SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Earthquakes currently have a bye week in their Major League Soccer schedule, but it is anything but quiet around Avaya Stadium. Not with Landon Donovan back in town.
“It’s nice to be back in this city,” Donovan said at afternoon press conference. “Every time I come back, I forget I miss it and how much I enjoy being here.”
The U.S. soccer legend is in San Jose with his Liga MX team Club Leon for a friendly match against the Earthquakes Saturday evening. He was coaxed out of retirement by the Mexican club earlier this year, and he is looking forward to getting his first start since his comeback to professional soccer.
“I am excited for the opportunity to play and show that I can contribute,” Donovan continued. “There are a lot of pluses to this trip.”
One of the more intriguing subplots to the game will not take place on the field, but rather come from the stands. Donovan has always been a polarizing figure within the Earthquakes community.
In his four years with the club, Donovan’s Quakes won two MLS Cup championships, but when he left to join the rival LA Galaxy, he was considered a traitor by many fans. On Saturday night, he hopes the fans at Avaya Stadium will see fit to welcome him back and enjoy the festivities surrounding the game.
“I’m mostly excited to play, to be honest,” Donovan said, “but I absolutely understand why some people are not happy about the ways things unfolded. I would be the same, and I can’t blame them for that.”
Listen to full audio of the news conference here:
A Wondo welcome
Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski was on hand to welcome back Donovan, and the two spent some time together discussing a wide range of topics. Wondolowski, who was a fan of the Quakes before he was drafted by the team in 2005, feels it’s about time that those with bitter emotions following Donovan’s departure to LA that same year try to remember all the good he brought to San Jose.
“I really hope Quakes fans use it as an opportunity to relish what Landon has done for this club,” Wondolowski said. “These two stars wouldn’t be here without him. I understand, I was not cheering him when he was wearing a Galaxy jersey, and rightfully so, but he comes back now and he should get a proper send-off.”
The match against Club Leon will see Wondolowski and Donovan take the field against each other for the first time since 2015. Wondolowski, who is ten goals behind Donovan for the all-time MLS goal scoring record, is looking forward to the meeting.
“I look at it as a great opportunity to see Landon,” Wondolowski said. “He is the greatest American player to have ever played. Anytime you get to step on the pitch with him it’s a good opportunity. He won’t be an archrival so I can actually smile at him.”
Hear the full interview here: