CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy are headed back to the White House next week, and guess who's coming along? That's right, Landon Donovan.
The Galaxy's star attacker and former captain, who has been on an extended leave of absence since LA claimed their second successive MLS Cup crown in December, returns to the club next week – just in time to celebrate the 2012 title with President Obama.
Bruce Arena confirmed that after Thursday's training session at the Home Depot Center, saying that the Galaxy were “planning on Landon going.”
The Galaxy and the Los Angeles Kings, the NHL's reigning Stanley Cup champions, also owned by AEG, will be fêted Tuesday in Washington. LA announced last month that Donovan would report to camp the last week of March, and Tuesday begins the final week of the month.
“I bet he will be [there],” Mike Magee said after he was informed of Donovan's planned appearance. “It's convenient, right? Convenient timing. ... Landon's obviously been a key figure for MLS and the LA Galaxy for a long time, so I'm not surprised he chose not to miss this trip.”
The Galaxy will head to Toronto, where they play March 30, following the White House gathering, but Donovan isn't likely to be available for games until mid-April.
“We need to be patient. It's going to take some time,” Arena said. “You don't go from being away to stepping on the field and being ready to play and being up to the level that he left us in December. So it's going to take some time, and we need to be patient.”
Donovan's teammates are looking forward to his return.
“It'll be good,” A.J. DeLaGarza said. “I'm sure he will get a lot of banter the first couple of weeks, but I'm sure he can take it. He's definitely going to help our team. He's obviously one of the best players in this league, so everybody's looking forward to it.”
DeLaGarza and Magee said nobody on the Galaxy had a problem with Donovan missing all of preseason and the first month of the campaign – the team's been at it for two months now – although Magee teased that Donovan might get a little rookie treatment.
“[Carry the] water bottles, push goals [into position in training], clean the rookies' shoes,” Magee said. “We're going to make him do it all.”
Said DeLaGarza: “We're all pretty young, so we can't say much [about Donovan's absence]. Look at what he's done for our club and country, so he deserves [the time off].”
The Galaxy (1-0-1) last year didn't visit the White House following their 2011 triumph until mid-April, and Arena has said it contributed to the championship “hangover” that impacted the team's start last year.
“Maybe just getting it over with might help us mentally,” Magee said, “because last year by the time we got there, we were obviously last place in the world. It'll be good to kind of put that behind us and get the visit out of the way and start focusing on this year.”
Arena joked that he wouldn't “be as embarrassed as I was last year when I showed up there [with a 3-5-2 record]. We haven't lost a game yet, so at lease we've got that going for us. [Even with a loss to Colorado on Saturday, LA would make the trip with] a much better record than we had last year.”