Landon Donovan: “The experience this year has made me want to do it again.” (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Landon Donovan hasn’t made a definitive decision on whether he will return to the San Diego Sockers for the 2019-20 Major Arena Soccer League season, but he certainly isn’t against it.
Remember, he is Landon Donovan and he has a lot on his plate with some off-the-field projects on the horizon.
Of course, the Sockers’ success might play a major role in luring Donovan back.
“Certainly, I am open to it,” Donovan said in a phone interview earlier this week. “The experience this year has made me want to do it again. I’ve got a couple of other things that may be happening which would force me to make a decision one way or another on that. If I didn’t have anything else going on, I would say yes, absolutely. So, we’ll see what happens with those. And if neither comes to fruition, then I think it’s a definite yes. As it stands now, I will have to make a decision at some point, assuming the Sockers want me back. But I have certainly enjoyed every minute and if I have the opportunity to do it again and it makes sense for everyone. I would love to do it again.”
First things first, however, as the 37-year-old former U.S. international and Major League Soccer standout and his Sockers teammates have to find a way to win the MASL crown. On Friday night, San Diego, which boasted a 23-1 regular-season mark, recorded a 6-2 win at the Tacoma Stars in the first game of the Pacific Division final. The Sockers, who have a 22-game winning streak, host Tacoma in Game 2 Saturday night.
Donovan liked the Sockers’ chances.
“Having watched quite a few games now, I think are a probably a couple of teams with players as talented as Kraig Chiles, or as talented as Brandon Escoto or as talented as Leonardo,” he said. “Where I think we’re better is in two areas.”
Defense and depth.
Donovan mentioned some key names on the San Diego backline that have helped make life difficult for opposing attackers — Luis “Pee Wee” Ortega, Cesar Cerda, Guerrero Pino and Raymundo Contreras, plus Juan Gonzalez and Ze Roberto.
“Defensively, we’re very, very good,” he said, adding that Boris Pardo was “an outstanding goalkeeper.”
“So, it’s difficult to score against us, particularly in the run of play,” he said.
Then there’s the depth, ridiculous depth.
“Every week that I’ve been there, there are three or four guys who don’t travel or don’t dress that could start on a lot of other teams in this league,” Donovan said. “So, when you’ve got that ability, particularly this coming weekend to mix and match lines based on match-ups and not worrying to having to ride your horses all the time, I think that makes a big difference.
“We’ve seen it in games, a lot of games, particularly in the last month. We’ve been down a couple of times early in games, but over the course of 60 minutes we just wear teams down because you get no rest. There’s no player who comes on and where you say, ‘OK, I can take a breather against that guy.’ That doesn’t happen when you play against the San Diego Sockers. We’re relentless and line after line after line comes on. And it’s hard to play against then. That, I think sets us apart from the other teams.”
Donovan, who will earn a reported $250,000 during his brief tenure with the Sockers, has played but eight MASL games. Moreover, he has enjoyed his experience.
“I came in with no expectation and so by every measure and every way it has exceeded my expectations,” he said. “The enjoyment, the fans, the level of play, the competitiveness and the competition, all of that has thoroughly exceeded any expectation that I might have had. I just think everything about it has been fantastic.”