Major League Soccer’s postseason just received a major boost in the hype department, and rightfully so, as Landon Donovan appears set to return to the field after less than two years away from the game.
We’ve covered the “Why?”, not what about the “How?”.
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The last time we saw Donovan on the pitch, he was playing all 120 minutes of the Galaxy’s extra time win over New England in MLS Cup 2014, finishing a five-match run that saw him play all but 7 minutes.
How good was he that season? Real good. Check his per-game performance score amongst players to play more than 10 matches, via advanced stats site Squawka. No coincidence that No. 2 is the striker he set up for a boatload of goals.
Donovan has always been known as an endurance freak, the sort of athlete willing to commit whatever it takes to success. Even his unusual break from the game after a bout with depression came with an admission that he had trouble understanding his inability to totally commit to the game.
So he won’t be making this decision without an ability to do just that. If you need a reminder of how good Donovan was when he called it quits, lest we forget that Donovan’s final season, CONCACAF Champions League, and playoffs saw him drop 13 goals and 24 assists en route to a seventh MLS Best XI.
[ MORE: Twitter reacts to LD’s return ]
We wouldn’t rule out flashes of dominance from the 34-year-old attacker at all — This is Landon Donovan after all — but it’s likely we’re talking super sub for a while. Donovan said he and coach Bruce Arena said “expectations would be minimal”.
Or are we? Once Donovan’s fitness is up to snuff, this is a team missing Gyasi Zardes for the season and using Emmanuel Boateng — who scored Wednesday — and Baggio Husidic on the wings of a 4-2-3-1. The idea of Donovan slotting next Giovani Dos Santos, as odd as that would be for USMNT and Mexico fans, could happen down the stretch.
After all, this is a Galaxy team which is 7 points back of FC Dallas for the top slot in the West (and MLS), and two matches left against the Texas club. Throw in last place Houston and 8th place Seattle, and there are 12 points sitting out there before we talk mid-table sides Sporting KC and Orlando City.
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Here’s how the Galaxy season plays out:
Sunday — vs. Orlando City FC
Sept. 18 — at Sporting KC
Sept. 25 — vs. Seattle Sounders
Oct. 1 — at FC Dallas
Oct. 16 — at Houston Dynamo
Oct. 23 — vs. FC Dallas
Remember that Squawka table from above? If not, scroll up (I kid). The Galaxy has had trouble getting production from players on the wings this year. While Dos Santos has been electric in the hole, Zardes has simply hemmorhaged possession this season.
Could we see an XI like this from Bruce Arena?
Rogers — Steres — Van Damme — Cole
Gerrard — Larentowicz
Boateng — Dos Santos — Donovan
Given the relatively good performances from Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane, even marginally effective displays from an in-form Donovan could boost L.A. into one of the favorites for MLS Cup (They need to be more consistent at the back, for sure).