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Landon’s Second Comeback: Cuz He Can

January 12th, 2018 · No Comments · Football, Galaxy, Landon Donovan

What is Landon Donovan doing?

In short, he has decided, for a second time, to resume his soccer career.

He first retired at the end of the 2014 Major League Soccer season, when he was only 32. He went out with a bang — with his sixth MLS Cup championship, the Galaxy’s fourth during his time with the club.

He retired a second time after returning for nine matches at the end of the Galaxy’s 2016 season, when he was 34.

Today, he revealed he will play again, this time with Club Leon of Mexico’s top-flight Liga MX. Landon will be 36 in seven weeks and has played nine matches since December of 2014.

Why might he have made this semi-curious decision?

A reminder: I once talked regularly with Landon. He came out of Redlands, and I knew that neighborhood, and at our newspaper we kept close track of him. However, I mostly lost touch with him while I was working in Abu Dhabi for six years. So, he is more remote to me than he once was.

But how much has the man changed? He has a wife and a child now, but I think Landon remains Landon. Also, we have recent information to help us.

So, why play?

My belief: Because he doesn’t yet know what else to do with himself.

It is not at all unusual for elite athletes whose careers have come to a close to struggle while they figure out the next act of their lives.

Landon has dabbled in broadcasting, which does not come easily to him. He tends not to have violent opinions — or ones he will verbalize, anyway. TV wants strong takes and hearts on sleeves. (See: Alexi Lalas.) That is not Landon.

Also, it was only a year ago that he came close to joining Real Salt Lake of MLS, but the details could never quite be worked out. It ended with a source describing the not-quite-signing as “complicated”.

That should have tipped us off that his competitive fires were still burning. Or had been rekindled.

Most of us figured, post Real SL, that Landon finally was done. Maybe he did, too. He got involved with a group that wanted to get a Major League Soccer franchise for San Diego. Maybe he would help run the club. Be its face in the community. That would be a step forward toward something new and bold and different. And then the bid fell apart and MLS chose Nashville (really, San Diego?!?) as its next location.

Then came the U.S. failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and ahead of federation president Sunil Gulati’s announcement he would not run for reelection … Landon let it be known he was considering a run for the top job.

Landon backtracked on that, even before Gulati said he was stepping down, and a bunch of people lined up for the job, none of them Landon.

Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated got Landon for a Q&A session, two months ago, and he asked him about the presidency, and Landon gave a revealing answer.

“I think like most people, your initial reaction is, well, I can help. I can do the job. And I quickly walked back from that to considering the realities, which were 1) I’m not remotely qualified for that job; 2) I would have no idea how to even begin that job; 3) I don’t want to do that job; and 4) there are better ways for me to be involved and impactful.”

Later in the interview, Donovan talked about how he would like to be involved in youth development, and Wahl asked how many hours a week he would be willing to spend on this.

Said Landon: “A million (laughs). I’ve been waiting a long time, really three years, since I retired, to find what I’m passionate about.”

At that point then, all of two months ago, Landon seemed ready to get into the grass roots.

And now he has joined Leon of Liga MX.

It will be very interesting to see how he does. Presumably, his body is less battered, now, than at any time since he was a kid, After nearly three years off.

But, too, so much of what he did was based on his speed and quickness, and those gifts tend to fade.

Short term, this is good, because Landon knows what he wants to do. He wants to get back on the pitch for a good team — and the best in Liga MX are better than MLS teams. Maybe he can find a place in the starting 11. The guys in the front office at Leon must be confident Landon has something left.

So, Landon and his post-career role?

Stick that question on the back burner; the man is playing soccer again.

Good luck in Mexico, Landon.



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