Galaxy-Toronto FC Preview
He's seen the world and he's seen the White House.
While star forward Landon Donovan is not expected to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy at Toronto FC on Saturday, there's no doubt the reigning MLS Cup champions will get a boost when he does return after a self-imposed sabbatical.
The best American soccer player of his generation, Donovan caused a stir following the Galaxy's victory in the MLS Cup in December by leaving the team for nearly four months to deal with physical and mental exhaustion. His time away - mainly spent with family but also including a trip to Cambodia - resulted in him missing the Galaxy's first three matches and first three final-round World Cup qualifiers for the United States.
All of it further added to the intrigue surrounding the future club and country plans of the 31-year-old.
Some of those plans were revealed this week, when Donovan appeared with the Galaxy in Washington to celebrate their MLS Cup title with President Obama. He also participated with the team in workouts.
"I've known a lot of these guys for a long time, and I think they understood how badly I needed some time away,'' Donovan said. ''I'm fortunate to play for a team like this. There are probably a lot of other teams that would not have been as accepting."
Donovan, though, seems to have had just about enough time off.
"I wanted to get that enjoyment back," he told the team's official website. "I watched our first game against Chicago, the Galaxy game, at home and really had that itch again to play and knew that I was ready."
On Saturday, though, the Galaxy (2-0-1) must try to win without him in their first road match. They wrapped up their three-game homestand with a 1-0 victory over Colorado last Saturday, with Mike Magee converting a penalty kick in the 50th minute.
Magee has scored four of the Galaxy's six goals and likely will again play an attacking role behind teenagers Jose Villarreal and Jack McBean. Forward Robbie Keane is questionable after suffering a calf injury in Ireland's scoreless draw with Sweden in World Cup qualifying Tuesday.
Toronto FC (1-2-0) is hoping a return home results in a return to its winning ways. It's been idle since a 2-1 defeat at Montreal on March 16, with its lone victory coming against Sporting Kansas City at BMO Field on March 9.
Protecting its pitch has become a priority for first-year coach Ryan Nelsen as the team tries to move on from a disastrous 2012 season in which it went 3-9-5 at home.
"It's one of our goals this year - to make our home ground a horrible place for opposition teams to come to and such that no team can come in and expect an easy three points," Nelsen told the league's official website. "We will do whatever it takes to defend our home patch and make our fans proud."
Finding consistency on offense would go a long way toward achieving that. Robert Earnshaw has scored all three of Toronto's goals, two of which have come from the penalty spot. Toronto has put just eight shots on goal thus far.
The Galaxy have one win and three draws in five all-time matches at Toronto but have been held to scoreless ties in their last two trips. Keane and Juninho each scored two goals in the only meeting between the teams last season, a 4-2 home win for Los Angeles.