Landon Donovan

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)

Klinsmann blames Costa Rica loss on Mexico hangover

Jurgen Klinsmann

The United States lost their third straight match on home soil tonight, the first such losing streak since 1997.

Following an extra-time loss to Mexico on Saturday, the U.S. failed to compete in a friendly against Costa Rica, putting in another poor performance as the side continues to struggle.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

In his post match press conference, Jurgen Klinsmann said his team was still shaking off the loss against Mexico, and couldn’t recover in time for tonight’s game.

Yes, the United States’ match against Mexico went 120 minutes. Yes, it was a very tough game both physically and mentally. However, it’s time for Klinsmann to stop making excuses.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from the USMNT’s loss to Costa Rica ]

Of the starting XI against Costa Rica, only four started against Mexico. Of the six substitutes Klinsmann brought in today, only Bobby Wood played in the Mexico match, and for less than 25 minutes.

The problem isn’t that the U.S. lost tonight; it’s that they didn’t even show up. What Klinsmann needed to do was walk into his press conference and say, “We didn’t come to play tonight. We stunk. That can’t happen and we need to be better. It starts with me.”

[ PLAYER RATINGS: Howard’s return highlights poor performances from USMNT ]

Top teams don’t dwell on past results. Top teams rebound quickly and back up poor performances with strong performances. When a top team would have bounced back, the United States fell flat.

Clearly the argument is, well, the United States isn’t a top team. But isn’t that what Klinsmann was brought in to do? To help develop the USMNT into a top team? The least they could do is act like one, and that starts with the manager.

College Soccer Update: Tragedy strikes USC Upstate with horrible car accident

USC Upstate
USC Upstate
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No interviews today. No star players and programs. Just mourning.

USC Upstate lost four students earlier this week, two of them men’s soccer players, in an early morning car accident this weekend. A fifth was injured when the car they were driving in ran off the road, hit a tree, and caught fire.

James Campbell and Mills Sproul are the soccer players who’ve left the pitch for the final time.

[ MORE: College soccer news ]

USC Upstate’s athletic department held a candelight vigil on Monday, and honored both players with online memorials.

From Campbell’s, entitled “James Campbell Was an Intense Player Whose Competitiveness Made Those Around Him Play Harder”:

While Kyle Juell and James attended different high schools, they played club soccer together. “James was intense and passionate on the field,” Juell said. “He was the kind of aggressive player you wanted as a teammate. He was fun and warm and full of life and he cared so much about his teammates.”

From Sproul’s, entitled “Mills Sproul Put the Needs of Others Before His Own and Was Accepting of All”:

Mills’ teammate Deon Rose said that Mills was like the brother he never had.

“The first time I met him, I knew that he was special,” Rose said. “Not because he asked me if we had beaches in Canada or how Canadians survived without Chick-fil-A, but because he had an unconditional love for everyone and everything.”

Our thoughts are with the USC Upstate team, and entire community. Rest in peace.

Three stars of the week

1. University of California Santa Barbara — The Gauchos leapt from “receiving votes” to No. 14 in the nation. The Gauchos have won five-straight, all in-state, by a combined score of 13-3.

2. Joey Piatczyc, West Virginia — The midfielder leads the nation in assists with 12, one coming in Tuesday’s upset of Penn State, a match in which he also scored his first of the year. The Mountaineers shocked PSU with a 3-0 home win in Morgantown.

3. Francis Atuahene and Colin McAtee, Michigan — The Ghanaian freshman is a lightning bolt, and keeps producing goals along with the redshirt senior McAtee, who hails from San Diego. The Wolverines beat Duquesne 3-0 on Tuesday.

Other notes

— Creighton dropped two of its 24 first place votes, one each to North Carolina and Stanford, but remains the No.1 men’s team in the nation.

— Wake Forest hasn’t allowed a goal in three matches, against quality competition in NC State, South Carolina and Boston College. There were stretches in the 2-0 win over South Carolina where they looked unbeatable.

— Speaking of the Demon Deacons, they’ll face dangerous UNC on Saturday in what will be a cracker.

— Also No. 1:Florida State (Women’s D-1), Gannon (Women’s D-2), Trinity of Texas (Women’s D-3), Pfeiffer (Men’s D-2), Franklin & Marshall (Men’s D-3).