U.S. national soccer player Landon Donovan controls the ball during a practice session at the Azteca stadium in Mexico City

Landon Donovan and a Gold Cup squeeze? He deserves better


The “compromise” on the ongoing Landon Donovan debate – should he or should he not find a spot on Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster, set to be announced later today? – is a Golden one in some minds.

Leave him off the United States’ “senior” roster for the summer, the one that will compete in two major friendlies, but then add the program’s all-time leading scorer for the Gold Cup in July. That U.S. roster will be made up primarily of “junior-level” members of the extended national team pool.

And that’s the point: Donovan is no “junior level” member. By definition, the program’s all-time leading scorer is no junior member.

Jurgen Klinsmann has laid out a plan for summer roster building. It’s about the best strategic use of the extended pool while targeting success in those critical World Cup qualifiers and the far less significant Gold Cup. (The Gold Cup is CONCACAF’s semi-annual fight for regional bragging rights.)

(MORE: Donovan makes his case in destroying Philadelphia)

Everyone knows what Donovan can and cannot do when fit and sharp. The only question that needs asking for today (and for today’s announcement) is just that: is he fit and sharp. Despite last night’s big performance, you can rightly question whether Donovan is “there” yet to impact games internationally, consistently.

More of that, and he will surely be “there” by July.

But it’s fair to ask whether having Donovan on the Gold Cup is the right thing? (It is especially fair to ask because I get the suspicion that very thing is going to happen.)

Yes, it will be important for Donovan to establish himself back in the U.S. locker room. But the players with which he needs to re-build relationships are not the players who will be in the U.S. locker room during the Gold Cup.

Meanwhile, Donovan has responsibilities to his MLS club, too.

The bottom line is that asking Donovan to participate in the Gold Cup feels like a litmus test of his loyalty to U.S. program. And that makes it feel wrong.

Yes, Donovan has balked on U.S. invitations before when he probably should not have. But that was at a darker time in his career, when he was just hanging on, grappling with whether he even wanted to remain in the professional game.

Donovan has done plenty for the United States program and for U.S. soccer at large over the years. He should be past litmus tests. If he can assist in the World Cup qualifying efforts, then great. Let him.

Otherwise, leave the Gold Cup for the Will Bruins, the Mix Diskeruds, the Sean Johnsons, etc.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
Leave a comment

Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
1 Comment

Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.