Donovan said nothing to dispute that notion.
“The last while that I was playing before (retirement), it became more of a job than fun,” Donovan said. “And when that line got crossed, it was hard for me. But this was enjoyable. I really had fun. I enjoyed playing. It was good to have that to help remind me of the joy that this game has always brought me.”
Donovan returned in a supporting role for the Galaxy, complementing Giovani Dos Santos and the rest of the Galaxy’s ever-changing attack. The star-studded Galaxy’s struggles with major injuries played a role in their disappointing sixth-place finish in the overall MLS table, followed by a narrow playoff exit against the Rapids.
Arena expects changes to the Galaxy’s core around Dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes, who appear to be the cornerstones of the franchise’s future. Those changes could include the departure of their two most prominent European stars.
Keane and Gerrard were not made available to address their futures Wednesday, but both are out of contract this winter.
Gerrard has shown flashes of his Liverpool greatness during 1 1/2 seasons stateside, but the midfielder also dealt with injuries throughout his stay. He was out for one month between games twice during the second half of this season, returning to play 45 minutes in the playoff game against Colorado last weekend.
Gerrard traveled back to Liverpool for treatment on his injuries, and he has spoken fondly about his intentions to return home soon.
Keane has been one of MLS’ best players since his arrival with the Galaxy in 2011, but injuries and international duties forced the former Ireland striker out of LA’s lineup for roughly half the season. The 36-year-old Keane plans a coaching career, but has said he wants to continue as a player for a few more years.
Keane was just one of several players who endured significant injury troubles. Gerrard, Zardes, Nigel De Jong and others also missed long stretches, contributing to LA’s mid-table finish and a league-high 16 ties.
“There’s some encouraging things,” said Arena, who still plans to return to the Galaxy. “But you can’t lose your top players for as long as we lost them and expect to be consistent on the field and produce the results we want to produce.”