Rumors of prominent players signing in soccer, even in the United States, tend to linger for days, weeks even, before the official news drops. On Thursday, that was very much not the case.
In the morning, a rumor emerged, seemingly out of nowhere, that Landon Donovan was coming out of retirement to re-sign with the LA Galaxy. After subsequent reports added to the credence, the news itself was made official by the afternoon. Landon Donovan is back.
Donovan, quite likely the best player in MLS history, shocked the league with the news, as he has signed a deal for the rest of the 2016 season.
It can’t be denied that many people have suspected Donovan would get the itch to return, given his relative youth upon retiring at the end of the 2014 season and his various roles served in the interim: He’s been a TV analyst and announcer, a two-time coach of the MLS Homegrown game squad, an investor in English Premier League side Swansea City and a first time father. There’s no one way of settling into a post-playing life, but Donovan’s different roles appeared to show he may be looking for something to fully capture his attention.
Donovan explained he was initially jokingly asked to return to the Galaxy by team staff after a raft of injuries and the departure of Nigel de Jong in the recent summer transfer window. According to the former U.S. international, he began mulling the possibility, and subsequently discussed his role with Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena.
At the outset, that role appears to be that of a veteran presence off the bench, not least because there are less than two months left in the season and Donovan has been off for nearly two full years. It will take him time to reach match fitness, something that may not really happen until the playoffs arrive.
Still, the uncertainty makes the prospect absolutely enticing. Will Donovan’s mere presence lift the Galaxy, who are near the top of the standings but have been slumping for much of this season? Will his play elevate the team’s performance? Or will he struggle, demonstrating that maybe 2014 was the right time to call it a day?
That’s why they play the games, as they say. No one can deny Donovan’s return, like Michael Jordan’s famous un-retirement from the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, will make the season more interesting, no matter how it goes down. What will be fascinating to follow is what he can do in a short amount of time, and how it impacts the Galaxy as they embark on their quest for a sixth MLS Cup.