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


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.”

Pochettino trolling? “You got the feeling that Chelsea were a small team”

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LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur huffed and puffed at White Hart Lane on Sunday but never really got going as they settled for a point at White Hart Lane.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Harry Kane forced Asmir Begovic into two good saves in the first half and Song Hueng-min should’ve scored in the second half with a header but even after after a grueling 5,000-mile round trip to Azerbaijan on Thursday night for Europa League action which saw them arrive back in England at 6 a.m. local time Friday, manager Mauricio Pochettino wasn’t pleased his team didn’t win to move into the top four.

“No, not really happy. We deserved more than we got, so I was disappointed, but it’s true that I’m proud of the players. For me they’re big heroes,” Pochettino told ProSoccerTalk. “The effort was massive. Chelsea played one of their best games of the season, and when you make the effort we showed and the maturity, you have to be happy with your players but disappointed with one point.”

[ MORE: Mourinho calls benched Costa “privileged” ]

With Spurs now stretching their unbeaten run to 13 games this season — their one and only defeat in 2015-16 came on the opening day of the season, 1-0 at Manchester United — Pochettino was asked if his side, who sit five points off the top, should be pleased that a draw against Chelsea felt like two points dropped.

The Argentine coach then released his inner Jose Mourinho — the pair have a close relationship and before Poch came to coach in England he spoke at length to Mourinho — dishing out a backhanded compliment to the master of the backhanded compliment.

“This is a good thing. We play the champions. It’s good. You got the feeling that Chelsea were a small team and Tottenham can win every game we play,” Pochettino said. “It’s very difficult, though. Not easy. We’re the youngest team in the PL and the maturity we showed today we have shown in different games. We have to feel happy. It’s a good thing that, maybe, we are a bigger club than Chelsea or that we deserve more. We showed good performances in the last few games, and I’m happy, but we have to keep working hard. We’ve only had 14 games in the PL and it’s too early to think about the end of the season.”

Whether or not those comments were lost in translation from a man who is still getting used to English as his second language, Pochettino clearly felt Spurs deserved more than the point they got and it’s apparent from the differing predicaments both teams find themselves in that Spurs have more chance of winning the title and finishing in the top four than Chelsea this season.

Watch Live: Liverpool vs. Swansea City (Lineups, Live Stream)

SWANSEA, WALES - MARCH 16:  Kyle Naughton of Swansea City is closed down by Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on March 16, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
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Struggling Swansea City has quite a task with its visit to high-flying Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

Swansea has plenty of experience on the bench, and will start Eder and Kyle Bartley.

Daniel Sturridge is again on the bench for Liverpool, while Christian Benteke starts up top for the Reds.



Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno, Can, Milner, Lallana, Ibe, Firmino, Benteke. Subs: Bogdan, Toure, Henderson, Sturridge, Allen, Origi, Randall.

Swansea City: Fabianski, Naughton, Bartley, Williams (c), Taylor, Britton, Ki Sung-Yueng, Sigurdsson, Routledge, Ayew, Éder. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Fernandez, Cork, Grimes, Montero, Gomis.

Watch Live: Norwich City vs. Arsenal (Lineups, Live Stream)

NORWICH, ENGLAND - MAY 11:  Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal and Johan Elmander of Norwich City compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Arsenal at Carrow Road on May 11, 2014 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
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Norwich City faces a third UEFA Champions League side in four matches when Arsenal visits Carrow Road on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

Arsenal starts Mathieu Flamini in place of the injured Francis Coquelin, and Olivier Giroud is again up top.

As for the home side, there’s a lot of offense on the bench including Nathan Redmond.



Norwich City: Ruddy; Wisdom, Bennett, Bassong, Olsson; Howson, Dorrans, O’Neil (c), Brady; Hoolahan; Grabban. Subs: Rudd (GK), Martin, Mbokani, Jerome, Mulumbu, Redmond, Odjidja.

Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud. Subs: Ospina, Debuchy, Gabriel, Chambers, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Reine-Adelaide, Campbell.

Mourinho on benching Costa: “He is very privileged”

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LONDON — Jose Mourinho defended his decision to leave Diego Costa on the bench on Sunday for Chelsea’s 0-0 draw at Tottenham Hotspur, calling the Spanish international “privileged” for keeping his spot in the Chelsea lineup this long.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Costa, 27, has scored just four goals in 17 appearances for Chelsea this season and in their midweek win at Maccabi Tel-Aviv he and Mourinho had a clear misunderstanding in the first half which saw words exchanged.

Since then, reports have claimed that Mourinho is trying to bring in a new striker in January and his benching of Costa on Sunday will add further fuel to the fire.

“Diego is very privileged because he was the last one to be on the bench,” Mourinho said. “Everyone else has been: the captain; Ivanovic, Cahill, the vice-captain of England; Fabregas; Pedro; Hazard, player of the season; Oscar; everyone was on the bench. Diego was privileged because I kept him in the team for all these matches. Today we thought the best strategy was this one. We are happy with the decision and the players. If we had won 1-0, our performance would have been considered tremendous. You will still say it was good.”

Chelsea’s boss was pushed further about Diego’s state of mind as he reportedly failed to put his boots on when warming up and then threw his warm-up bib (see the video above) in the direction of Mourinho.

“Physically he is fine. No problems. He is working well every day. His mood is positive. He’s always a positive guy in the team,” Mourinho said. “I was not expecting to have a player on the bench jumping and singing because he is not playing, unless you’re a kid who has a chance to go on the bench – Ruben, Kenedy, feel that is one more step. But for a top player, they’re not happy. His behavior was normal. He was ready to play when he went to warm up. When I decided not to play him, he went. And probably he is eating while waiting for us in the bus.”

“If he wants to hurt me, it’s not with a bib. I have a good relationship with him, no problem”

Mourinho may not feel like he has a problem right now with Costa because Eden Hazard led the line superbly in a false-nine formation.

With Loic Remy missing due to the birth of his child on Saturday, Mourinho decided to replace Costa with the diminutive Belgian and he dazzled Spurs’ backline with several intelligent runs and had Chelsea’s best two chances as he headed over in the first half and then forced Hugo Lloris into a superb stop in the second half from a controlled volley.

Costa’s benching has been coming, and although he seemed to handle it poorly on the sidelines, it’s clear that he must now shape up or Chelsea will move on without him.

“If Costa watched the game with some attention from the bench he will  know what is needed from him,” Mourinho said, ominously.