WASHINGTON – LA Galaxy and US national team fans have been agonizing over Landon Donovan's self-imposed hiatus from the game – and wondered about his return – for months. For the player himself, it took watching his old teams on television to know when the time had come to resume the grind.
“I wanted to get the enjoyment back," said Donovan after the Galaxy's training session at Georgetown University on Thursday morning, his first media availability since MLS Cup 2012. “And I watched our first game against Chicago, the Galaxy game [on March 3] at home and really had that itch again to play, and I knew that I was ready.
“This week was pretty difficult, watching the US in those games when you want to be a part of it.”
Wearing fewer layers than most of his teammates on a cold, windy day in the nation's capital, Donovan looked lively during the closing stages of Thursday's session that reporters were allowed to watch, roaming the right channel on what appeared to be LA's second-string squad in a half-field scrimmage. The Galaxy traveled to D.C. to celebrate their MLS Cup title with President Barack Obama at the White House and are staying in town until departure for Saturday's match at Toronto FC (2 pm ET, TSN/RDS in Canada, MLS Live in US).
Afterward, Donovan gave the impression that he's unlikely to see match action until next month as he builds towards full fitness.
“I've been fortunate in my career, I generally stay pretty fit,” he said. “It's going to take a while to get that going. I don't really want to put a timetable. My initial goal was to try and be back to participate at some point in the April 6 Montreal game, which has now been moved because of the CONCACAF game. So I think ideally somewhere in there I get some minutes, I guess.
“We're not going to push it, the last thing I want to do is force it and get an injury.”
He admitted that both LA coach Bruce Arena and USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann were unhappy with his decision to step away from the game, yet remained steadfast in his conviction that it was a necessary break.
“I definitely needed a break, and was fortunate to have a lot of people both personally and professionally that understood that,” said Donovan. “And now I'm excited to be back and to move forward and enjoy playing.
“Understandably, no coach wants to lose one of their players for three months or four months of the season, so at first Bruce wasn't ecstatic about it. But I've known Bruce a long time and I think he understood pretty clearly how passionate I was about needing this break. And now I think everyone can agree that it was absolutely needed and the right thing to do.”