Life with (and without) Landon means planning for Donovan’s return

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Brune Arena and the LA Galaxy are in a tough spot with all this Landon Donovan business. Their mercurial icon has been quiet since helping Los Angeles to a second straight title, making good on his promise to drift away and recharge.

Take those Everton rumors and blow your nose with them. In all likelihood, Donovan’s enjoying some quiet time in Southern California, enjoying family and far too many sessions of FIFA13. If he does find his way back to Carson, it may be with a bad case of carpal tunnel.

On one hand, the break’s a prerogative Donovan’s earned with his contributions to club, country and league. The man who’s logged thousands of miles wants a couple of months to recharge? Who wants to tell him no?

On the other, he did sign a contract. He’s entering the last year of a deal set to pay him $2.4 million in 2013.

No surprise, Arena seems to be taking everything in stride. That’s why he’s Bruce Arena. Rather than bemoan the uncertainty fostered by his star’s, the four-time MLS Cup winner is moving forward.

And he’s moving forward with the assumption the players he has under contract will be with him come training camp. From MLSSoccer.com:

“I’ve never said he wasn’t [coming back],” Arena told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s on our team. On the contrary, I would think he’s coming back unless I hear otherwise. I’m going to plan on Landon being back until I hear otherwise.”

What else is Arena going to do? He knows Landon as well as anybody (so his instincts may be guiding this decision), but it’s not as if Arena can take the Galaxy in a different direction.

They’re not going to go get another Designated Player. They’re not going to fill his spot on the roster. This is Landon Donovan we’re talking about. And we’re only a month removed from the end of the season.

If Donovan needs more than the few weeks before training camp to decide his future, he’s going to get it. LA will suffer, but given Donovan’s sporadic fitness problems and callups to the national team, Arena knows how to prepare a team without him. If the Galaxy have to make it through spring without an indecisive Landon, they’ll survive.

But just as Arena’s instincts are telling him to prepare for Donovan’s return, a sixth sense may dictate when Los Angeles starts seeking a resolution. If, at some point, Arena gets the feeling Donovan’s inching away from the game, he’ll likely seek closure, not wasting any time refactoring the team around whomever replaces their cornerstone.

Until then, Donovan’s going to get whatever time he needs. And Arena’s going to prepare for his return.

Burnley 1-0 Stoke City: Barnes’ late strike guides Clarets into top four

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Don’t look now, but the Clarets have climbed into the Premier League top four.

Burnley found a way Stoke City late on Tuesday, picking up a 1-0 win at the Turf Moor behind Ashley Barnes‘ late finish.

[ MORE: Gremio reaches Club World Cup final, awaits Real Madrid or Al Jazira ]

The Clarets, who have now secured 31 points over their first 17 matches this season, leapfrogged Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham with the victory. However, all three sides will be in action on Wednesday.

Steven Defour nearly put Burnley ahead on 69 minutes, when the front man tested Stoke keeper Jack Butland — who had to make a sprawling save to his right.

While Stoke mustered up several quality chances, it was Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s blast in the first half that nearly found the top left corner.

Next up for Burnley will be a date against Brighton on Saturday, while Stoke travels to Huddersfield the same day.

Club World Cup wrap: Gremio reaches final, Urawa takes fifth place

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One half of this year’s FIFA Club World Cup final was decided on Tuesday as Brazilian side Gremio topped Liga MX champions Pachuca.

Second-half substitute Everton proved to be the difference for the Brazilians, with the attacker scoring in extra time to lift Gremio.

[ MORE: LA FC selects Urena, four others in MLS Expansion Draft ]

Pachuca’s chances of completing a comeback were extinguished with 10 minutes remaining in extra time, as Víctor Guzman was sent off upon picking up his second yellow card of the semifinal.

Meanwhile, Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds captured fifth place in the tournament after narrowly topping Wydad Casablanca, 3-2.

Despite going behind early, Urawa responded almost immediately in the first half, before building its lead to 3-1 at the hour mark.

A late penalty kick from Reda Hajhouj gave Casablanca a glimmer of hope in the dying moments, however, the Moroccan-based club couldn’t find a way to equalize.

Gremio will await either La Liga giants Real Madrid or Al Jazira in the Club World Cup final, which will be played on Saturday. The loser of that match will take on Pachuca in the third-place game.

Below are the scores from Tuesday’s FIFA Club World Cup matches.

Gremio 1-0 Pachuca (after extra time)

Wydad Casablanca 2-3 Urawa Red Diamonds — Fifth-place match

LAFC selects Urena, 4 others in MLS Expansion Draft

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Los Angeles FC selected five players in the MLS Expansion Draft, including Costa Rican national team star Marco Urena.

Whether they’ll make their way to the City of Angels is another story.

The first pick from general manager John Thorrington was goalkeeper Tyler Miller from Seattle Sounders.

[ MORE: Benitez on NUFC struggles ]

Going next was Latif Blessing from Sporting KC, an electric attacker who netted thrice with an assist last season.

Next was Urena from San Jose and the Costa Rican national team, a huge addition, and then Columbus left back Jukka Raitala before closing up the draft with Raheem Edwards from Toronto FC.

LAFC has already announced the signings or acquisitions of Carlos Vela, Walker Zimmerman, Carlos Alvarez, Monday Etim, and Guillermo Vizcarra.

The club will also loan Omar Gaber from Basel and Rodrigo Pacheco from Lanus.

WATCH LIVE: Three Premier League matches

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Chelsea visits the John Smith’s Stadium to face Huddersfield Town in one of three Premier League fixtures this chilly Tuesday in December (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues are now 14 points back of Manchester City, and three points clear of fifth place.

Meanwhile there are a pair of matches on NBC Sports Gold: Burnley looks to keep pace with its Top Four ambitions when it hosts struggling Stoke City, while in-form Crystal Palace seeks a home win that would move it out of the drop zone. In its way? Dangerous, attack-minded Watford.

Burnley vs. Stoke City — 2:45 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Huddersfield Town vs. Chelsea — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Crystal Palace vs. Watford — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]