World Cup: LA Galaxy brace for potential long-term losses of Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez
LA's two biggest American stars are gone, off to the US national team's pre-World Cup camp in Northern California, and if both of them make Jurgen Klinsmann's 23-man roster, they’ll miss at least six league games in Galaxy colors.
Donovan is one of the chief creative players for the Galaxy, a hugely influential figure. Gonzalez is one of the league's premier center backs and the unquestioned leader on LA's backline. They will be missed.
“I'm thrilled for those guys. They're very, very, very good players, and they deserve to be with the full team in Brazil,” defender Dan Gargan said after the Galaxy began preparations Tuesday for this weekend's game at Houston.
“We're all happy for them, and we're all excited for the guys that are waiting to get their minutes, as well. There are a lot of guys here who work really hard and show up to training every day waiting for an opportunity to perform themselves.”
Replacing Gonzalez is relatively simple. Kofi Opare stepped in next to Leonardo on Sunday in Portland, when a minor knee injury sidelined Gonzalez. Tommy Meyer, rookie Kyle Venter and A.J. DeLaGarza – playing at left back during Todd Dunivant's injury absence – also are options in the middle.
Finding someone to fill Donovan's shoes is a trickier. Rob Friend or Samuel are the top options up top – Friend started the last two games, when Donovan dropped into midfield following Marcelo Sarvas' injury – and Gyasi Zardes, Robbie Rogers or Kenney Walker can step into midfield roles.
“Last game, [Donovan] was top quality,” midfielder Baggio Husidic said. “That's the Landon we all know, he was excellent, [and] it's going to be almost impossible to replace him. But we have guys with different qualities that can step into that role.”
Donovan's departure, however, doesn't worry head coach Bruce Arena.
“It doesn't change things a whole lot. Hopefully, we can get someone that can replicate the goals he's scored this year,” Arena jested, a nod to the fact that Donovan hasn't scored for LA in 2014. “Landon's a great player. What are we going to do? We knew we were going to lose him; other teams are losing players. We'll hold on until Landon returns in the middle of July.”
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If Donovan and Gonzalez make the final US roster they’ll miss the Galaxy’s next six league games through June 28 and at least one US Open Cup game.
“I think there are guys who can step into those shoes, and it's not all on the guys that step in for Landon and Omar …” Gargan said.
“When you have everybody working for one another and being part of the same picture and the same idea, that's when a team's really good, and that's when a team starts to fly. And that's what we're looking to get to.”