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Bruce Arena: Landon Donovan 'definitely' returning for 2013

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MLS Preview: LA Galaxy - Real Salt Lake
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MLS Preview: LA Galaxy - Real Salt Lake

CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan missed the first day of LA Galaxy preseason at the Home Depot Center on Monday, but coach Bruce Arena still expects his captain back for the upcoming season.

Donovan spoke openly of his mental exhaustion leading up to and directly following the Galaxy's 2012 MLS Cup triumph, even publicly toying with retirement. According to Arena, however, the U.S. international will play a role in the 2013 season.

“We've given him a little bit more time off,” Arena said. “He's definitely playing this year, just working out a return date that makes sense for all of us.”

Arena spoke to Donovan Sunday night. The 30-year-old confirmed that he will return, albeit after an extended offseason. The decision to eschew retirement didn't surprise Arena.

“I thought he was going to come back, I think he just needs an extended leave of absence,” Arena said. “He's had a couple years that have taken its toll.”

Donovan is one of a dozen Galaxy first-team players who skipped the first day of preseason. For instance, Todd Dunivant won't return from his honeymoon until Tuesday. Arena mentioned that older players perhaps need less fitness work in preseason than the younger crop.

“[Donovan], like any player, needs the right time of preseason to get ready to play. The longer he takes off, it's going to take him a longer period of time to be ready to play,” Arena said.

“The older players, they prefer less time [in preseason] because it wears them down. The younger players can deal with the grind a little bit better. But generally we like to see players get three to four weeks in before they're ready to play. Then you need some real competitive matches to bring your fitness along.”

Currently, the team doesn't have a timetable for Donovan's return.

“We haven't narrowed it down yet. We'll wait and see,” Arena said. “We haven't firmly established a return date yet.”

Donovan's absence has also ruled him out of the January U.S. training camp and contention for the roster to face Honduras in World Cup qualifying on Feb. 6, according to U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

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