United States v Canada

PST USMNT Man of the Match: Landon Donovan

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Landon Donovan’s racked up a lot of miles. He started playing professionally at the age of 17. In the 13 years that’ve followed, he’s made 141 appearances for his national team. Having gone through so many battles, you can forgive him if, at times, he doesn’t look like the same spry attcaker we saw at World Cup 2002.

But every once in a while, Donovan can turn back the clock. For 90 minutes, he can be the quickest man on the field. Add that to his ability to read the game and you have a combination that can define games in this part of the world.

It would be a stretch to say Donovan defined tonight’s 3-1 win over Antigua and Barbuda, but with most of the U.S. Men’s National Team struggling to impose themselves (on an opponent that insisted on being an imposition), the U.S. surprisingly needed one of Donovan’s turn back the block nights. One step ahead and two steps faster than everybody else on the field, Donovan played in part in all three goals as a flat United States took full points from their World Cup 2014 qualifier.

It began in the eighth minute, with Donovan drilling a corner to just outside the six. The play that followed ended in Carlos Bocanegra’s 13th career international goal. While most of the work was done after the kick, the play foreshadowed a night of good service from Donovan, who whipped in a vicious first half restart that Clarence Goodson nearly hammered home.

With the U.S. struggling to find a second goal before half, Donovan made his most significant contribution of the night. Working with Clint Dempsey on the left side, Donovan burst past Antigua and Barbuda’s defenders onto a ball in the left of the penalty area. A panicked Marvin McCoy took him down, leading to Clint Dempsey’s (ultimately) game winning goal.

After the visitors pulled one back, Donovan started the play that led to the U.S.’s final goal. Breaking through the left side of Antigua and Barbuda’s defense, Donovan got behind the line, turned the defense and cut a ball back to the top of the box. The ball eventually found its way to Herculez Gomez, who gave the U.S. its final margin of victory.

It wasn’t a perfect night for Donovan. On a couple of clear second half chances, Donovan bought into the team’s frustrating refusal to put the ball on goal. Two times he demurred, playing the ball into the six. Two times he made life easy on his opponents.

But late in the game, in a similar situation, Donovan’s instincts served him well. Forced to take a ball toward the line, he put a ball back into the six that nearly forced an own goal.

Donovan didn’t need a perfect night to be the team’s best man. In a game where his teammates underwhelmed, he was one of the few players who showed a desire to dominate his opponent. Be it on the right, left, or standing over dead balls, the U.S.’s all-time leading scorer led by example. Had the rest of the team match his effort, the U.S. would have posted the lopsided result fans were expecting.

With apologies to Carlos Bocanegra (who scored an played a strong emergency left back), Donovan was the U.S.’s best player. Again.

England’s Fabian Delph to miss out on EURO 2016 through injury

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Fabian Delph of Manchester City looks on during the Capital One Cup Quarter Final match between Manchester City and Hull City at Etihad Stadium on December 1, 2015 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Fabian Delph will not be playing for England at EURO 2016 after picking up a groin injury in training.

Delph did not travel to Sunderland for England’s friendly against Australia on Friday, with manager Roy Hodgson saying he “probably won’t be in the 23 [final roster spots].”

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s EURO coverage ]

Delph’s inclusion in the provisional 30-man roster was met with some criticism, as the Manchester City midfielder managed just eight Premier League starts this season and made only nine appearances off the bench.

This news will now boost the hopes of Leicester’s Danny Drinkwater and Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, who are also battling to make the final roster in the center of midfield.

In his press conference on Thursday, Hodgson stated that Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge has not trained with the team yet, as his fitness will be closely monitored leading up to EURO 2016. Hodgson also confirmed that Manchester United’s 18-year-old Marcus Rashford will make his international debut against Australia.

Ranking the Copa America Centenario contenders

Copa America trophy — 2015 Copa America
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Sixteen teams enter next month’s Copa America Centenario tournament, and only one emerges as the champion of North, South and Central America.

Will it be Chile who continues its reign? Will Argentina, Brazil or Uruguay find revenge? Can a CONCACAF side thrive with the tourney in the United States?

[ PREVIEWS: Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D ]

There a varying degrees of likelihood that a country rises above the field to win this year’s competition. In this post, we’ll rank the sides from 16 to 1, unlikeliest to likeliest.

16. Haiti — Happy to be there? Circling the Peru match on its calendar.

15. Venezuela — If Salomon Rondon can make things happen, who knows?

14. Bolivia — Lots of work to be done here.

13. Jamaica — Winfried Schaefer’s team has struggled since its strong Gold Cup.

12. Peru — Inexperience will be a problem.

11. Paraguay — Wins have been hard to come by for Los Guaraníes.

10. Panama — Are they primed for a run, or too old to outlast its group opponents?

9. Ecuador — Dangerous but inconsistent, La Tricolor has an easier group from which to advance than most.

8. Costa Rica — If the USMNT falters under the pressure of hosts, Los Ticos will be most likely to benefit in Group A.

[ USMNT-ECUADOR: Match recap | Player ratings | 3 things ]

7. United States — Hosting is a big deal, and Jurgen Klinsmann seems ready to take a more orthodox approach to his lineups. The Yanks will run more than a few teams ragged, depending on how the chips fall.

6. Uruguay — Navigating the absence of Luis Suarez, which could last the group stage or longer, knocks them down a peg.

(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

5. Mexico — It’s another golden generation for El Tri, and it’s not far-fetched to imagine Mexico makes a run at everything.

4. Colombia — James Rodriguez goes back to being the focal point of an attack, and will remind us just how good he is while under the spotlight.

3. Chile — Repeating is hard, and Chile had a lot of home cooking good fortune in its hosted run to a first title.

2. Brazil — No the side won’t be fully loaded, but Dunga has shown he knows how to run a side with or without Neymar.

  1. Argentina — This could be Lionel Messi’s year to lift hardware for club and country.

Ferdinand lauds Mourinho hiring: “This winner is now a wounded animal”

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Rio Ferdinand isn’t waiting for Manchester United to make it official, lauding the hiring of Jose Mourinho as his former club’s latest manager.

Ferdinand said Mourinho’s personality is “made for this great club”, as the longtime Red Devils defender took to Facebook to hail the Special One.

[ MORE: Five things United must do under Mourinho ]

Ferdinand, 37, made 455 appearances for United in a 19-year career that included stops at West Ham, QPR, Bournemouth and Leeds.

He says Mourinho will be a motivated and dangerous boss when he takes control in place of fired manager Louis Van Gaal.

“After his recent unsuccessful time at Chelsea in the final year, I can assure you this winner is now a wounded animal which makes him such a mouthwatering appointment. Jose went from winning the League Cup & Premier League to a season of disappointment at Chelsea and I am certain he will want to restore all of that very quickly.”

LISTEN: Copa America drops official song “Superstar” (Pitbull warning)

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Pitbull has joined forces with Becky G to make the official song of the Copa America Centenario, “Superstar”, which they will perform before the final.

I know Pitbull for liking light beer, and Becky G for going on dates with Sebastian Lletget of the L.A. Galaxy.

[ PREVIEWS: Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D ]

This, in all its pop glory, has a catchy-enough hook and a stadium-like chant that hopes to catch on like “Seven Nation Army”. The kids should dig it.

That’s all I got. Enjoy the jammage.