Talking about Landon Donovan’s latest LA Galaxy night

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Perhaps a surprising start for Landon Donovan on Saturday should not have been such a surprise after all, not considering the guy’s career-long reputation for superior fitness.

Still, the guy has been back on the field for just two weeks – following that four-month sabbatical that began immediately after last year’s MLS Cup triumph – and trained with the team for less than three. So to see the guy run, pass, trap and shoot for a full 90 minutes Saturday, just three days after going a full 90 in the Galaxy’s important CONCACAF Champions League match in Monterrey on Wednesday night, was fairly impressive stuff.

(MORE: Highlights of Saturday’s Galaxy loss)

Three things to take away from Donovan’s night, which both he and Bruce Arena admitted were hardly the best minutes he’ll ever supply for the Galaxy. What they both said in a nutshell: it will get better.

  • On Donovan’s level of fitness and his overall physical conditioning, it’s not there – but it’s not bad. Forgotten in all the other things to talk about in an eventful Texas night was this: It was Donovan’s burst along the right, past two FCD defenders, that helped arrange the Galaxy’s second-half penalty kick (which he would miss, just the third PK failure for Donovan in 37 MLS career attempts.) Clearly, the man still has that burst – even if he has to carefully, strategically apply it for the time being.
  • Sometime before the 70th minute, Arena pulled Donovan back from his forward position, asking him to play along the right for 10-man LA. (Down to 10 following Leonardo’s ejection for pulling down FCD’s Blas Perez.) Think about that: with a lot of defending ahead, and even though Donovan was clearly nowhere near full fitness, Arena trusted his veteran attacker pull midfield duty, even when younger, more fully fit types were available. We are talking about a very wise manager, and he was demonstrating tremendous faith.
  • Donovan was clearly keeping himself fit (at least reasonably so) while on break. That’s the only explanation for the U.S. international’s ability to make a difference so quickly. Plus, the sabbatical apparently provided Donovan a good chance to heal all those little injuries he was carrying from extended use over last couple of years.

Blatter: 2026 World Cup should be in Morocco

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Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has backed Morocco’s 2026 World Cup bid as he hit out at the joint-bid between the USA, Mexico and Canada.

The 81-year-old claims that joint bids for a World Cup are to be “rejected” after the 2002 World Cup and with voting for the 2026 hosts to take place on June 13 in an expedited process, it appears Morocco is gaining some traction among FIFA’s 209 member associations as the only alternative to a North American bid.

The U.S., Mexico and Canada bid to host the first-ever expanded 48-team tournament still seems to be the overwhelming favorite, but will comments like this help or hinder Morocco’s bid?

Blatter, the disgraced former long-time leader of world soccer’s governing body, is currently banned from all soccer related activity for six-years after being charged regarding a $2 million payment made between himself and the former UEFA President, Michel Platini.

Here’s the message Blatter sent out via Twitter, as the Swiss official is reportedly launching an appeal against his current ban which came after he announced he would step down as FIFA president in 2015 following several high level officials being charged with corruption by U.S. officials.

It is also worth noting that Blatter is still concerned about being extradited to the USA amid the ongoing FBI investigation into widespread corruption in the organization and doesn’t travel outside of Switzerland or Russia.

Brazil’s Gremio wins Recopa Sudamericana in penalty shootout

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PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) Brazil’s Gremio has won the Recopa Sudamericana, beating Argentina’s Independiente 5-4 in a penalty shootout Wednesday night.

The two-legged final ended 1-1 on aggregate, with no goals scored after 120 minutes in the second.

The winners of last year’s Copa Libertadores overcame the holders of Copa Sudamericana after goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe stopped the last penalty of the series, taken by Independiente’s striker Martin Benitez.

The Recopa is played between the champions of South America’s two most important tournaments.

Independiente played most of the match down to 10 players after defender Fernando Amorebieta was sent off after 38 minutes.

The Brazilians made most of the pressure until the end of extra time, but failed to score.

Gremio also won the Recopa in 1996.

CCL wrap: FC Dallas disappoints; Club America struts (video)

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The CONCACAF Champions League returned Tuesday with Toronto FC’s 2-0 quarterfinal first leg win in Colorado, and a trio of ties began Wednesday across Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras.

[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]

Tauro 1-0 FC Dallas

Veteran striker Edwin Aguilar scored a big goal, and goalkeeper Oscar McFarlane did plenty of good things as the Panamanian side struck a wild first blow against its MLS visitors.

Here’s a random fact underscoring how remarkable of a failure this would be for FC Dallas: Only six of Tauro’s roster members have their own Wikipedia page.

Deportivo Saprissa 1-5 Club America

Cecilio Dominguez and Mateus Uribe each bagged a brace, and Renato Ibarra also scored as the tournament’s top team sauntered into and out of Costa Rica on Wednesday. Club America has been to seven CCL finals, and one every single one.

Motagua vs. Club Tijuana — 10 a.m. ET

Honduran hosts hope to have a leg to stand on — pun intended — once the tie heads to Mexico.

West Ham to friendly neighbors Dag & Red: “Will help save our club”

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English Conference Premier side Dagenham and Redbridge has seen better days, and is getting a hand from a Premier League pal.

[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]

West Ham United will pay a visit to Dag & Red as part of the latter’s #SaveTheDaggers campaign, and the March 21 date will cost fans between $7 and $21 to see a top flight side at 6,000-seat Victoria Road.

Dagenham and Redbridge chairman Paul Gwinn said, “It really will help save our club.”

“So please come on down to the Chigwell Construction Stadium for an additional night of football. Bring a friend, or two, or more and we can use the gate takings to help get us back on track,” reads a press release.

Dag & Red was founded in 1992 and climbed as high as League One in 2011, and plays just 2.5 miles from West Ham United’s training ground. Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle are among Dag & Red alums in the Premier League.

It’s a terrific gesture from West Ham, and is even more impressive in the United States where the growing club game is increasingly cutthroat (especially between non-synced leagues).