Landon Donovan's self-imposed sabbatical from soccer will extend until late March, the Galaxy said Sunday, meaning the U.S. national team's all-time leading scorer will be unavailable for crucial World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico next month.
Citing physical and mental exhaustion after a dozen years of top-flight soccer, Donovan, 30, walked away from the game after helping lead the Galaxy to its second consecutive Major League Soccer title on Dec. 1. At the time he said he was strongly considering retirement.
He hasn't played for the national team since a 1-0 win over Mexico in a friendly last August. And without him, the U.S. lost to Honduras this month in the first game of the final round of regional qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The U.S. stands last in its six-country qualifying group and is the only team without a point.
"After a series of collaborative discussions between Landon, his representative and our key club leaders, we have agreed to allow Landon to remain on an extended leave of absence and return to training with the team during the final week of March," Galaxy Coach and General Manager Bruce Arena said. "We understand this arrangement is not ideal but we are confident it will allow Landon the time he needs to be both mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming season."