United States is streaking as a team – but not so spectacularly as Landon Donovan is individually

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ARLINGTON, Texas – There is a streak that everyone is talking about around the United States national team – but it’s the wrong one.

Yes, this showy 10-game winning streak is a record for the program, so it’s remarkable on its face. But reporters keep asking players about it, the normal course of action. Thing is, it started with a completely different set of performers (the first-choice team rather than the current, second group) so it doesn’t “feel” like a streak to Gold Cup bunch.

On the other hand, here is a streak that actually is something to which we should all raise a glass:

Landon Donovan has contributed directly to every goal the United States has scored in the last three matches. That would be saying something around any winning team, but consider that Jurgen Klinsmann’s bunch of high fliers have scored nine of them over that period!

Let that sink in.

[MORE: U.S. eases past Honduras, into Gold Cup final]

Donovan has scored or assisted on eight of them; he played a heavy role in one other but didn’t get credit for the official assist.

“I’m enjoying myself, and it’s the most relaxed I’ve ever felt,” he said minutes after doing his part and then some in Wednesday’s 3-1 dismantling of Honduras. (It really was more dominant that “3-1” sounds.”

Donovan set Eddie Johnson free for the first U.S. strike and later skillfully brought down a ball with his chest before directing it calmly into goal for a 2-0 lead. After the break, it was Donovan once again, this time with a soul-crusher as he finished off Alejandro Bedoya’s hard work to re-establish his team’s two-goal margin.

All that after contributing to all five goals in Sunday’s quarterfinal win over El Salvador. And that was after Donovan’s sweet cross-field pass finally arranged the breakthrough goal against Costa Rica in the final match of Gold Cup group play.

[MORE: U.S. cruising like never before in Gold Cup]

Consider some other numbers as Donovan, easily the best U.S. man of the tournament so far, continues to stack the dandy facts:

  • Donovan has five goals and seven assists in the Gold Cup. That’s a good season for a lot of players; Donovan has done that in five matches.
  • He is now the tournament’s co-leading scorer along with teammate Chris Wondolowski.
  • Donovan has 17 career Gold Cup goals.
  • As for the bigger picture, he keeps padding the all-time U.S. men’s national team lead in goals (56) and assists (also 56). He keeps pulling away from any pursuers although, truly, there aren’t any active men in the player pool with anything more than an outside chance of catching him.
  • He had played in 432 straight minutes, more than any U.S. man, before being subbed out by Wondolowski in Wednesday’s 72nd minute.

It’s still too much of a stretch to say the United States would not be in Sunday’s final without Donovan; truly, the U.S. side has just looked too dominant to say such a thing. But it does seem fair to pronounce that this tournament might look very different without all the brilliant work from the team’s best creator. We might be talking about a bunch that is arriving dutifully into the final, but perhaps not about one that is mercilessly brushing opposition aside with a relative ease.

A lot of that is about Donovan.

[MORE: What worked, didn’t work with Klinsmann’s changes]

“We are all very proud that he is proving a point,” Klinsmann said, mentioning Donovan’s drive to get back into the first-choice team for upcoming World Cup qualifiers. “With every game he wants to prove that, to show that, not only on the field, but off the field, too, the way is has re-integrated himself into the group.”

“In our conversations I have told him, “Your benchmark is the best Landon Donovan ever.” And that I am not taking anything less than that. I think he is trying to catch up with that. So, give him more games more time. Obviously every game helps him.”

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”