Galaxy’s Donovan excited to return to the pitch

Donovan stressed the importance of being with his teammates from the get-go this year as the Galaxy look for redemption after falling just shy of an MLS championship the past two seasons.

CARSON, California  _ Time off from football is an entirely new concept for Landon Donovan. He can’t recall another moment in his career that he was this excited to return to the pitch.

That’s good news for his Los Angeles Galaxy and the team’s quest to capture an elusive Major League Soccer title. But it could spell trouble for the rest of the league hoping to take out the revamped and hungry Galaxy.

“This is the first time I can remember where I had enough time to really get antsy to play again,” Donovan said following Wednesday’s third session of training camp. “I’m excited to be back, to see new faces and to start up again, and that hasn’t happened in a while.”

Being in camp this time of year is slightly foreign to the Galaxy midfielder. Donovan missed the bulk of last season’s team training while playing on loan with Everton in the Premier League, returning for one preseason contest before jumping into the grind of the regular season.

This year, instead of pursing another loan and playing throughout the offseason, Donovan decided to take a break from football, during which he traveled, rested and did anything he could to keep his mind off the game.

“I’m so used to going all the time, it was almost difficult just to relax,” said Donovan. “You want to find something to do and you just have to force yourself to relax. But I know it was the right decision.”

Donovan stressed the importance of being with his teammates from the get-go this year as the Galaxy look for redemption after falling just shy of an MLS championship the past two seasons.

One famous face remains absent for the time being.

David Beckham remains with Tottenham in the Premier League, although he’s not been allowed to see any game action with the Spurs and the Galaxy unable to come to a suitable agreement.

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena didn’t shed much light on the situation Wednesday, other than to say, “He’ll be playing for the Galaxy this year.”

The 35-year-old ex-England captain spent the first half of last season playing on loan for AC Milan, during which time he suffered an Achilles’ tendon injury that cost him an opportunity to play in the World Cup and six months of the season.

Now fully healthy, Beckham is scheduled to return from Europe and report to Los Angeles on Feb. 10.

Beckham is in the final year of his deal with the Galaxy, meaning this season could be his swansong with the team and the league.

Donovan, who knows firsthand what it’s like to arrive at camp late, doesn’t think Beckham’s absence will hinder the team’s ability to come together.

“I would normally say yes, but every year we’ve spent significant time without David, whether it’s been injuries or if he’s been away,” Donovan said. “This team knows how to gel quickly, and David conversely does a really good job of coming into the team.”

The Galaxy will train in Southern California until heading to Arizona for nine days of training beginning Feb. 14. They open the season March 15 against the Seattle Sounders.

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