Landon Donovan leaves for Florida today to join the U.S. national team in camp ahead of Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier on the road against Costa Rica.
After that, he will be playing in another qualifier against Honduras in Chicago on June 6, and two days later he and the rest of the American team leave for South Africa to take part in the FIFA Confederations Cup, playing Italy, Brazil and Egypt in the first round.
Add it all up and the Galaxy striker will be gone for at least three weeks and probably longer, which leaves Coach Bruce Arena asking himself a very legitimate question: What do I do now?
Los Angeles has scored only 13 goals in 2009, with Donovan netting six of them and creating four of the other seven. Take him out of the equation and the Galaxy could be struggling.
Not that the team isn’t already. On Saturday night, Arena’s side, having won only once this season and riding a streak of four consecutive ties, added another one to the list when it was held, 1-1, by the Kansas City Wizards at the Home Depot Center.
It was Los Angeles’ ninth tie in 11 games and left it with a 1-1-9 record and only 12 points out of a possible 33. Kansas City is 4-4-4.
But back to Donovan. How is Arena going to compensate for his absence?
“You lose players all the time,” Arena said. “Certainly, I don’t lay claim that we have a couple of Landon Donovans sitting on the bench or hidden somewhere in the locker room.
“It’s really about having a mentality as a team and being able to have guys ready to go when called upon, and I think we’ll have guys that will step up.
“You can look at it two ways: We’ve only won one game with Landon and the other way is we’ve only lost one game with him.”
The Galaxy came precious close to losing another Saturday.
The Wizards, who were missing leading scorer Josh Wolff to suspension, did not pose much of an offensive threat, but they were a man up after the ejection of Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter at the hour mark and they took the lead in the 84th minute.
Roger Espinoza sent in a cross from the left flank, Hercules Gomez headed the ball across the box and Davy Arnaud redirected it into the net from a few yards out.
That should have been it, as Kansas City Coach Curt Onalfo wearily pointed out.
“When you’re winning, 1-0, and up a man, you’ve got to close the game,” he said. “We didn’t do that. We’ll take a point on the road, but we’re disappointed because we had the opportunity to get three points.
“It’s a very quiet locker room. It feels like a loss to us.”
An error by midfielder Jack Jewsbury, whose errant pass was intercepted by the Galaxy’s Dema Kovalenko in the 87th minute, was the Wizards’ undoing.
Kovalenko passed to Donovan, who split the Kansas City defense with a perfect through ball for Edson Buddle.
Buddle did the rest, beating goalkeeper Kevin Hartman with a first-time shot that flashed inside the near post to tie the score.
“You just can’t give that ball away,” Onalfo said. “You keep that ball and the game’s probably won and I’m sitting here with a smile on my face and three points.”
Donovan led the league with 20 goals last season, while Buddle wasn’t far behind with 15. With Donovan gone, Buddle now will be the one asked to step up for the Galaxy.