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Landon Donovan and More Soccer?

December 29th, 2016 · 1 Comment · Football, Galaxy, Landon Donovan, Russia 2018, soccer

Landon Donovan apparently is considering continuing on in Major League Soccer. This, after a couple of months of interesting-but-not-scintillating play with the LA Galaxy at the end of the 2016 season.

That he could keep up at all is impressive, in his nine games back, during the autumn. He is 34, will be 35 in March and has lost some (much?) of his speed.

He is not the player he was, especially at the attacking end, but who knows more about the American game than he does? Who has a keener sense of how a game is unfolding? Would he not be valuable as a playmaking midfielder?

Real Salt Lake reportedly have offered a two-season contract, and if Landon can get into the team and play well … maybe he gets a shot at helping the U.S. qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and maybe he gets a chance to make a World Cup team coached by Bruce Arena, the man who signed off on Landon’s return to the Galaxy this year, after 18 months off.

More thoughts:

–Donovan almost certainly remains the best-known American soccer player. If he can leverage that celebrity into another season or two, who are we to criticize him? And is a MLS club crazy for thinking he instantly gives them a higher profile?

–Steve Nicol, a crabby Scotsman who works as a commentator for ESPN, trashed the idea of Landon continuing to play, suggesting his love for the game is questionable (the 2013 sabbatical; the retirement after the 2014 season) … suggesting Donovan is motivated only by money. Craig Burley, also an ESPN talking head, said Landon would be useful only if the legs of a 25-year-old were “stitched on” to Landon’s body. He also said Donovan’s speed is gone.

–Donovan’s scoring, certainly, was built on his speed. Most of us can summon a mental image of him using a burst to carry the ball past the defense before scoring. If he is significantly slower than he was, he is unlikely to score many more goals. He is 5-foot-8; he won’t get the goals in the air that allowed someone like Miroslav Klose to play in a World Cup at 36.

–Landon apparently earned more than $2 million in his last full season, 2014, and might be hoping to get a similar amount by joining RSL. It seems unlikely he can command a fee that high. He might get a designated-player slot, but the thinking seems to be that he would be offered more like $500,000 — which has to be more than he was making as a pundit.

–Would he be the kind of guy who could make others around him better if he were a playmaker in the middle of the park — much like David Beckham was, at the end of his career? Nicol (see above) suggested Landon’s career was always about Landon and he doesn’t seem like the kind of player who would be interested in giving tips to younger players. (I disagree. I think he would be quite willing to take a “elder-statesman” type role.)

–Does RSL need a bit of star power? Well, name three guys who play for Real Salt Lake. Yeah. If Landon signs with them, they would have the greatest American to play the game … plus whoever else is up there. That would have value for that club.

–Should a guy nearly at the end of his career be encouraged to keep plugging away? Well, yes. If he can contribute, clubs will see to it that he sticks around. If he cannot, he will be back with his wife and son soon enough.

–Is he thinking 2018? I’m thinking yes, he is. He could have helped the 2014 team, as I noted here, and if he shifts into a facilitator mode with RSL, and does the same with the national team (allowing Michael Bradley to play deeper in the park, for example), he could make it to Russia — if the U.S. qualifies, of course.

Anyway, this is interesting stuff, and Landon is back in the news, and the minority of U.S. fans who hate him are going mental and those who like watching him play are a bit excited that maybe he has more to give, with a full preseason to get his legs back under him.

This will bear watching.

And maybe it says something about Landon Donovan that this is the story that seems to have woken MLS from its offseason slumber.



1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Dennis // Jan 1, 2017 at 10:50 PM

    All signs point to LD making this move to RSL. He had another offer from an MLS Eastern Conference team (presumably Atlanta United), buy he’s good friends w/ RSL’s Nick Rimamdo & Kyle Beckerman, and former USMNT mate Pablo Mastroeni is coach.

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