PORTLAND, Ore. – When Landon Donovan squares off against Bayern Munich in the MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday (9:30 pm ET, ESPN2/UniMas in US, TSN/RDS in Canada), he’ll be going up against the club were he spent a few months during a brief 2009 loan stint.
His spell with the German powerhouse didn’t go quite as planned, and the loan was terminated after he made a handful of appearances in friendlies and in one German Cup match. Obviously, Donovan has bounced back, now widely considered MLS and US soccer's best-ever player.
But even now, Donovan said, just like during his brief time with Bayern more than five years ago, there’s still plenty to be learned from seeing firsthand how Der FCB go about their business.
“They’re just so talented,” Donovan said prior to Tuesday’s All-Star training session at Providence Park. “When you have a chance to play with guys like Phillip Lahm and [Franck] Ribery, you learn a lot about the game and what it takes to get to that next level. Obviously watching the World Cup and how Germany just dominated their way through it was impressive, so there’s a lot we can learn even at this age from watching those guys and seeing how they do things.”
Lahm, Bayern’s captain and legendary German international, and Ribery, the French international winger and a finalist for the 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or, were both at Bayern during Donovan’s time there. And he said he’s eager to showcase the league’s best against his one-time teammates.
“They’re a good team, there’s no doubt,” Donovan said. “And we look forward to a really good game, and it should be really fun.”
Fun is precisely what this All-Star game is all about for Donovan. It’s his 14th consecutive selection, and the MLS’ all-time leader in goals and assists said at this point in his career he’s just trying to savor being a part of everything surrounding the event.
“I think I’m seeing it different as I get older,” Donovan said. “These opportunities don’t come around too many more times, maybe ever again, so I’m just trying to make sure that I enjoy it, that I appreciate it. It’s a beautiful city here, and it’s been a lot of fun this week.”
He said this time around he’s trying not to think about any of the outside factors that tend to creep into a player’s mind in an All-Star scenario, about whether the commitment will wear him down or take a toll on his health or form.
“In the moment, I’m really enjoying this,” he said. “I feel like I’m playing really well, and I’m enjoying it, so for me this is a fun game to play. In the past it hasn’t always felt this way if the games are piling up. I feel good right now. I’m excited and I want to play as much as I can, and hopefully the other guys feel the same. It’s not too often you get to play Bayern Munich in front of a great crowd like this.”
And, at the same time, Donovan said he’s still very “prideful” about representing himself and the league well. He said it was following the All-Star Game later in 2009 when MLS faced Premier League side Everton that led to another – more successful – loan stint.
“Without even thinking about it, David Moyes [then Everton head coach] was calling and approaching us and asking us if I wanted to go on loan to Everton, so good things can come from this,” he said. “It’s not a game that you go crazy about and are flying into tackles and kicking people, but you want to want to take it seriously. You never know, there are a lot of eyes watching and you want to take advantage of that.”