Landon Donovan hugged his wife and held his young son for the first time following a soccer game, enjoying the moment he longed for when he ended his 21-month MLS retirement.

Landon Donovan Returns From Retirement In Galaxy’s 4-2 Win Over Orlando

Donovan then handed off his son and ran directly toward the LA Galaxy’s locker room to jump on a treadmill. The 34-year-old former forward came on as a substitute in the 83rd minute of his team’s game against the Orlando City at Stubhub Center on Sunday, with the Galaxy leading 4-1.

The all-time leading scorer in both Major League Soccer and the U.S. men’s national team eventually helped lead the Galaxy to a 4-2 victory in Carson, California.

”I’m so far away,” Donovan said. ”I came into a game where both teams were exhausted, and I was the slowest player on the field. I need to get myself ready to compete in a real way. Bruce and the coaching staff need to know what when they put me in, it can mean something. So tonight worked out well, but I need to be able to contribute.”


A week of sports news in your in-box.
We find the sports news you need to know, so you don't have to.

Donovan surprisingly announced his return to the field on Thursday after nearly two years away from the game. He has committed to return for at least the remainder of this season, which he hopes will finish with his record seventh MLS Cup championship.

Donning a No. 26 jersey rather than his usual No. 10, the superstar received a lengthy standing ovation and thunderous applause from the crowd as he took the field late in the game, his first match since the 2014 MLS Cup final.

The Galaxy have suffered a long string of injuries recently, to Steven Gerrard and Gyasi Zardes among others. Thus, this provided an opening for Donovan to return to play with six games left in the stretch run before the playoffs begin.

”I was excited, but it’s just weird to be back in this role, because it’s real,” Donovan said. ”It’s really intense. The league, I think, has gotten dramatically better since I’ve been gone. When I looked at Orlando’s lineup, they have really, really good players all over the field. It’s just amazing to see how this league has changed. There’s no room to be not fit, not sharp. I’m got to be on it if I want to contribute.”

His teammates appeared to be in fine form on Sunday, nevertheless. Giovani Dos Santos scored two goals and Alan Gordon added another during a first-half bombardment for the Galaxy (11-4-14), who took sole possessions second place in the Western Conference with their second consecutive win. Captain Robbie Keane also scored as a second-half substitute while Los Angeles pushed its undefeated streak to five matches.

The Galaxy’s comfortable lead was the sole reason Donovan got the chance to play in his first game back.

”It’s going to take a while,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. ”We knew that. Probably no other circumstances would have allowed me to play him today, but I wanted him to get out there and reward the crowd for showing up and all, and it helps Landon see how far he has to go.”

The team’s fans started to sing for Donovan in the 70th minute following Keane’s goal.

Donovan hadn’t been training extensively before choosing to return, and his fitness was barely sufficient for a late-game run along the left side of the Galaxy’s formation.

”I think I had much more impact today in the locker room and helping out a few guys at halftime than I did on the field,” Donovan said. ”If that’s the way I contribute, that’s great.”

Dos Santos, the Mexican star who now wears Donovan’s No. 10, scored or assisted on every goal in a fantastic performance for the Galaxy, who have struggle to get their entire star-studded lineup healthy during a season marked largely by frustration despite their high place in the standings.

Donovan doesn’t know what role he’ll play in the final five games of the regular season, but he is eager to build on this tentative restart.

”I might have played five minutes or so, maybe completed one pass, and it really makes you realize that it’s a whole different level,” Donovan said. ”I’ve got to get myself going again so I can really contribute, because not every week is going to be a charity five or 10 minutes.”

CARSON, CA – SEPTEMBER 11: Landon Donovan #26 of the Los Angeles Galaxy enters the game against Orlando City FC returning from retirement at StubHub Center on September 11, 2016 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Read more about:

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

Listen to the uInterview Podcast!
Get the most-revealing celebrity conversations with the uInterview podcast!