Saying “I don’t believe in walls,” United States men’s national team legend Landon Donovan came out of retirement (again) this weekend to join Club Leon in Mexico.
Donovan, 35, scored one goal in nine matches during his first comeback bid with the LA Galaxy in 2016, and was an MLS Best XI member as recently as 2014.
There’s little to no risk for Donovan, who’s not the sort of character who’d care about public perception, anyway. Again, he’s a legend whose name is on the MLS MVP trophy (which does seem an honor that could’ve waited given recent news). And the potential rewards are high, but there is a question of why.
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We imagine that this past season had to have Donovan frothing for several reasons. Clearly there’s political impetus given his aforementioned “walls” line, but there’s likely so much more to it.
Donovan was mentioned as a potential candidate to run for the vacant United States Soccer Federation presidency, and the American legend was steamed when his Yanks failed to qualify for the World Cup.
He’s also watched Clint Dempsey join him atop the USMNT goal scoring charts, his Galaxy struggle for the first time in ages, and a number of longtime friends — Bob Bradley, Tim Howard — return to MLS (Pure speculation but maybe, just maybe, Donovan will use Leon as a buffer before another MLS stint with LAFC? He has, after all, played for both of the Cali Clasico rivals).
And the Swansea City advisor now has two sons who can enjoy ‘Dad’ back on the playing field. For Leon, the decision is easy, as there’s more depth in salary south of the border and the American is going to sell enough jerseys and garner enough buzz to justify the move before considering his potential to do special things on the field.
Donovan will be teammates with USMNT-capped backstop William Yarbrough on Los Panzas Verde, as well as longtime Houston Dynamo attacker Giles Barnes and Mexican national teamer Luis Montes.
Largely, though, it’s likely Donovan just missed playing the game at a high level, and will welcome a new challenge. He’ll also give us a bit of a measuring stick for the gap between MLS and Liga MX, although that’s fraught with analytical challenges.
Liga MX is the fourth domestic top flight for Donovan.