May 25, 2014; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy forward Landon Donovan (10) reacts after scoring his record breaking 135th MLS goal in the second half of the game against the Philadelphia Union at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

L.A. Galaxy: Klinsmann's Decision Blessing in Disguise for Donovan


The U.S. Men’s National Team is set to begin its World Cup journey on Monday, and the questions surrounding the omission of Landon Donovan from the final roster still remain.

The truth is that in order to understand head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision, you have to go way back to 2012.

As the Los Angeles Galaxy prepared for a playoff run and title defense in October of that year, there was a cloud hanging over the team. In an August 2012 interview with Goal.com’s Alex Labidou, Donovan made a shocking admission: he was unsure whether or not he wanted to continue playing, and he was giving serious consideration to retiring when his contract ended in 2013.

As Donovan put it in an interview with ESPN FC, ” Your body’s going to tell you it’s time to take a break and that’s what my body is telling me this year, there’s no question.”

True to his word, Donovan did in fact step away from the sport following the Galaxy’s victory in the 2012 MLS Cup, and he set no date for his return. He wouldn’t even guarantee that he would return at all.

Eventually, it was decided that Donovan would return to the Galaxy sometime in February of 2013, but then the date was pushed back. That only raised further questions regarding his commitment to the sport.

When Donovan finally did return to the Galaxy in late March of 2013, the damage had already been done. He had missed time with both the Galaxy and the national team. While Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena welcomed him back, Klinsmann still had questions regarding his commitment.

Over a year later, we have finally seen the full consequences of Donovan’s sabbatical. Ultimately, Klinsmann opted for players whose commitment he felt he could depend on. While the USMNT represents the U.S. in Brazil, Donovan will be home, representing the Galaxy.

So where does this leave Donovan?

His performance since Klinsmann’s decision is the answer.

Los Angeles Galaxy’s performance has improved since Donovan’s exclusion from USMNT. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In three games with the Galaxy after being left off of the World Cup roster, Donovan has three goals and an assist. There may still be questions about his commitment, but there aren’t any regarding his ability. He remains the same game-changing performer for Los Angeles he’s always been.

The irony is that as disappointed as he is to have been left off the final roster, this can prove to be a blessing in disguise for Donovan, and the Galaxy stand to benefit the most.

When he returned from his time away, he was supposed to be reinvigorated and re-focused. But as Martin Rodgers of Yahoo! Sports noted, this was not necessarily the case.

According to Rodgers, there was a noticeable difference in Donovan after his return. Yes, he still loved the game, and his performance hadn’t diminished. But he also showed greater interests in things off the field.

Rodgers himself noticed this when talking to Donovan: “He also asked about different places I had traveled, a little about the nature of my work and what a typical week involved. To me, his curiousness suggested he was envious less of those who got to travel but of those who got to do regular things for themselves.”

Donovan himself has admitted that when he took his time away, he was not sure what would come of it. It could affect his standing with his club. It could affect his standing with the national team. He honestly did not know, but he was okay with that. For the sake of his physical and mental health, he had to take a break from soccer, regardless of the consequences.

We are already beginning to see the consequences, and they are not necessarily a bad thing. Donovan will now be able focus solely on his performance with the Galaxy. For a player that has spent over a decade playing essentially year-round for club and country, the experience of having a singular focus may prove refreshing.

Clearly, his performance hasn’t suffered. He can focus on soccer, but he will also have time to focus on other things.

As for the Galaxy, the team now has the peace of mind of knowing that, for the first time in years, they will have the undivided attention (for the most part) of the greatest player is U.S. soccer history. No more distractions for the team or the player.

Donovan now has the luxury of having only one professional focus, the Los Angeles Galaxy, and for the first time in his life, he is looking at the prospect of an actual offseason, time during which he can focus on the other areas of his life that have become too important for him to ignore in recent years.

Although the journey to this point has proven difficult, it seems Donovan might have finally found the balance in his life he set out to find years ago.

Ultimately, this situation can prove to be exactly what he wanted.

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Tags: Landon Donovan Los Angeles Galaxy MLS Soccer

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