SAN DIEGO -- The greatest soccer player in US history is reinventing himself by going indoors.
Former US team captain Landon Donovan set scoring records in the MLS and with the US National team, but when it comes to the indoor game, he's a neophyte with a lot to learn. Donovan signed on to play with the Sockers for the rest of the season and practiced for the first time with his new team Tuesday morning.
Donovan admits he's not as fast or as young as his teammates, and as the newest Sockers midfielder, he's the first to tell you there's a lot to learn.
"The only work my brain's been doing lately is changing diapers, so it's nice to have something a little different in my arsenal and it will take a little bit of time. But it's nice to sharpen up again because this game, much more than the outdoor game, I think, requires real attention to detail in every moment ... In a second, someone can run by you, and in a second it's off the boards and behind you, and you have to be aware and paying attention constantly," Donovan said.
Despite having 14 years of Major League Soccer experience, six MLS cups to his name and the title of highest-scoring male soccer player in US World Cup history, head coach Phil Salvagio described Donovan's first practice bluntly.
"He's a true rookie," Salvagio said. "You can tell he's a very good player, an incredible player. But the indoor game -- he was a little lost today. Hate to be honest, but he's definitely a rookie and we're going to have to work on him a lot."
Aside from fitness, Donovan says the most challenging aspect of the game includes learning how to defend and understanding the line changes.
"When you're doing it in the midst of a game, it is different. There are certain times when you change and when you don't change, and if you get stuck out on the field and you're tired, it can be pretty exhausting," Donovan said. "So there's a lot of those little things to learn, (like) which side of the bench you get on and get off. All those things will come but it's fun, I'm enjoying learning."
"Oh he's going to be out there," Salvagio said of Donovan's playing time. "He's going to be on a regular shift and people are here to see him and we're going to play him. He's going to learn the hard way and he's not going to look as great, but you know what, he's going to learn."
Donovan turns 37 years old in March, making him the oldest player on the team but -- as he puts it -- age really doesn't matter.
"The ability to just play soccer in a really fun way, in a fast, competitive and exciting way, is really enjoyable," Donovan said. "Honestly I felt like a kid this morning and that was really fun."
"It's a dream come true," Salvagio said. "It really is. I'm so glad that he committed to us and that this is the team, and (that) he's from San Diego. It gives me goosebumps just to think about it."
Donovan will make his debut with the Sockers at home when they take on the Tacoma Stars Feb. 15 at Pechanga Arena.