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After slow start, Landon Donovan gives Galaxy a spark

Some signs pointed to the decline of the L.A. Galaxy's Landon Donovan, but he scores two goals in a comeback that could be a turning point for the team.

June 24, 2012|By Andrew Owens, Los Angeles Times
  • Landon Donovan controls the ball on the attack as Diego Chara of the Portland Timbers defends.
Landon Donovan controls the ball on the attack as Diego Chara of the Portland… (Victor Decolongon / Getty…)

One hundred thousand or 200,000 miles seem to be the milestone for the typical car to slow down, after a long life of service to its owner.

What is the parallel in a soccer player's career? Do you judge by years or games played?

Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan turned 30 in March. During the past decade, he's played in roughly 350 matches that include Major League Soccer and international competitions.

Though Donovan can hardly be considered typical, it was only natural to question how much longer he can be an elite player after a slow start this season for the Galaxy. He scored just two goals in his first 11 games after averaging just a shade under a goal for every two games played during his 12-year MLS career.

Even Donovan hinted at a decreasing passion for the game when talking to reporters at the U.S. national team training camp in May.

"I think all players reach a point in their career where it's natural to lose some of that hunger, that desire, to sort of break out or be a star," he said. "My mind-set now is I want to be successful, and I realize now that as I'm getting older, I'm not going to be the guy who's scoring goals every game or making a great impact all the time."

Donovan has sparked the Galaxy in consecutive wins as the defending MLS champions attempt to crawl back into position to make the playoffs.

With L.A. down, 2-0, Wednesday at Real Salt Lake, the Galaxy fought back to win, 3-2, thanks to Donovan's two goals, and gain a much-needed three points. It was the first time in club history that Real Salt Lake had surrendered a two-goal lead at home.

"I'm doing the same thing," Donovan said after the team's workout Friday. "I'm trying to be a good teammate and a good captain and help this team win.

"I want us to keep playing the way we've been playing. Since the day I've been back, there's been a different mentality and attitude, and we need to continue that. We're still in a big hole, and we've got to make sure we keep winning."

After snapping a seven-match winless streak with consecutive victories and losing various players to rehab, injury, suspension and international duty, the Galaxy might have turned a corner.

Going into Saturday's game against Vancouver, the Galaxy, with a 5-8-2 record, are two points behind Colorado Rapids for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena said his squad is playing more like the team they were expected to be entering the season, and that much of that is due to Donovan's leadership.

"He's certainly shown since he returned that he wants to lead this team and be successful," Arena said, adding that there's "no question" he has played more inspired in recent weeks.

Only time will tell how many miles Donovan has left in the tank, but if the past couple of weeks are any indication, he still has quite a few rides left in him.

andrew.owens@latimes.com

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