CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan's return to form isn't complete just yet, but he made a real impact in the LA Galaxy's 2-0 victory on Saturday night over Sporting Kansas City, convincingly demonstrating he's not all that far off.
Donovan set up Marcelo Sarvas' opener in the 27th minute, then finished a feed from Robbie Keane in the 74th – his first goal and assist since returning from his extended leave of absence – to punctuate a fine 90 minutes rewarded with the Galaxy's first victory in nearly a month.
“I'm almost there,” Donovan said afterward. “Just a little bit more sharpness, but I felt almost back to normal. I felt like I was very close to 100 percent tonight. Don't count the old guy out just yet. I still got a little bit more to give.”
Donovan, 31, had struggled to make an imprint in his first four appearances this season – two in MLS and two against Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League – but he was impactful all night on either midfield flank and, over the last 25 minutes, paired up top with Keane.
“It was good” Keane said. “Obviously, he set a goal up and he scored one. So it's not a bad day, is it? It's like anything. It always takes four or five games to get back in the swing of things. ... It doesn't matter how much fitness you do away from the team or on the training field, match sharpness is the one that's going to get you back up there. That's only going to come with playing 90 minutes most weeks.”
Donovan has gone 90 the past three games, and getting onto the scoresheet was important after he'd blown his two best goal chances – a 1-on-1 opportunity at Toronto and a penalty kick at Dallas – since returning to LA late last month.
The goal arrived on a counterattack, with Keane bearing down 1-on-1 with Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, then rolling the ball to the right for Donovan to fire into a gaping net.
Keane said he was looking out for his teammate, and Donovan was thankful.
“I was debating whether to actually make the run at first,” Donovan said. “And Robbie from there probably 95 times out of 100 is going to score. I just decided to go. I wasn't sure if he saw me – I didn't think he saw me, to be honest. But the pass he made if more difficult that people think ... and the pace was perfect, and he made it really easy for me.”
Scoring the goal – the 125th of his MLS regular-season career, 93rd with LA – meant a lot to him.
“I feel like I've been working my way back in,” Donovan said. “It's disappointing when you can't have the effect on the team you want to have and help the team the way you want to help. Tonight was actually nice to actually make a tangible impact, and that has to be sort of the goal now, from now forward.
"Bruce [Arena] has said many times: You're not judged on having time off, you're judged on how you're doing on the field. And it was nice to finally have an impact.”