Jurgen Klinsmann

Let’s not read too much into Jurgen Klinsmann’s comments on Landon Donovan

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There’s a school of thought that holds Landon Donovan is due some extra respect for the time he’s given to U.S. soccer, an argument that makes sense on a lot of levels. The man’s been playing for his country since his mid-teens, and the toll it’s taken contributed to his need to do walkabout this winter. If you’re going to pave a path into the national team for anybody, it’s going to be Landon Donovan.

But Jurgen Klinsmann’s not a paved path kind of guy. As we saw with Carlos Bocanegra’s exclusion from last round’s qualifying squad, the U.S. boss is an on-the-field guy, which is why these comments shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

Speaking to assembled media in Washington, D.C. (and captured here by Reuters’ Simon Evans), Klinsmann hints we’re a ways away from seeing Donovan with the national team:

“I’m not talking names but there are players clearly ahead of Landon Donovan right now …”

“Things will develop over time, we will see how he will do in the next couple of weeks, months and we will look at the entire picture and make our calls.”

Donovan supporters who saw the LA star’s goal and assist against Sporting KC won’t like the sound of that. If they happen to subscribe to the theory that Donovan’s not only an obligatory choice but a must on the team sheet, Klinsmann’s words will be anathema. This is Landon Donovan we’re talking about.

But Jurgen Klinsmann can’t make his Bocanegra decision one day and open the door for Donovan the next. He can’t take a stand on Jozy Altidore last fall and roll out a red carpet for Donovan in spring. There are standards players have to meet, Klinsmann does a good job of articulating those to his players, and when you don’t meet them, your spot in the team isn’t assured.

Taking a prolonged period of time off from soccer doesn’t endear you to your national team coach. Donovan knew that when he took time off – time he deemed he needed to recharge . Add that sabbatical to the camps Donovan missed during Klinsmann’s first year-plus, and the national team icon has missed most of the team-building that’s happened since Bob Bradley left.

From Evans’ reporting:

“There is a chemistry being developed of a group and you have to feel where it is moving towards. He hasn’t been part of the development of that team most of the time over the last two years, so chemistry is extremely important,” he said.

“Most of the time, he was not part of that process, that was his choice and I totally understand that, it’s no problem. But at the same time we are moving forward at our speed and therefore it is not down to one game when you score a goal and say now I am back in the team – it doesn’t work that way.

Donovan will be watched and evaluated, Klinsmann went on to way. Just like anybody else. That may not be good enough for some, but at least it’s consistent.

And that consistency is why Donovan fans shouldn’t worry. If he keeps playing like he did against Kansas City, Donovan will be back in the national team in no time. It’s just how Klinsmann works.

Come fall, this will be a non-issue.

 

WATCH: Kane’s first half hat trick includes gorgeous volley

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City at White Hart Lane stadium in London, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Harry Kane spent the first half hour of Sunday’s tilt versus Stoke torturing the visiting Potters.

Kane opened the scoring in the 14th minute. Christian Eriksen bobbled Dele Alli‘s pass into the 18, but Ryan Shawcross‘ barely hit his clearance and Kane took a touch before belting home for the advantage.

[ WATCH: Spurs-Stoke live, replay ]

His second was lovely, bounding a low volley between the legs of Victor Wanyama and by a diving Lee Grant.

The third carried a bit of luck, with his low free kick taking a turn off the leg of wall end Peter Crouch to elude a lunging Grant. 3-0.

Here are the first and third, too:

Liverpool, Southampton lead EFL Cup Team of the Tournament

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The EFL Cup has named its team of the tournament ahead of Sunday morning’s final between Southampton and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium.

Liverpool and Southampton lead the way with two players each, while finalists Manchester United have just one player in the team.

[ MORE: Whitecaps acquire Brek Shea ]

That’s Ander Herrera, who joins a midfield with Sofiane Boufal (Saints), Mohamed Diame (Newcastle United), and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal).

Up top are Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge and Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham, the latter for his work at Bristol City.

The back four is led by Saints’ Maya Yoshida and Hull City’s Harry Maguire, with Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) and Matty Pearson (Accrington Stanley) joining the unit.

The backstop is Leeds United’s Marco Silvestri.

Watch Live: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Stoke City (Lineups, Stream)

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Wifried Bony of Stoke City and Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur battle for possession during the Premier League match between Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur at Britannia Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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The penultimate Premier League match of the weekend pits Stoke City against third-place Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Sunday (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Jan Vertonghen is back alongside Toby Alderweireld in the heart of Spurs’ back line, and it’s no surprise that PL Download stars Harry Kane and Hugo Lloris also start.

Geoff Cameron‘s four-month layoff appears to be reaching its end, as the USMNT back is on the subs bench for Stoke City. He last played on Oct. 22.

LINEUPS

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Walker, Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Wanyama, Dembele, Eriksen, Alli, Kane. Subs: Vorm, Trippier, Wimmer, Winks, Sissoko, Son, Janssen.

Stoke City: Grant; Bardsley, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters; Whelan, Adam; Arnautovic, Allen, Ramadan; Crouch. Subs: Given; Muniesa, Berahino, Afellay, Diouf, Cameron, Imbula.

Sydney FC return to winning ways in A-League

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 24:  Goalkeeper Danny Vukovic of Sydney FC makes a save as Bruno Fornaroli of City competes for the ball during the round 21 A-League match between Melbourne City and Sydney FC at AAMI Park on February 24, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
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SYDNEY (AP) Bobo scored twice as Sydney FC rebounded from its first loss in the A-League to beat Melbourne City 3-1 and continue atop the table.

[ MORE: Schmeichel speaks about Ranieri sacking, state of Leicester ]

Sydney’s ambitious attempt to become the first team to end the regular season unbeaten came unstuck last week when it was beaten by Western Sydney Wanderers in a fractious local derby, repercussions of which continued through the week. Wanderers were fined $20,000 by Football Federation Australia after its fans unfurled an obscene banner targeting Sydney coach Graham Arnold.

[ MORE: Chelsea, Everton extend unbeaten run in Saturday’s PL play ]

Sydney raised itself above that controversy on Friday with a comprehensive win over Melbourne City which briefly took it 11 points clear in first place.

Melbourne Victory restored the gap to eight points when it beat defending champion Adelaide United 2-1, and Perth leapfrogged Melbourne City into third place when it dumped the Wanderers 2-0.

Bobo opened Sydney’s scoring with a penalty, but City canceled that out only a minute later.

Sydney went in front again after the break, and Bobo sealed the win, set up by a superb through ball by Milos Ninkovic which highlighted their developing combination.

Midfielder Brandon O’Neil said Sydney was determined to leave behind the contention of their derby loss.

“When it all came out, the FFA and Western Sydney had to deal with it and it did,” O’Neil said. “It brought us together and we spoke about a few things, and nothing changed for us. We want to be premier (champions).”

Melbourne Victory’s win over Adelaide kept it in touch with Sydney with seven regular season rounds remaining.

Wellington kept its faint playoff hopes alive, staying in seventh place with a 2-1 win over Brisbane.