Los Angeles Galaxy Donovan controls a ball during their CONCACAF Champions League semi-final soccer match against against Monterrey in Carson

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.

Dempsey returns to training after second heart procedure

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 28:  Clint Dempsey #2 of MLS All-Stars chases after the ball up field against the Arsenal FC during the second half of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium on July 28, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Many were concerned about USMNT and Seattle Sounders attacker Clint Dempsey‘s future when he underwent a pair of heart procedures in 2016.

The 33-year-old Dempsey took another step to allay those fears when he hit the pitch for Seattle’s first day of preseason camp.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

The Sounders won the 2016 MLS Cup despite the absence of Dempsey, and his return would further strengthen the side. General manager Garth Lagerwey said Dempsey won’t be rushed, but could be nearing a return.

EFL Cup second legs preview: Liverpool, Hull City aim for comebacks

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Divock Origi of Liverpool battles with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (L) and Ryan Bertrand of Southampton during the EFL Cup semi-final first leg match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on January 11, 2017 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Manchester United and Southampton are 90 minutes from Wembley Stadium.

Hull City and Liverpool would prefer to change that.

After first legs a fortnight ago, the EFL Cup semifinals play out on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Feb. 26’s final at Wembley.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

First up is Southampton‘s trip to Liverpool, with the Saints nursing a 1-0 lead from the first leg at St. Mary’s. The Wednesday kickoff sees Saints hoping the Reds’ poor run of form will continue at Anfield. Liverpool has one win 2017, and that was an FA Cup replay victory over Plymouth Argyle.

Southampton boss Claude Puel knows the Reds will be ornery:

“We know Liverpool. They lost against Swansea at home, and I am sure they will want to react against us, but it’s important to keep all of our focus about our play.

“We know they are fantastic, a great team, with great players, but you saw in the first leg we have the ability to produce a strong game against them. It will be important to make a strong game – a perfect game – I think.”

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United got a terrific result in the first leg at Old Trafford, scoring twice and holding Hull City from scooping up a valuable road goal. Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini scored the goals in the 2-0 win, but the KC Stadium will be rocking on Thursday as the Tigers look to reverse the result.

United midfielder Michael Carrick says the Red Devils will play as if they are starting from scratch:

“It’s definitely not over, we all know that. We are telling ourselves that. I think we’ll be pretty much full strength and will approach the game like it’s a 0-0 and starting from scratch.

“It’s dangerous when you go in there defending a lead to tell yourself this result will do or that result will do, or we can afford to do this or that.”

Report: China tempting TFC’s Giovinco with big offer

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco celebrates his goal against the Philadelphia Union during the first half of an MLS soccer playoff match in Toronto, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Could Sebastian Giovinco’s chances of another MVP award be diminishing?

It wouldn’t be on account of a lack of production, rather massive money coming his way from the Chinese Soccer League.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

Great, and right when we were daydreaming about how Toronto FC’s Italian attacker could run a revenge tour on the folks who somehow left him out of the MVP finalists last year.

Giovinco turns 30 on Thursday.

From The Toronto Sun’s Kurtis Larsson:

“The Chinese club seems to be very interested, but I don’t think it’ll be easy to take him away from Toronto,” Giovinco’s agent, Andrea D’Amico, told the broadcaster.

“We received an important offer from China and we’ll talk to Toronto to decide, along with Sebastian, what to do.”

Giovinco is with Toronto FC for preseason training camp, and both the club and player have shown no interest in moving on from the diminutive winger and 2015 MVP.

But if China comes calling with crazy money, say a $25-30 million transfer fee, shouldn’t TFC think twice? Any figure above $25 million would be more than the sum of the three biggest incoming transfer fees in MLS history (Miguel Almiron, Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe).

AFCON wrap: Ivory Coast bounced, DR Congo wins Group C

Congo's soccer players celebrate after scoring a goal against Togo during the African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match between Congo and Togo at the Stade de Port-Gentil, Gabon, Tuesday Jan. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
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Down went another knockout round mainstay from the Africa Cup of Nations, as the Ivory Coast failed to capture one of the top two spots in Group C.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Morocco 1-0 Ivory Coast

Needing a win to move on, the Ivory Coast fell in its final group match. Rachid Alioui scored a 64th minute goal that meant the Ivory Coast needed two to advance to the quarterfinals. The goals didn’t come, and Morocco will face the Group D winner next.

Togo 1-3 DR Congo

Junior Kabananga, Paul-Jose M’Poku, and Ndombe Mubele scored as the Leopards finished the group stage with an unbeaten record of 2-1. DR Congo will face the runner-up of Group D in the quarterfinals.

Wednesday’s matches

Ghana is through with six points, while Uganda is out. Egypt will go through with a result against Ghana, while Mali needs a win and an Egypt loss to get to tiebreakers.

Egypt vs. Ghana — 2 p.m. ET
Uganda vs. Mali — 2 p.m. ET