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Sandy • Jordan Allen's called Landon Donovan coach on three different occasions in the last year and change. First in New Zealand last June, when Allen was part of the U.S. U-20 World Cup squad, where Donovan was a surprise addition to the coaching staff. A few weeks later, Donovan, serving as head coach for the MLS Homegrown Game during All-Star Weekend, chose Allen as part of his roster.
On July 12, Donovan officially reprised his role as head coach of the MLS Homegrown team. And once again he chose Allen as well as fellow RSL homegrown players Justen Glad, Phanuel Kavita and Danilo Acosta. During the training days spent together in the Bay Area less than two months ago, Allen noticed something different about Donovan, the most-decorated American soccer player ever.
"I noticed he was in a lot better shape than he was last June," Allen said. "I made that comment to somebody."
Following Thursday morning's training session at America First Field, Allen was informed that Donovan, he of 144 career MLS goals and 136 MLS assists, was lacing the boots back up again and coming out of retirement. Landon Donovan is returning to MLS, and naturally, the L.A. Galaxy.
The news broke Thursday morning when Blake Thomsen of The Cauldron first reported that Donovan's 21-month retirement from soccer was coming to an abrupt end. The move was later confirmed by The L.A. Times, ESPNFC.com and Sports Illustrated. According to reports, Donovan is expected to join the Galaxy immediately and could be available for Sunday's home match against Jason Kreis and Orlando City SC.
Allen's immediate reaction: "No he did not."
How about Glad? "Wow. That's pretty awesome, actually. Depending on how long he sticks around, hopefully I can play against him once."
Less than 12 hours after RSL rallied to draw 3-3 with the injury-riddled Galaxy on a last-second goal by forward Burrito Martinez, L.A.'s brightest star is on his way back to the StubHub Center where we last saw him downing beer out of the 2014 MLS Cup trophy. That was Donovan's last competitive match on top of the league he'd owned during that first chapter his storied career.
What was once considered his final match against rival RSL in the second leg of the 2014 Western Conference semifinals, Donovan notched a hat-trick and an assist. He handed RSL one of its worst losses in franchise history in the 5-0 postseason exit. After the match, Donovan's longtime friend Kyle Beckerman stood at his locker room inside the StubHub Center and said, "Well, I guess he's not done playing."
RSL coach Jeff Cassar said Thursday that the news wasn't entirely shocking. In fact, Cassar said he's surprised Donovan didn't cut short his retirement a bit earlier.
"I'm happy for him," Cassar said. "That means he's still got that burning feeling to play and to compete. At the end of the day, is he going to help them? Probably. When you retire, it's always tough. That competitiveness, that burning desire to be around the guys, that's the hardest thing to get away from. Obviously it's not out of his system."
According to Grant Wahl of SI.com, Donovan's return as of right now is only for the remainder of the 2016 season. He hasn't committed to playing beyond this year, Wahl reported Thursday. Depending on how long it takes for Donovan to get to full speed, his expected signing will strengthen an L.A. attack that is dealing with injuries to Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes, who is out the remainder of the regular season with a foot fracture.
"It's not totally surprising by just looking at him and the way he looked a few weeks ago," Allen said. "He definitely looked like somebody that was in shape."
In early March, Donovan attended the 2016 Olympic Media Summit in Beverly Hills, Calif., as one of several spokespersons for L.A. 2024 Olympic bid. His newborn son was just a few weeks old and Donovan spoke of his lack of sleep and the adaptation to the laid-back lifestyle away from the pitch.
Before being whisked away to the stage, Donovan was asked if he ever thought he'd get involved with soccer again on a full-time basis. The only player to ever win six MLS Cup titles paused, and said, "Maybe one day."