The good news for everybody hoping to see Landon Donovan pass Jeff Cunningham this year? His early return from international duty may give him an extra game to break MLS’s all-time scoring record before the end of the season. The bad news, though? Fitness is the reason he’s being returned.
A poor first half on Friday in Kansas City saw the U.S. men’s all-time leading scorer replaced at halftime by Graham Zusi, with the U.S. going on to a 2-0, Hex-clinching win over Jamaica. One day later, U.S. Soccer announced an ankle injury would see Donovan returned to his club ahead of the national team’s trip to Panama. With the Galaxy hosting Montréal on Wednesday, Donovan could conceivably play in all three of the defending champions’ final games, with San Jose and a trip to Seattle closing LA’s regular season set.
That’s the best-case scenario for those hoping to celebrate as soon as possible. After two goals in last weekend’s rivalry match with Chivas USA, Donovan sits on 134 for his Major League Soccer career, and although that leaves him tied with Jeff Cunningham with conceivably 270 minutes to play this season, fitness could render those minutes meaningless. If Landon Donovan’s ankle is bad enough to see him sent home from the national team, could it also see him miss time with LA?
We should know early this week, once the Galaxy have had a chance to re-evaluate Donovan’s ankle. With Jurgen Klinsmann and U.S. Soccer claiming the injury occurred on club duty, Los Angeles is surely aware of what’s happening with their biggest star. And given he scored twice in his last — presumably injury-limited performance — Donovan may yet see time on Wednesday. Still hoping to avoid a four-five play-in game (as well as just clinch a playoff spot), a Robbie Keane-less LA could certainly use him.
If he can play, then Donovan’s early departure from national team duty means the LA icon is more likely to snatch this record before the postseason comes. If, however, the injury’s gotten worse while in Kansas City, waiting until 2014 becomes more likely.
While it may only be a matter of time until the record is Donovan’s, there’s a big difference between two weeks and five months.