Los Angeles Galaxy coach Bruce Arena seems ready to say goodbye to Landon Donovan’s farewell tour.
The Galaxy held a pregame tribute to the MLS and U.S. national team icon Sunday in honor of his last regular-season home game. Then the team went out and lost a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw with Seattle Sounders FC.
“I think we need to start focusing on playing,” Arena said afterward. “We are real pleased that the process is now complete, and we are entering the last regular-season game and then the playoffs, and hopefully we and Landon can focus on that.”
Donovan seemed to agree.
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“I have made it clear to everyone that I’m going to appreciate this and enjoy this, but that now is the time to get back to soccer,” he said after the match. “… I need now to step back and focus. This has been incredible for me — I wouldn’t have it any other way — but I want to finish the season right. So it is time to step back now (and) we will get back to business.”
The Galaxy did its part by not making Donovan available to Seattle-area media this week, leading up to what will be his final MLS regular-season game Saturday at CenturyLink Field. There’s plenty at stake in that game beyond the Donovan farewell, as the result will determine the Supporters’ Shield winner in a head-to-head match for the first time in the 19 MLS seasons. A Sounders win or a draw brings the trophy to Seattle, while a Galaxy win returns it to Los Angeles.
Even without additional Galaxy fanfare, Donovan’s last regular-season game in an unavoidable subplot for the fans in attendance and for those watching nationally on NBC.
“Landon’s given U.S. Soccer and MLS a lot of great things, so he deserves the attention,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s just something that happens. I think Landon’s pretty good at focusing and getting refocused. I think his team is good at that. I remember they had David Beckham there — there was a lot of hoopla week in and week out there. And so I think they’re a team that knows how to deal with all that stuff going on and still be focused and play.”
Donovan is playing his 14th MLS season: 2001-2004 with the San Jose Earthquakes and 2005 to now with the Galaxy. He has announced his plans to retire after the coming playoffs. He will go out as the league’s career leader in goals and assists.
“Landon’s been a tremendous ambassador for the sport and has achieved an incredible amount,” Schmid said. “And he’s a guy who locked in his future to MLS when not everybody was necessarily doing it. It wasn’t fashionable to do, but it also for him was the right decision, and it’s what he wanted to do, and he’s played very well.”
Along the way, he became a role model for a new generation of U.S. soccer players.
“Growing up, he was kind of the guy,” said Sounders homegrown rookie Aaron Kovar. ”It’s pretty cool because at least in my opinion that’s kind of been passed over to (Seattle forward Clint Dempsey). And to get to train and work with Clint every day is pretty cool. But growing up, (Donovan) was definitely the guy young American players looked up to and wanted to be. … It’s a shame to see him retire, but at the same time he’s left a pretty incredible legacy.”
Donovan also has made it clear that he would like to go out with more championships. One is at stake Saturday.
After that, both teams will head into the playoffs as the first and second seeds in the West and therefore with a chance to meet again in the Western Conference finals, where the winner advances to the MLS Cup.