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."
Donovan, who has been active during this absence according to Galaxy President Chris Klein, would need several weeks of training to regain game fitness, making it unlikely he would play before April 20, when the Galaxy plays host to Sporting Kansas City. Two weeks later the team meets the Houston Dynamo at the Home Depot Center in a rematch of the last two MLS Cup finals, both won by the Galaxy.
Donovan is in the fourth and final year of his contract with the Galaxy, one that was to pay him $2.4 million this season. However, a Galaxy official said Donovan would not be paid until he reports to the team.