Considering Landon Donovan and some impressive numbers

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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.

(MORE: Analysis of last night’s Galaxy playoff win)

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.

(MORE: Highlights of last night’s match, plus Donovan’s post-game thoughts)

Antoine Griezmann reveals desire to play in MLS

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Antoine Griezmann is being chased by the biggest clubs in Europe and is the main attacking talent for the French national team.

He just signed a new deal with La Liga giants Atletico Madrid through the 2022 season and despite Manchester United and Barcelona, among others, linked with a move for the predatory striker, nobody really knows where the Frenchman will be beyond this season.

But which league does he want to play in, for sure? Major League Soccer. Yep. That’s right.

In his new book titled “Behind a Smile: The life of the Little Prince” Griezmann says that he wants to follow in the footsteps of his idol, David Beckham, and finish his career in MLS. Griezmann also stated his love for NBA star Derrick Rose and his admiration for David Villa, captain of NYCFC.

Given the fact that Griezmann is 26 years old, it could be some time before he arrives in MLS but maybe he will do so in time to become one of Beckham’s first handful of Designated Players at his long-awaited Miami franchise?

Given the fact that whenever he discusses a potential move to Man United he cites the cold weather as an issue against the transfer, it’s likely Griezmann would want to be in a warmer climate in MLS. His good friend from their time together at Real Sociedad, Carlos Vela, is swapping Spain for Los Angeles in a few months as LAFC’s first DP.

Take your pick, Antoine. LAFC? Miami? NYCFC? LA Galaxy? Atlanta United?

I’m sure anyone would want to sign in a few years on DP-level money if you keep scoring goals like this one last night against AS Roma in the UEFA Champions League…

USMNT move up in latest FIFA rankings

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The latest batch of FIFA World Rankings arrived on Thanksgiving Day and the U.S. men’s national team can be thankful for moving up three places.

Despite their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the managerless USMNT rose three spots to 24th in the latest rankings and are the fifth-highest ranked nation to not qualify for the World Cup.

Mexico remain the top team in CONCACAF and stay in 16th place, while the U.S. has jumped ahead of Costa Rica who fell four places to 26th.

Germany remain in top spot in the rankings, while there were no other movers in the top five with Brazil in second, Portugal third, Argentina fourth and Belgium fifth. Spain moved up two spots to sixth, while Chile is back in the top 10 despite failing to make the World Cup and Switzerland moves into eighth place.

In total, four teams in the top 20, Chile, Italy,Wales and the Netherlands, failed to reach the World Cup. Senegal are the big climbers after their World Cup qualification as they rose nine places to 23, while Sweden moved up seven spots to 18th.

Below is a look at the top 25 nations on the planet, according to FIFA, as the 2017 international season comes to a close.


1. Germany
2. Brazil
3. Portugal
4. Argentina
5. Belgium
6. Spain
7. Poland
8. Switzerland
9. France
10. Chile
11. Peru
12. Denmark
13. Colombia
14. Italy
15. England
16. Mexico
17. Croatia
18. Sweden
19. Wales
20. Netherlands
21. Uruguay
22. Iceland
23. Senegal
= 24. USA
= 24. Northern Ireland

Wigan player races off for son’s birth after scoring 2 goals

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WIGAN, England (AP) It was better than a hat trick.

A player for English soccer team Wigan had a night to remember when he scored his second goal before dashing off the field and to the local hospital, where his girlfriend was in labor.

[ MORE: Chelsea advances to UCL Round of 16 after win over Qarabag ]

A picture of Ryan Colclough holding his new-born baby, Harley, while still in his soccer uniform was shared on social media by Wigan chairman David Sharpe.

Colclough said his father, sitting in the stands on Tuesday for Wigan’s 3-0 win over Doncaster in the second division, “gave me the action that the waters had broken,” but he didn’t want to come off until the ball was out of play.

“My head was a little bit battered, but I went and scored, looked at the manager and he said we’ll bring you off now,” Colclough said Wednesday of his 58th-minute goal, which he celebrated by pretending to rock a baby. “I came off and was straight down the tunnel, grabbed my keys and my phone, and went to hospital.”

Colclough had visited the midwife that day, and was told the baby was unlikely to arrive for “another couple of days.”

Lille suspends coach Marcelo Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) French club Lille has provisionally suspended coach Marcelo Bielsa following a string of poor results in the top tier.

[ MORE: Basel stuns Man United late to keep UCL hopes alive ]

The northern side said in a statement that Bielsa has been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club.” Lille did not elaborate.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but has failed to make the club competitive again, with the team second to last after 13 matches.