CARSON -- Landon Donovan is starting to feel like himself again. Robbie Keane is “sharp” and “fit.” Both finally are training with the Galaxy, just days before the season begins, and that's a huge step forward for the Major League Soccer's reigning champions.
Both have returned from short-term loan spells in England, but with one significant difference. Keane arrived last week after an exceptional stint with Aston Villa -- he was, from the moment he arrived, the Premier League club's most significant player.
Donovan, coming off a superb seven weeks at Everton, arrived home with the flu and spent the next week in bed.
He's finally coming around but needs to regain the fitness and form he had while overseas.
“It's been a really frustrating 2½ weeks, missing the last game [of the loan] at Everton, missing the trip [for last week's U.S. game] to Italy and just trying to get healthy,” he said after L.A.'s training session Sunday morning at Home Depot Center. “Sometimes the flu or sickness doesn't care what's going on, it's just going to do what it's going to do.”
Donovan said he felt he turned a corner on Wednesday, as he watched the Americans' victory over the Italians. He ran for the first time Thursday in Arizona, where the team ended its preseason preparations, and trained for the first time, for real, Saturday at HDC.
“Honestly, probably not till today did I feel closse to getting back to myself,” he said. “I haven't been able to breathe very well with all this in my lungs. It's a nice feeling.”
He estimates he's at "about 90 percent," and he'll want to regain his footing by Wednesday, when the Galaxy open their season at Toronto FC in a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg. He thinks his time in Europe -- and that of Keane and Edson Buddle -- will be helpful.
“It was good for me and important for me to play a bunch of games in the offseason at that level,” Donovan said. “I think it's only going to help me. We can see now that Robbie is much sharper than he was when he first came here last year. Edson, having been in Europe and training there a long time and playing some games there, has come back a better, more confident player, so I think for all of us it's a big benefit.”
KEANE IS KEEN: Keane, who spent six weeks with Aston Villa, arrived in L.A. last week and had his first session “amongst the lads” on Saturday, after a group -- including new frontline partner Buddle -- returned early from Arizona.
He and Buddle won't have much time to build a relationship before taking on Toronto, so it will have to come quickly.
“It has to, doesn't it, really?” Keane said. “When you're thrown under straightaway, sometimes that's even better. When you do too much preparation and too much work, you can sometimes over-confuse situations. But I look forward to playing with him, and hopefully we can have a good partnership.”
The time at Aston Villa has him feeling “very sharp, very fit.” It's a big year for the Irishman -- the European Championship begins in June, and it's his first full season in MLS. He's anticipating something special.
“I know exactly what to expect [in MLS],” he said. “How the game is played here -- I obviously got a feel last year [but now I am] going into games knowing a bit more about the people you're playing against and things like that, and getting used to the travel and stuff like that. I believe it's going to be a big season, certainly for me.”
Keane said reports in British tabloid The Sun that he's homesick and wants to return to the English Premier League are rubbish.
“I don't know where that's come from, to be honest with you,” he said. “If you've seen quotes from me, hand me them and let's see exactly what's said. I think it's just people starting things up.”
There was one quote from Keane in The Sun's coverage: “When I go back to L.A., it could be totally different. At this moment in time, I can't tell what will happen. It's a case of watch this space. But people have seen over the years with the clubs I've been at, how quickly I leave if I don't think I fit in.”
Said Keane on Sunday: “You never know what it's like in football. Football's a funny old game, but I'm a Galaxy player and I'm very happy to be here. I really enjoyed me time in Birmingham, playing for Aston Villa, but I'm really delighted to be back and looking forward to staying here a long time.”
WORTH NOTING: Donovan turned 30 Sunday and celebrated by taking in the Lakers-Miami Heat game. ... The Galaxy have made decisions on which trialists and draft choices to sign, but they're not talking, at least until Monday. “The contracts we're offering aren't signed yet,” head coach Bruce Arena reports. … Defenders Justin Davies, Bryan Gaul and J.T. Murray, and midfielders Rafael Garcia (Canoga Park/Canoga Park HS and Cal State Northridge) and Kenney Walker were battling for an expected three jobs, and all have made favorable impressions. … Arena said he hasn't determined who will start in central defense Wednesday. The smart money is on tall New Zealander Andrew Boyens, accquired during the re-entry process from Chivas USA. The other primary option is Tommy Meyer, but it's a lot to ask for a rookie to make his debut in a game so important in front of 45,000-plus fans. … Arena on the Galaxy's preseason performance: “I think anyone that reads anything into preseason is misguided. For us, it was about fitness and looking at players and finalizing our roster. We did not worry ourselves silly about results. We wanted to give players the minutes they needed, we wanted to evaluate players that were tyring to win spots on the roster. That's the truth of that. It starts Wednesday. That's when you can start getting concerned about results.”