Landon Donovan

United States Man of the Match vs. El Salvador: Landon Donovan

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Good performances fell like the late rain all over the field for the United States, which responded beautifully Sunday when under some actual pressure for the first time in the ongoing Gold Cup.

No one handled the call for response better than Landon Donovan, who just keeps reminding us why he’s the national team’s all-time leading scorer and all-time top assist man. While his finishing wasn’t tip-top in Sunday’s tournament quarterfinal, Donovan certainly put a mark on the game, in on all five U.S. goals.

(MORE: Match report of Sunday U.S. win)

Officially the line will say “one goal and three assists” in the commanding 5-1 win over El Salvador. It’s hard to say Jurgen Klinsmann’s team would not have won Sunday in Baltimore without any one man – but you can get close with Donovan, a true difference maker in breaking down the rugged Salvadoran defense.

In the opposition’s defensive third, Donovan was easily the busiest man on the U.S. attack, making great choices and moving into useful spots, essentially exploiting a free role to present consistent danger. His movement off the ball is exactly what you’d expect from someone aiming for his fourth World Cup – and so, so few men in the history of the game can say the same.

Sunday’s zippy match remained in some doubt before Donovan rounded Salvadoran ‘keeper Dagoberto Portillo to make it 4-1 in the 78th minute. (Extra points, by the way, for the “Andy Dufresne-Shawshank” celebration in the rain at M&T Bank Stadium.)

But it was the skillful set-ups that distinguished his day. U.S. teammates like Jose Torres and Joe Corona were also handy in the Salvadoran end, but none dominated like Donovan. And none came anything close to establishing the end result like the LA Galaxy attacker.

(MORE: What we learned about the United States from Sunday’s match)

His cross on a tightly designed corner kick sequence to Clarence Goodson was sharp and precise. His work was outstanding in breaking down the Salvadoran defense to help arrange Corona’s nifty work and solid finish for goal No. 2. Donovan’s cross to Eddie Johnson for the third U.S. goal was routine stuff for someone with his skill, but impactful just the same.

And his ability to find the right spot to take Kyle Beckerman’s feed, and then to skillfully supply a perfect cross for Mix Diskerud to punctuate the scoring was technical and tactical perfection.

Can anybody still doubt that Donovan, with six assists in the tournament, has earned his spot on the U.S. roster for Brazil? Clearly, he’s done plenty.

Premier League AT HALF: Arsenal fights back, Hull City on top

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (L) and Francis Coquelin of Arsenal (R) celebrate after Theo Walcott of Arsenal (not pictured) scored Arsenals first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City

Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.

Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth

The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.

But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.

Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a

Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland

Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.

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Koeman: “Nervous” Everton has a problem after another loss

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Ronald Koeman manager of Everton arrives prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.

Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.

The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.

Here’s Koeman:

“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”

A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?

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VIDEO: Hendrick scores incredible volley from distance

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Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.

Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.

[ STREAM: Every PL game online ] 

A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.

Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.

Click play on the video above to watch it.

Messi’s latest goal dares you to count the touches (video)

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Sadar stadium on December 10, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.

So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.

[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]

On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.

That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.

Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.

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