GLENDALE — It’s been a busy week for international soccer superstar Landon Donovan, but that didn’t keep him from taking time out for the little things Thursday.
One day removed from a press conference where he announced his decision to extend his stay with Major League Soccer and the Los Angeles Galaxy and about six hours after news hit that the 31-year-old attacker had been summoned to join the U.S. national team for World Cup qualifying competition, Donovan put his career aside to assist his fans.
“It’s nice to come out and sort of do something different and see kids that don’t really care about what’s been going on the last two days,” said Donovan, whose new contract is for three years and an undisclosed amount, although it’s been reported to possibly make him the highest paid player in MLS history. “I enjoy it and I think it’s good for us to do and it’s good for us to be in the community and do things like this.”
Donovan, who’s been with the Galaxy since 2005, and former Galaxy standout Clint Mathis headlined an L.A. Galaxy soccer clinic put on for an estimated 150 youth soccer players from Glendale AYSO Region 88 Thursday evening at the Glendale Sports Complex.
“He's the face of U.S. soccer,” said AYSO Region 88 Commissioner Aldo Mascheroni, whose chapter caters to Glendale, La Crescenta and offers open registration. “Landon Donovan is the idol of every kid who plays soccer in the U.S., he's their star.”
For an hour and a half, Donovan took part in a question-and-answer segment with the kids put on by Mathis, signed autographs, took pictures and watched as the youngsters drilled in a clinic run by Galaxy coaches. His main message to the kids was to have fun in whatever you do now and your career later in life, whether it’s soccer, baking or teaching.
Rob Duryee’s young son, Cameron, was sporting a Donovan jersey T-shirt that was eventually signed, leaving his mouth and eyes wide open.
“They play [soccer] year round and they watch all the Galaxy games, we go to about eight a year and he's known who Landon Donovan is since he was 5 years old,” Rob, whose sons were both in attendance, said of Cameron. “To actually see him out here representing not only the L.A. Galaxy and the MLS, but the U.S. national team is just an honor, he has been so excited for weeks leading up to this.”
Alex Camargo, a 15-year-old Glendale resident, couldn’t believe he was actually meeting Donovan.
“It feels pretty cool talking to a Major League Soccer player,” Camargo said. “I would say he is my favorite player.”
It wasn’t just the youngsters who were hungry for some Donovan memorabilia. Plenty of adults – AYSO board of directors and Glendale Police Department officers – pleaded for a photo or two with the star. For Donovan, it was all about the kids.
“I grew up playing all over L.A., Glendale included, so it’s nice to come out and see these young kids,” said Donovan, adding it was his love for L.A. that led to him resigning with the Galaxy. “It makes you realize we’re all building the game we want to.
“I wish I would have had the opportunity [to meet a pro] when I was younger, so if we can do that for them that’s great. I remember watching games and if I had the chance to meet some of my idols or favorite players that would have been a dream come true. We’re building the sport, it’s getting better and hopefully this continues generation after generation.”
While Thursday may have been a welcome reprieve from the grind of professional athletics, there’s plenty left for Donovan and the Galaxy to achieve this season.
With 131 goals, Donovan is three tallies off from setting the league’s all-time scoring record — he’s already the national team’s all-time leader in goals (46) and assists (47). He could also extend his record in MLS Cups to six if the Galaxy were to three-peat.
“The last few years we've been fortunate and won the MLS Cup,” Donovan told the crowd of kids who all gathered and grew quiet to hear him speak. “This year we're in position to do so again. We have nine games left, I know you guys will continue coming to support us and I appreciate that. I think we could possibly win a third championship in a row and I hope you guys are there to see it.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun