Landon Donovan, the greatest American soccer player of all-time, completed his first professional indoor soccer practice Tuesday, taking the next step in his comeback with the San Diego Sockers of the Major Arena Soccer League (MASL).
Afterwards, Donovan said, “I actually feel like a kid again, because I grew up playing the indoor game, when you come out here and kind of just roll the ball around and get to kick it around again is really fun. Now, there will be parts that will be real work, but the ability to play soccer in a fun, fast, competitive way is really enjoyable. Honestly, I felt like a kid again and that was fun.”
Before his comeback was announced last week, the 36-year-old Donovan was staying busy being a dad to two long children.
"The only work my brain has been doing lately is changing diapers, so it's nice to have something a little different in my arsenal, and nice not to be changing diapers for a few hours."
Donovan, who earned his soccer status in the outdoor game, admits there will be an adjustment period for him with the indoor game.
“It’s definitely different than the outdoor game, a lot of nuisances I’m still trying to learn.”
The biggest being the pace of indoor soccer.
"This game takes real attention to detail in every moment because in a second someone can run by you, in a second it’s off the board and behind you, you have to be aware and paying attention constantly.”
After the Sockers 90 minute practice at Bradley Park in San Marcos, Donovan said the fitness was more difficult than he realized, "You think running for 30 to 45 seconds isn’t a big deal, but these guys are fit, the practice is intense, there’s a reason this is the best team in the league. I’ve got a ways to go but I’m happy I’m out here.”
With 14 championships, the Sockers organization has plenty of soccer cache, but Donovan, the all-time leading goal scorer in United States Men's National Team history, brings some serious star power too.
"I'm a fan! He's the best player in U.S. history. If you love soccer, he's the guy. It's a dream come true to coach him, it gives me goosebumps just to think about it," said Sockers coach Phil Salvagio.
Then the coach threw some soccer caution into the wind when asked how Donovan fared in his first practice.
“He's a true rookie, you can tell he’s a very good player, but he was a little lost today with the indoor game. I hate to be honest, but he’s definitely a rookie and we’ll have to work on him a lot. He can play this game, he just needs to learn it."
But don't expect that learning curve to curb Donovans playing time during games. When asked about Donovan's expected playing time, coach Salvagio said, “He’s going to be out there, people are here to see him and we’re going to play him. He's going to learn the hard way, he’s not going to look as great at first, but he’s going to learn and he’ll be out there playing a regular shift.”
Donovan will make his professional indoor soccer debut Friday, February 15th when the San Diego Sockers host the Tacoma Stars.