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.

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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