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.

 

MLS Snapshot: POR carve up 9-man ORL, keep pace with VAN, SKC

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The game in 100 words (or less): All of a sudden, the Western Conference has sprung to life as the 2017 regular season winds down — Vancouver Whitecaps, winners of five of their last seven games (unbeaten); Portland Timbers, winners of four of their last six following Sunday’s 3-0 victory over 10-man nine-man Orlando City SC at Providence Park; Sporting Kansas City, losers of just two of their last 15 games; Seattle Sounders, who had their 13-game unbeaten run snapped on Saturday; and Real Salt Lake, winners of four of their last five. With fewer than a handful of games remaining, Vancouver’s lead on Portland and Sporting KC remains one point after all three sides won this weekend; RSL and Seattle are separated by just three points, three points back of second and third. As for Saturday’s game, Diego Valeri is now a top-two candidate for MVP after scoring two more goals (his 19th and 20th, to go with 9 assists) against 10-man Orlando.

[ MORE: TFC’s Shield celebration delayed | RSL end Seattle’s run at 13 ]

Three moments that mattered

15′ — Valeri extends his streak, makes it 1-0 — The last time Valeri failed to score in a game, the date was July 23.

29′ — Mattocks taps it home after Asprilla’s cross — Huge credit to Diego Chara for the through ball to spring Dairon Asprilla into acres of space. The ball to Mattocks was simple, and he got it right.

59′ — Valeri gets no. 20, makes it 3-0 — Joe Bendik managed to deny Mattocks’ initial effort, but Valeri followed up when everyone in white had already quit on the play.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Diego Valeri

Goalscorers: Valeri (15′ – PK, 59′), Mattocks (29′)

The 2 Robbies: City Sparkle, Chelsea Shine, Liverpool Hold On

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe take a look at some of the weekend’s biggest storylines, including Liverpool’s thrilling victory over Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur’s frantic win away to West Ham United and Manchester City’s demolition of Crystal Palace.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Ederson harbors no ill will after Mane’s personal apology

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As far as Ederson is concerned, Sadio Mane‘s studs-to-face assault is a thing of the past — save for, the elongated scar he’ll likely wear on the left side of his face for the rest of his life, of course.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Goals galore on a wild Saturday ]

The Manchester City goalkeeper, who was forced from his side’s 5-0 victory over Liverpool on Sept. 9 after his face was raked by the studs of the Reds’ star attacker, revealed this weekend that he received — and accepted — Mane’s personal apology in the days immediately thereafter — quotes from Goal.com:

“Yes, I had contact with him, he sent me a message. I told him to stay calm, those things happen inside the pitch, it could happen anytime. I told him to not worry and wished him a good season.”

“I ended up having a hard hit in the face, but in the same week, I was ready to play in Champions League. I felt a strong kick, but I was always conscious. I knew it had been a long cut. I wanted to keep playing but, for medical issues, I couldn’t keep playing.

“But I was always conscious, even if I had my face a little bit swollen. But after a week it was normal again. In the same week, I was ready to play in Champions League. I faced that game full of confidence again, without any fear and happy for the result we achieved.”

Bundesliga: Leverkusen throttle HSV; Hannover remain unbeaten

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BERLIN (AP) Three days after being cleared to play by FIFA, Argentine striker Lucas Alario scored one goal and set up another on his debut for Bayer Leverkusen to beat Hamburger SV 3-0 in the Bundesliga on Sunday.

Alario struck midway through the first half, converting a cross from Leon Bailey, who also set up Kevin Volland’s opening goal just three minutes before.

A moment of class from Julian Brandt sent Alario through with less than 10 minutes remaining, and the Argentine had the awareness to spot the better-positioned Volland to seal the win.

Alario went off moments later to warm applause from fans.

“The goal is the cream on top. He played very well, scored the goal and combined with others. He worked well coming back and his first goal wasn’t so easy to score,” Leverkusen coach Heiko Herrlich said.

Alario’s first appearance for Leverkusen was held up when previous club River Plate objected to his transfer through the Argentine soccer association (AFA), which denied his playing rights.

The Buenos Aires-based club contended that Alario’s transfer was invalid as Leverkusen paid his release clause of $28.6 million on Aug. 31, after the Argentine season began, which it said was against FIFA rules.

Leverkusen then took the case to FIFA, which ruled in its favor on Thursday.

Leverkusen’s second win in six games eased the pressure on new coach Herrlich after a difficult start.

Counterpart Markus Gisdol remains in need of a change in fortune, however, after four straight defeats. Hamburg next faces Werder Bremen, Mainz and Bayern Munich.


Cologne fought its way to its first point in a 0-0 draw at promoted Hannover after starting the Bundesliga with five straight defeats.

Now the last-place side hopes it can build on the point.

“The luck will come back and the chances we had today will go in,” Cologne goalkeeper Timo Horn said. “We’ll start winning the games again. But the precondition was this performance that we delivered today.”

Peter Stoeger’s side, which has scored only one goal all season, hasn’t netted in its last four league games. That highlighted the extent to which Cologne relied on French striker Anthony Modeste, sold in the offseason in a big-money move to Chinese side Tianjin Quanjian.

Modeste scored 25 Bundesliga goals for Cologne last season. His replacement, former Mainz striker Jhon Cordoba, is yet to score in six games.

“We all have to be satisfied with the draw,” said Hannover general manager Horst Heldt, whose fourth-place side remains one of three unbeaten in the Bundesliga this season.

Hannover coach Andre Breitenreiter remained unbeaten in 15 games across two divisions.