2012 MLS Cup - Team Press Conference

A Landon Donovan summons for United States looks more and more likely

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The rants and raves are pouring in for Landon Donovan – and it’s pretty hard to argue the point.

Even when not at the tippy-top of his game, Donovan is enough to influence matters against a very good team Saturday night (in the Galaxy’s 2-0 win over Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City).

(MORE: Donovan talks about his night)

So the attention will soon turn to what else Donovan might do. More to the point, of course, we are talking about whether the U.S. national team’s all-time leading scorer will soon be influencing a U.S. national team match?

To look at the timing is to see a pretty good window lining up for the Galaxy attacker, who has said he wants to be part of Jurgen Klinsmann plan, assuming the German-born boss wants him. Donovan still has three-four weeks of league matches to play his way into better shape and further sharpness before Klinsmann will gather his best players for a short May training camp. That camp precedes an important set of high-profile friendlies against Germany and Belgium.

And those friendlies precede three important June qualifiers – Really, is there any other kind of World Cup qualifier? – starting with a match on June 7 at Jamaica. (The U.S. schedule is here.) Once that month is up, the United States will be more than halfway through its final round road to Brazil 2014; we should have a much clearer picture on whether the United States is in good shape or whether the effort is wandering off into ditch.

So, back to Donovan:

Klinsmann’s team needs some width, and another attack-minded brain. It wouldn’t be bad to have a little more veteran wile, either, a little more “been there, done that.”  For all the “good” that went on in Guerra de Nieve last month outside Denver, the United States lacked some composure with those silly fouls in the end. Given that Carlos Bocanegra has apparently lost his place, and depending on the recently injured Steve Cherundolo’s status, a big supply of veteran know-how to balance all the young talent seems rather prudent.

If you find yourself saying, “Donovan checks all those boxes,” join the club.

Long story short, assuming Donovan keeps progressing, it looks more and more inevitable that he’ll be folded back into the national team mix.

Robbie Keane sees good things from his teammate, and the veteran Irish striker certainly knows his way around the international game. Here’s what he had to say about Donovan’s one-goal, one-assist performance last night:

You have to give people a bit of time. It takes a four or five games to get into the swings of things. It doesn’t matter how much fitness you do away from the team or on the training field, it’s the match sharpness that is the one that is going to get you and that will only come with playing 90 minutes most week. He’s played three or four games now and when you score a goal and set one up it breeds confidence.”

Arsenal finishes atop UEL group despite defeat to Cologne

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The Gunners didn’t take care of business on Thursday in Germany, but luckily they got some help from two of their other Group H counterparts.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks, video previews ]

Cologne defeated Arsenal, 1-0, at the RheinEnergieStadion, but Red Star Belgrade and BATE Borisov ended in a scoreless draw to give Arsene Wenger‘s side the top spot in the group.

The difference on the day proved to be Sehrou Guirassy’s penalty kick, which came in the 62nd minute after he had been taken down by Matthieu Debuchy a moment prior.

Arsenal were forced back early on by the hosts, with Jhon Cordoba nearly breaking the deadlock inside the opening five minutes.

Meanwhile, the Gunners struggled to break down Cologne’s defense throughout the encounter, despite having an overwhelming amount of possession.

Arsenal will close out Group H play on Dec. 7 against BATE, while Cologne battles Red Star Belgrade for a shot at reaching the Round of 32.

Report: Earthquakes to name Mikael Stahre as new manager

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The San Jose Earthquakes are prepared to hire a new manager, leaving Chris Leitch’s status with the club unknown moving forward.

[ MORE: Michael Bradley issues strong views on Crew’s potential relocation ]

ESPN FC is reporting that the Major League Soccer side will hire Swedish coach Mikael Stahre in the coming days, replacing Leitch. The story was first reported by Swedish outlet Expressen.

The 42-year-old has primarily spent his managerial career in Sweden, but has also coached teams in Greece and China.

The Earthquakes qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2012 this season under Leitch, but were bounced in the first round by the Vancouver Whitecaps — 5-0.

Leitch, who formerly played for the Earthquakes in his MLS-playing days, finished 2017 as both the manager and technical director for the Western Conference club.

Pending Stahre’s hire, the Quakes will be on their third coach in a span of roughly five months after Dominic Kinnear had been previously fired by the team back in June.

Study to look at long-term health risks of playing soccer

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LONDON (AP) A major study into whether soccer players are at risk of degenerative brain disease has been commissioned amid concerns that the sport’s authorities in England haven’t done enough to tackle the issue.

The Football Association and Professional Footballers’ Association have appointed a research team, based in Scotland, to undertake a study entitled “Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk” from January 2018.

FA chief executive Martin Glenn said it will be “one of the most comprehensive studies ever commissioned into the long-term health of former footballers” because “we feel compelled … to fully understand if there are any potential risks associated with playing the game.”

Researchers will address the question: “Is the incidence of degenerative neurocognitive disease more common in ex-professional footballers than in the normal population?”

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks, video previews

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Ready for Week 13 in the Premier League? Let’s do this.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush”

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.

Click play on the videos below for quick previews on each game complete with a score prediction from yours truly.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Huddersfield vs. Manchester City – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Manchester United vs. Brighton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Tottenham vs. West Brom (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Burnley vs. Arsenal (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Swansea City vs. Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Southampton vs. Everton – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Crystal Palace vs. Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

 

Newcastle United vs. Watford – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Liverpool vs. Chelsea – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM

West Ham vs. Leicester – (Friday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]