CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy have several options within their first-choice lineup, but they have clear preferences at the top, it appears, and that includes Landon Donovan in midfield.
"I love it," said Donovan, who has played up front and in midfield most of his career. "I think our best games as a team, and my best games, have come with me playing there. And I think all the guys around me like having me there. I like running from a deep position. I like facing the field when I get the ball, and it's good to have two really good attacking players ahead of me that I can get the ball to.
"And so I think, hopefully, that's a spot I can continue to play."
Donovan, in his 14th MLS season, sees himself more as a playmaker than a goal scorer – he's the league's all-time goals leader with 137 and has 121 assists, just 14 off Steve Ralston's record – but the Galaxy want to see more goals from him, and he agrees with that sentiment, too. He has just three this season, none until he returned to LA after he was dismissed from the pre-World Cup camp.
"I still need to contribute in a scoring way and make sure I keep getting chances," he said in advance of the Galaxy's clash Wednesday night at StubHub Center with the New England Revolution (10:30 pm ET; MLS Live). "I've had a number of chances this year that I haven't turned into goals. Another year, I might have seven or eight goals by now, but as long as I'm making myself dangerous, both from a passing sense and from a scoring sense, so that teams can't focus on one or the other. I have to be able to get behind defenses and get in and take shots, but also create chances for my teammates."
No complaints on creating chances, to be sure. Donovan has only four assists, but he's been involved in so many goals he doesn't get credit for – and sets up plenty of chances that the Galaxy, who have scored multiple goals only once in their past five MLS matches, haven't finished.
"Playing that position, he'll have more opportunities to make a final pass than a final shot," associate head coach Dave Sarachan said. "But the message is still pretty clear to him that he's still a guy we expect to make a third-man run out of the midfield and get on the break to help us get goals and to be a little aggressive getting goals himself.
"For Landon, it's an attitude. He's still got the juice, he's still got the quality. Regardless of his age, he's still got the ability to score goals."
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Said head coach Bruce Arena: "He can still produce a little more at the attacking end of the field. ... He's still playing himself back into form [after a sprained ankle and a bout with tendinitis in his knee last month]. I'm hopeful that this is the time in the season he emerges and starts to play consistently well each and every game."
Donovan throughout his career has tried to fill voids, to do whatever is most needed to ensure his team's success. Sometimes scoring isn't his aim.
"I realize very clearly now in games what's needed," he said. "The other night [in the 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake], especially when we get a goal early, it's not necessary that I'm bombing forward, taking a lot of chances, trying to score. It's more important that I'm passing the ball well, helping us keep the ball, and defending well when we need to. That was a situation where I felt that was what was needed of me.”
"And I did that [by scoring the equalizer],” he said. “In a perfect world, you can have a little bit of both, and I can still be better about getting myself on the score sheet."