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PST USMNT Man of the Match: Landon Donovan


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.

Everton’s John Stones out of England squad with injury

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 12: John Stones of Everton clears during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Chelsea at Goodison Park on September 12, 2015 in Liverpool, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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John Stones has been ruled out of England’s upcoming EURO qualifiers after suffering a knee injury while playing for Everton.

The 21-year-old center-back has missed Everton’s last two Premier League matches, and was unable to recover in time for England’s qualifiers this weekend.

Manager Roy Hodgson has called in Tottenham’s Andros Townsend and Kyle Walker as replacements for the absent Stones.

[ REPORTS: Klopp, Liverpool making quick progress ]

England has already qualified for EURO 2016 with a perfect record in Group E, winning all eight of their matches. With upcoming games against Estonia and Lithuania, Hodgson has said he will experiment a bit with some new players, which lessens the impact of Stones’ injury.

Despite the match being meaningless in terms of a result, players will still be eager to impress the manager in an effort to lock up a spot on the final roster for the tournament in June.

Manchester United’s Luke Shaw is out for an extended period of time after breaking his leg in the Champions League, while Everton’s Leighton Baines hasn’t played since August after undergoing ankle surgery.

[ RELATED: Samir Nasri rules out a return to France squad, hints at MLS move ]

Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand has been recalled to the side, and said he will try to grab the left-back position “by the scruff of the neck.”

Liverpool’s Danny Ings was given his first call-up and Swansea City’s Jonjo Shelvey returns to the fold, although both players missed training with injuries and their status moving forward is uncertain.

Landon Donovan: Klinsmann should be fired if USMNT loses to Mexico

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 04: Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann of the United States looks on before playing Peru during an international friendly at RFK Stadium on September 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Landon Donovan and Jurgen Klinsmann haven’t had the rosiest of relationships.

Since being left off of the 2014 World Cup roster and retiring from the game, Donovan has often been critical of Klinsmann and his tenure with the USMNT.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Ahead of Saturday’s CONCACAF playoff match against Mexico, Donovan said he believes Klinsmann should be fired if the United States loses.

Speaking to ESPN FC:

Around the world, if a player plays poorly and a player has a bad string of results, they get dropped from the team.

Jurgen said many times he wants our players to feel pressure — so if they lose a game they can’t go to the grocery store the next day. If they lose a game, they are getting hammered in the press.

Well, the same holds true for the coach, and so we had a very poor summer with bad results in the Gold Cup. The last game against Brazil was probably the worst game I’ve seen them play under Jurgen.

The reality is that now, anywhere else in the world, if this coach had those results, and they lose this game against Mexico, they’d be fired.

I think if Jurgen wants to hold all the players to that standard, then he has to be held to that standard too.

Heading into the Gold Cup this summer on the heels of some great wins over the Netherlands and Germany, the United States’ performance was wildly disappointing, losing in the semifinals to Jamaica and finishing in fourth place.

[ RELATED: Top moments from USMNT vs. Mexico ]

President of U.S. Soccer Sunil Gulati has shown great faith in Klinsmann, giving him a contract until 2018 as both manager and technical director of the program. However, pressure has been building after a string of poor results.

For Klinsmann, this is arguably his biggest match in charge of the USMNT. Not only does it have implications for the Confederations Cup in 2017, but it is also against Mexico, which always puts added pressure on a manager. If the U.S. loses, more people than Donovan will be calling for a change.