Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

Donovan Goes Indoors in Latest Return to Soccer

February 19th, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Landon Donovan is back! Again!

If it seems as if he retired quite some time ago, well, he did, in the first instance — from the LA Galaxy in 2014.

A year and change later, he returned to the Galaxy active roster during an end-of-season run, and he played just enough to suggest he was easily past his prime.

OK. Now done.

Or not.

In January of 2018 he signed with Club Leon of LigaMX, on a salary of $185,000 a month, according to

That ill-considered move came to an early end, which was good, because Landon had trouble getting on the pitch, never mind returning as an elite scorer — which characterized the first 15 years of his career. (Top scorer in Major League Soccer history; co-top scorer in U.S. National Team history.)

He failed to score a goal in six appearances; he and Leon, which plays in a league pretty clearly better than MLS, agreed to end the deal early.

And that was that? Now he can move on with the next bit of his life?

Well, no. Still.

Last month, he signed with the San Diego Sockers of the Major Arena Soccer League. Yes, the indoor game, which some have suggested looks like human pinball.

But if it makes Landon happy … and it apparently does, and if it makes teams happy, and they continue to pay him … and fans turn out to see him …

Donovan made his indoor debut four days ago, and he was credited with an assist in a 6-4 victory over Tacoma. Here he is, smiling and talking about the debut.

He seemed happy. The club seems happy. The league seems pleased; the most celebrated soccer player in U.S. history (and one of the most celebrated players in Canadian history, Dwayne De Rosario) now plays the the indoor game.

Indoor soccer has been an afterthought in the U.S. for most of its history, but Donovan noted that when he was a kid, indoor soccer was the only professional brand of soccer being played in the U.S.  The North American Soccer League collapsed in 1984, when Landon turned 2, and Major League Soccer did not take to the field until 1996, the year when Landon turned 14. So he watched the indoor game.

Hadn’t thought of it in that way.

The Redlands native is being paid for his effort — reportedly, $250,000 to play the final dozen or so games of the Sockers season, and then however many playoff games the Sockers have before the season ends.

It will be interesting to see how Donovan fares. The indoor game has a bunch of features that would stump, at least for a while, the planet’s elite practitioners of the outdoor game. Balls banging off walls. A crowded “pitch”, with 12 players (six a side) on a field about the size of a basketball court. A smaller goalmouth. An added emphasis on short, fast runs and close control of the ball. Free substitutions that make the typical player’s appearances in the match come in units of two minutes or less — rather like ice hockey.

Some soccer players have done well indoor as well as out. Ricky Davis, for instance. The late Fernando Clavijo. Preki Radosavljevic. Desmond Armstrong and Jeff Agoos.

Maybe Donovan can get the hang of it before this is over, though he has not scored in his first two games, each of which was won by San Diego to take its record to 14-1. Here is video of his first match; he seems a little ill at easy, even with a crowd of 8,000-plus in Pechanga Arena San Diego rooting him on.

He has brought more focus to his “hometown” team. He and his family live in San Diego, and Donovan has dabbled in several soccer interests there, including what appears to be a doomed attempt to bring MLS to San Diego, the country’s seventh-biggest city.

Donovan turns 37 in a few weeks, and like a lot of us seems unclear what he does after his first career ends. He is still finding gigs in soccer, but someday no one will be willing to pay him to come out and play.

(One of the biggest of the many difficulties confronted by professional athletes at the end of their careers … is finding a second career when the first one ended at age 30 or 35, when the legs started to go. Fans often do not think this through. Imagine giving up a career you love before your 40th birthday, and then being expected to find something else to keep you busy in a world that already has too many color commentators. And, yes, you should assume your first non-sports job will pay far less than the games gig.)

Meantime, Donovan is getting some “added time”, as they say in soccer. It would be fun if he stays healthy, figures out those bank shots and helps San Diego to its 15th championship and first since 2013.





0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment