The raw stats on Galaxy captain Landon Donovan tell us a couple of important things – both directly related to last night’s playoff victory.
Donovan, in his second game back since missing about three weeks due to injury, was hardly at his best. The full Donovan pack has more zippiness about it, a few more of those slashing runs, a little more of the crisp interchange born of shrewd, rapid movement off the ball.
But the Galaxy captain did manufacture two huge moments, and that game-changing factor is why any right-thinking manager wants Donovan on the field, even at 80 of 90 percent or whatever.
First, Donovan scored a goal – something he’s done with stunning regularity throughout his long MLS playoff career.
Last night’s successful penalty kick conversion gives the 30-year-old attacker 21 post-season goals in 30 games. Anything north of one goal every other game (or .5 goals per contest if you prefer) is getting the goal-scoring job done, and then some.
We also know this: If you have a penalty kick that absolutely must be made, any club could do a whole lot worse than having Landon Donovan stand over it.
Penalty kicks are pressure situations. Playoff penalty kicks (or PKs in the national team shirt for that matter) come with extra helpings of the thick, nervy gravy. And yet, Donovan delivers consistently.
He is now 5-for-5 in playoff penalty kicks for the Galaxy.
Donovan is 24 for 26 in regular season penalty kick attempts for L.A.
(He is no slouch in the national team shirt, either, having regularly taken and converted the spot shots for about a decade. I’m still working with U.S. national team communications staff to get the correct numbers on that one.)
Donovan doesn’t make them all, of course. Most infamously, he was the Galaxy’s fourth shooter in the PK tiebreaker that would decide MLS Cup 2009. He launched his attempt against Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando well into the chilly Seattle night.
Nobody makes them all. But there’s no doubt that Donovan makes more than most. In fact, his combined playoff and regular season conversion rate of 93.5 percent absolutely puts to shame the historic league rates, which hover around 80 percent.
The tumult that is an MLS season means only one team is more than two wins out of a playoff spot right now, and that’s Houston (7 points back of Western No. 6 Portland).
Here’s who is feeling the heat of their matches this weekend:
Portland and Seattle: The Cascadia Cup rivals tangle Sunday in Oregon, with the Timbers holding a one-point edge on the Sounders for the West’s final playoff spot. Seattle has played one fewer games than Portland, and a win on Sunday would be a double-whammy for PDX; The Timbers would be level on points with Seattle and Vancouver in the Cascadia Cup standings with just one match to go (compared to their opponents’ two).
Vancouver: The ‘Caps don’t have a Cup game this weekend, but will face an L.A. team which hasn’t lost at home. Vancouver is in real danger of moving more than one win behind in the fight for a playoff spot. If they lose to L.A. and both San Jose and Portland win, the Whitecaps will be five points back of a playoff spot. Of course, this being MLS, a win and help could see Vancouver in sixth when the smoke clears.
Columbus and New England: No one likes to comment on job status, but Revs’ boss Jay Heaps and his Columbus counterpart (Gregg Berhalter) have to be a bit concerned at this point. New England is a total mess, opening up a goalkeeping controversy, and is pinning its hopes on some Open Cup final karma. The Crew was supposed to contend for a title after last year’s final run, but is currently in the East’s cellar with just three home wins from 13 matches.
Friday Colorado at Real Salt Lake — 8 p.m. EDT
Saturday Chicago at DC United — 7 p.m. EDT
Sporting KC at Philadelphia — 7 p.m. EDT
San Jose at Columbus — 7:30 p.m. EDT
Montreal at Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. EDT
FC Dallas at Houston — 9 p.m. EDT
Vancouver at LA Galaxy — 10:30 p.m. EDT
Sunday New England at New York Red Bulls — 2:30 p.m. EDT
Seattle at Portland — 5 p.m. EDT
New York City at Orlando City — 7 p.m. EDT
The Bundesliga opens another season Friday, and the first question on many minds is simple: Will anyone come close to dethroning Bayern Munich?
Bayern has four-straight Bundesliga titles, giving them a league-best 26 German Championships. And USMNT fans have legit reason to be excited about Julian Green’s season with the Bavarians, as his new coach is interested in seeing the 21-year-old at work.
But this could be the year for the last team with a different name to win a title, as at least one team has added a load of proven strength.
Let’s dig into Bundesliga 2016-17:
Who went down? Stuttgart and Hannover 96
Only two? Eintracht Frankfurt finished 16th, but beat Nurnberg in the pro/rel playoff.
Who came up? RB Leipzig, Augsburg
New faces to know: Renato Sanches (Bayern Munich), Marc Bartra (Borussia Dortmund), Ousmane Dembele (Borussia Dortmund), Aleksandar Dragovic (Bayer Leverkusen), Nabil Bentaleb (Schalke), Baba Rahman (Schalke), Coke (Schalke), Breel Embolo (Schalke), Benjamin Stambouli (Schalke), Jhon Cordoba (Mainz), Allan (Hertha BSC), Jeffrey Bruma (Wolfsburg), Borja Mayoral (Wolfsburg), Alen Halilovic (Hamburg), Florent Hadergjonaj (Ingolstadt), Alfred Finnbogason (Augsburg), Takashi Usami (Augsburg), Lamine Sane (Werder Bremen), Alexander Milosevic (Darmstadt), Victor Obinna (Darmstadt), Guillermo Varela (Eintracht Frankfurt), Jesus Vallejo (Eintracht Frankfurt), Michael Hector (Eintracht Frankfurt), Omar Mascarell (Eintracht Frankfurt), Timo Werner (RB Leipzig).
Gone from the league: Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Manchester United), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Southampton), Mehdi Benatia (Juventus), Ragnar Klavan (Liverpool), Alex Manninger (Liverpool), Dantre (Nice), Lorius Karius (Liverpool), Younes Belhanda (Dynamo Kyiv), Leroy Sane (Manchester City), Joel Matip (Liverpool), Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Havard Nordtveit (West Ham), Omar Damari (New York Red Bulls), Caleb Stanko (FC Vaduz), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew), Carlos Zambrano (Rubin Kazan), Russell Canouse (VfL Bochum), Anthony Ujag (Liaoning Whowin), Gerard Tremmel (Swansea City), Papy Djilobodji (Chelsea), David Yelldell (Sonnenhof Großaspach e.V.)
Old league faces, new league places: Mario Gotze (Borussia Dortmund), Andre Schurrle (Borussia Dortmund), Kevin Volland (Bayer Leverkusen), Christoph Kramer (Gladbach), Naldo (Schalke), Jakub Blaszczykowski (Wolfsburg), Mario Gomez (Wolfsburg), Marco Hoger (Koln), Max Kruse (Werder Bremen), Lukas Rupp (Hoffenheim), Kevin Vogt (Hoffenheim), Sandro Wagner (Hoffenheim),
Americans Abroad: Bobby Wood (Hamburg), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Aron Johannsson (Werder Bremen), Fabian Johnson (Monchengladbach), Timothy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Terrence Boyd (RB Leipzig), Ken Gipson? (RB Leipzig).
We’re at the point where the United States could put together a halfway decent XI from Bundesliga sides if a goalkeeper and second center back hit the scene.
Yeah, but which ones will factor? Every name on that list should have an opportunity to make an impact this season, not just club stars like Johnson, Brooks, and Morales.
Who scores the most goals between Wood, Pulisic, Johannsson, Green, and Boyd? We’ll let you answer that in the comments.
Why will Bayern win? The giants also have a new coach in Carlo Ancelotti, and minimal roster tumult. As usual, though, they’ve added superstars to replace superstars. Gone are Mario Gotze and Mehdi Benatia, and arriving are Mats Hummels and Renato Sanches. Bayern won the league by 10 points last season, and it’s hard to imagine someone closing that big of a gap.
Make me a case they don’t: That’s easy. Borussia Dortmund. Thomas Tuchel’s bunch have brought back Gotze from Bayern, added Andre Schurrle from Wolfsburg, Marc Bartra from Barcelona and Rennes dynamo Ousmane Dembele. After a horrific start to last season, BVB played as well as anyone in the second half. Maybe they do it for a whole season.
Who else could thrive? Schalke has made some significant additions in the wake of selling Leroy Sane to Manchester City, and Olympic hero Max Meyer could be primed to take the next step in his career. Wolfsburg has added some big names like Borja Mayoral, Jakub Blaszczykowski, and Jeffrey Bruma, and Borussia Monchengladbach could be good again if it can deal with the loss of Granit Xhaka to Arsenal. Don’t sleep on Bayer, either.