Landon Donovan agrees with Jurgen Klinsmann: “I still have a long way to go”

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One thing Landon Donovan has always been is humble.

The U.S. winger proved that again on Thursday when he agreed with comments made by Jurgen Klinsmann concerning the player’s need to prove himself over an extended period of time before reclaiming his spot on the national team roster.

“I agree with him,” Donovan said following training with the Galaxy. “Just because you score a goal and have a good game doesn’t mean you’re a national team player. And I’ve said from the beginning that I have to earn my way back, and playing one good game doesn’t earn your way back. I still have a long way to go.”

Donovan’s potential recall to the national side has been a hot topic of conversation since returning from his sabbatical to Cambodia. Players, coaches and fans alike wonder whether the 31 year old would be able to contribute to his nation’s push for a World Cup Qualifying spot, and if so, how long it might take for that contribution to come to fruition.

MORE: Landon Donovan goal, assist lead LA Galaxy past Sporting KC

In his fifth appearance since returning from a nearly four-month leave, Donovan provided a masterful performance in last weekend’s victory over Sporting Kansas City. His speed, ability to hold up play, and mesmerizing ball cuts resulted in a brilliant assist while his ability to anticipate and execute earned him a goal. Klinsmann was on hand to witness the genius but later explained how the feat was not nearly enough to earn the player a call up.

The coach told media Wednesday that certain players have moved ahead of Donovan in the selection line for June’s World Cup qualifiers and that his coaching staff plans to “observe him like we will observe all the other players over the stretch of a period of time” before naming him to the roster.

Fortunately, Donovan is under no delusions of grandeur. “I have to continue to build on what I did last weekend, and then at that point there’s still no guarantee, either,” said the winger. “Like Jurgen said, I’m well behind the group in a lot of ways, and I’m aware of that. All I want is a chance to prove that I belong, and I’m going to have to work hard to get that chance.”

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

Between now and the June 7th World Cup qualifier against Jamaica, Donovan will have nine more opportunities to prove himself to Klinsmann and the US coaching staff – seven matches with the Galaxy and, assuming he is selected, two exhibitions for the US (against Belgium on May 29 and Germany on June 2). It’s a stretch of matches that provides more than enough time for Donovan to leave his mark and for Klinsmann to get over his feeling of betrayal.

And get over it he will.

Not only is Donovan of the right mindset heading into the next six weeks but at least part of Klinsmann’s comments should be chalked as posturing. Don’t get me wrong, I believe Klinsmann when he says that Landon will be observed like any other player. Yet I also believe that as a head coach who endlessly strives for the respect of his players and the US Soccer community at large, Klinsmann has to make these statements.

But come June, Landon Donovan will be on that World Cup Qualifying roster.

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

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Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

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Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.