CARSON -- Speculation that Landon Donovan is headed back to Europe -- or that that's where he wants to be -- is constant: that's the kind of assumption that follows players with his skills, and last year's gloriously enjoyable spell in England with Everton sure turned his head.
So Galaxy fans will be encouraged to hear L.A.'s captain -- and scorer of the goal that gave their team the MLS Cup title Sunday -- is sounding pretty single-minded about next year.
Donovan, who will be 30 in March, was asked Wednesday if he expected to return to the Galaxy next season, the third year of a four-year contract -- or might Europe be in his sights?
“Well, you never know what happens, but yeah [I expect to be here],” he replied. Would he entertain loan offers? “I would entertain anything, but the main elements for me are being physically and mentally ready to go next year. For this team. And if anything is going to impede that, I'm not going to do it.”
That means, he says, about two months of not doing a whole lot. After a strenuous, injury-marred but ultimately rewarding campaign, Donovan needs some rest.
“I learned a lot this year about my body,” he said, “and I was probably a little lazy at points this year with things that probably would have let me hold up better at the end of the year. So I want to be better in those areas.
“The first part is to start from scratch next year, and you don't start from scratch if you're training and playing all winter during the offseason. I think we probably have until the third week in January to just really relax and let our bodies catch up, and then we'll be ready to go.”
What does Donovan mean by “lazy”?
“This job, if you want to do it right, is a 24/7 job, because you go go home after practice and everything you eat is important and affects how you train the next day,” he said. “What you do in the afternoon, how you're hydrating, how you're spending your time affects this. If you're lazy and you don't do things properly, then it catches up. And it's hard to be 'on' all the time, because you want to have some semblance of a normal life. But if I want to be better, then those are things I've got to be better at.”
If he's going to rest for two months, that would mean he wouldn't be playing in the U.S. national team's annual January camp at Home Depot Center. Normally, that wouldn't be a big deal, but he's missed the last two U.S. gatherings -- for the friendlies in October and November -- with a quadriceps injury and fatigue.
“I have to talk to Jurgen [Klinsmann, the U.S. coach] about all of that,” Donovan said. “Part of the reason this was tough the last few weeks is because I felt bad for not going into these camps. A lot of guys in different situations went into camp and made tough decisions to go in, and I had to make a tough decision not to go. Part of me feels a little guilty about that.
“I've thought about the January camp, and while physically it doesn't make any sense for me to be there, I think if there's a chance to be there in some aspect, then I think it would make sense. And just to sort of feel out the coaching staff and Jurgen a little more and see what the expectations are a little more and be around the group a little more.”
Donovan's ultimate aim is to lead the Galaxy to another MLS Cup/Supporters' Shield double next year. The odds aren't necessarily with the Galaxy -- decisions need to be made on a lot of players, and not all of them will be coming back. Salary-cap issues could sting.
“You guys don't know the issues in the league in terms of conflicts you have in trying to maintain a roster, build it or whatever,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena noted during the buildup to last weekend's victory. “We're going to have a lot of that next year, and that'll be challenging as well.”
Arena doesn't discuss potential player moves -- the Galaxy manage affairs under the radar better than any club in the league -- but there's a lot of thought that Josh Saunders' performance has made superfluous Jamaican goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, with his $170,000 salary. Forward Chad Barrett ($192,000), midfielder Chris Birchall ($144,000), defender Frankie Hejduk ($96,000) and midfielder Jovan Kirovski ($84,000) might be expendable, too.
“We're in a league that's designed to knock you down when you're good,” Donovan said. “You get the last pick in the draft ... the way the salary cap works, a lot of guys probably had bonuses this year that will kick in next year and make their cap numbers higher. The league is designed to let bad teams get better and good teams get worse.
“But I think we're a little greedy. When I look back over the season, I think we probably left eight or 10 points on the table, and we could have been better. My thinking as early as Monday morning was how are we going to repeat. And I think that's maybe a little selfish and greedy, but if you want to live in the moment, that's the way you think.”
“I have some ideas, but, unfortunately, nobody cares.”
Arena isn't thinking along those lines yet.
“It's Wednesday. We just finished on Sunday,” he said. “I'm gonna give myself about a week to not worry about it. We've got as little but of a cushion here to relax a couple of weeks and not talk about winning a championship next year and all that kind of stuff, and we're just gonna kind of chill out a little bit, do this tour, and then get back to business.”