Victor Bernardez, Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan: foul or no foul, Galaxy didn’t get it done

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To many times in the past, L.A. Galaxy players and coaches have found about 17 different things to blame for losses. Field surface, game conditions, scheduling, refereeing … dependency on foreign oil, concern over declining ratings for The Office … the whole nine yards.

And I’ve always been quick to point out when the excuse caboose was pulling out of the Home Depot Center.

So let’s be fair and credit the Galaxy for mostly handling last night’s controversial finish with the right tone. We talked about the free kick already, about which Galaxy man owns greater culpability for the killer goal that’s going to make Wednesday’s return leg so much more problematic.

(MORE: Who had more blame on the late goal in Carson?)

But we didn’t exactly get to the controversial foul itself. Referee Ricardo Salazar adjudged that Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas fouled Earthquakes midfielder Simon Dawkins in what looked like a 50-50 challenge.

According to Galaxy manager Bruce Arena, “If that’s a foul in this game, then there’s 100 fouls.”

As a matter of fact – and this should become part of the conversation – Salazar had just a minute earlier awarded the Galaxy a free kick in an even more dangerous location. Landon Donovan had been felled just outside the penalty area.

There was surely some contact from Dawkins. But one could certainly make a case that Donovan left his right leg dangling out there and then went over Dawkins’ tackle attempt. Further, the Galaxy’s wise old attacker certainly was wearing a sneaky little smile when Sean Franklin strode by to pat his teammate on the head and offer up an “atta’ boy!” Not exactly something that would hold up in court … but the burden of proof is far, far less in a soccer blog, as we all know.

It’s no small matter that Dawkins was the very Earthquake involved in both of these telling sequences. Because if Salazar was looking for some kind of “even-up” call, it makes sense that he might afford Dawkins slightly more benefit of the doubt.

At any rate, here’s what Donovan said about it – and his comment strikes the appropriate blend of reasonable protest balanced against acknowledgment of his side’s responsibility:

I’ve said I think if you ask Ricardo again, he’d probably say it was a mistake, and he shouldn’t have called it. But we still had a chance to get our wall together and do a better job, and those kind of plays happen. Sometimes you don’t get calls for you, and you’ve got to do a good job with the resulting free kicks, and we didn’t.”

EURO 2016: Who’s headed to France?

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - OCTOBER 10: Volkan Sen of Turkey in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group A Qualifier match between Czech Republic and Turkey at Letna Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic. (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
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The group stage of qualification is complete, as 20 teams have clinched a berth at EURO 2016, which kicks off next summer in France.

The top-two finishers in each group automatically qualified, as did the best third-place side out of all the groups (Turkey). France qualified automatically as the host nation.

[ MORE: EURO 2016 roundup ]

That leaves eight third-place teams to battle for the final four spots through a play-off. The draw for the matchups will take place on October 18, and those matches will be held from November 12-17 as a home-and-home play-off.

Group A

  1. Czech Republic
  2. Iceland
  3. Turkey (automatically qualified as best third-place side)

Group B

  1. Belgium
  2. Wales
  3. Bosnia and Herzegovina (qualified for play-off)

Group C

  1. Spain
  2. Slovakia
  3. Ukraine (qualified for play-off)

Group D

  1. Germany
  2. Poland
  3. Republic of Ireland (qualified for play-off)

Group E

  1. England
  2. Switzerland
  3. Slovenia (qualified for play-off)

Group F

  1. Northern Ireland
  2. Romania
  3. Hungary (qualified for play-off)

Group G

  1. Austria
  2. Russia
  3. Sweden (qualified for play-off)

Group H

  1. Italy
  2. Croatia
  3. Norway (qualified for play-off)

Group I

  1. Portugal
  2. Albania
  3. Denmark (qualified for play-off)

EURO 2016: Dutch disaster as Netherlands fail to qualify

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 13:  Robin van Persie of the Netherlands (19) reacts during the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying Group A match between the Netherlands and the Czech Republic at Amsterdam Arena on October 13, 2015 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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The group stage of qualifying for the 2016 European Championship has come to a close, and one of the top teams in the world will not be playing in France next summer.

Netherlands 2-3 Czech Republic

The Netherlands finished second at the 2010 World Cup and third at the 2014 World Cup, but have failed to qualify for EURO 2016. Playing in front of a home crowd in a must-win match against the Czech Republic, the Dutch got off to a dreadful start, falling behind 2-0 as manager Danny Blind was forced to make a substitution within the opening 40 minutes. The Czech Republic was sent to ten men before the break, but an own-goal from Robin Van Persie made it 3-0 as the Dutch couldn’t recover. A disastrous result for the Netherlands, as big changes will surely come from the top down.

[ RELATED: David de Gea fighting for starting goalkeeper position with Spain ]

Italy 2-1 Norway

Italy finishes atop Group H without a loss after defeating Norway 2-1 today. Norway took the lead through Norwich City’s Alexander Tettey, but late goals from Alessandro Florenzi and Southampton’s Graziano Pelle gave the Italians all three points.

Malta 0-1 Croatia

With Norway’s loss, Croatia jumped into second place in Group H and secured qualification to EURO 2016 with a 1-0 win away at Malta. Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic scored the game’s only goal, as Croatia advances despite having one point deducted due to inappropriate actions from their fans.

Elsewhere in EURO qualifying

Group A

Turkey 1-0 Iceland
Latvia 0-1 Kazakhstan

Group B

Belgium 3-1 Israel
Wales 2-0 Andorra
Cyprus 2-3 Bosnia and Herzegovina

Group H

Bulgaria 2-0 Azerbaijan