About any lingering doubt that Landon Donovan is the best U.S. Soccer player ever? Removed!

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I have never understood the animosity that Landon Donovan can stimulate by doing nothing more than, you know, being Landon Donovan. His unreasonable detractors are legion.

So I know the push-back is coming, some of it the nuclear-tipped Angry Man variety, all screamy and scrunched-up face and all that. Grrrrr! But here goes:

If there was any remaining doubt that Landon Donovan is the best soccer player this land has every produced, is he erasing the last, lingering, stubborn vestiges of it now. I am well aware of Exhibit A that Donovan haters love to bang on about, that Donovan can never be the best U.S. man because he didn’t go to Europe and be all Euro massive.

Well, those people are just wrong.

First, Donovan did go to Europe and prove his worth in one of the globe’s top leagues. His loan spells at Everton were memorably productive, and the supporters of Goodison Park fell instantly in love with the fast, skillful and quick-thinking Californian.

But never mind. That’s not even a fight worth fighting anymore. If you want to debate about whether Kasey Keller or Claudio Reyna or Clint Dempsey even Tab Ramos or whoever is the best U.S. man ever, fair enough. Just don’t trot out the Donovan as lesser lament because he enjoys living in the United States. Please retire that one.

Meanwhile, just look at the mounting stacks of statistical evidence. The man passes the eye test, and has for a long, long time. But for those who only run their engines on the fuel of hard data, here goes:

  • Donovan just matched Major League Soccer’s all-time goal scoring mark, with 134. He is just 31, so the man’s final total could easily land north of the 150-goal milepost. Perhaps even well north. That is to say, he is not only claiming the league’s most glorious individual record, he is obliterating it.
  • Don’t forget that Donovan could also become the league’s all-time assist leader. And he could well be the only athlete ever to hold both titles. Ever!
  • Donovan is Major League Soccer’s all-time playoff scoring leader.
  • He is an MLS Best XI selection six times.
  • For the Euro snobs and the Latin soccer snob who doesn’t highly rate MLS: Donovan is the U.S. national team’s all-time leading scorer.
  • And the men’s national team’s all-time assist leader.
  • And (going back to MLS momentarily) he is the Galaxy’s all-time leading scorer.
  • Barring injury, Donovan will participate next summer in his fourth World Cup finals. Even for U.S. Soccer talent – where getting to World Cups is much easier than, say, arriving out of Europe or South American – notching a four spot on your World Cup holster means doing a whole lot of things right.
  • He has been U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year four times and Honda Player of the Year (for U.S. men) seven times.
  • He is the U.S. leader in World Cup games (12) and goals scored (5).
  • Any attempts to identify the biggest U.S. Soccer accomplishments of the last 11 years will include a heavy dose of Donovan.
  • Donovan provided one of the most famous goals in U.S. men’s national team history, the iconic, late strike against Algeria that propelled his country into the 2010 World Cup elimination phase. (“Oh, can you believe this? Goal, goal, USA! … Oh, it’s incredible.”)
  • He has four MLS Cups, four CONCACAF Gold Cups (if you’re into those) and a FIFA Confederations Cup runner-up medal.

Brighton 2-2 Stoke: Seagulls remain ninth thanks to Izquierdo’s equalizer

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Three Premier League newcomers remain in close contention with one another after 12 weeks, one of which picked up another positive result today.

[ MORE: Congested PL schedule challenges the big boys ]

Brighton & Hove Albion earned a 2-2 draw against Stoke City at the Amex Stadium on Monday after Jose Izquierdo’s persistence gave the home side the leveler in the 60th minute from Glenn Murray‘s clever pass inside the box.

The result made for Brighton’s sixth consecutive match unbeaten at home this season.

A back-and-forth first half saw the on-loan Chelsea defender give Stoke the lead heading into the halftime break after a disappointing spell of defending by Brighton allowed Zouma to finish of a corner kick.

Pascal Gross gave Brighton an equalizer one minute from halftime after Davy Propper had done superbly to create space for himself down the right wing.

The visitors struck in the 28th minute after Shaqiri delivered a perfect long ball into the path of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.

The Cameroonian proceeded to control the pass beautifully from his Stoke teammate, before tucking his shot from close range into the near corner past Brighton goalkeeper Maty Ryan.

Brighton thought they had the chance to level the score prior to the equalizer when the hosts appeared to have a penalty appeal after Murray went down inside the Stoke area. However, referee Lee Mason opted against spot kick.

The two sides will both be in action on Saturday when Brighton travels to Old Trafford to face Manchester United and Stoke takes on Crystal Palace.

At the half: Zouma’s header has Stoke in front against Brighton

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It’s been a wild one thus far at the Amex Stadium, and we’ve still got 45 minutes left to play.

Stoke City holds a 2-1 advantage against newcomer Brighton & Hove Albion after Kurt Zouma gave the visitors the lead on the stroke of halftime.

[ MORE: West Brom fires manager Tony Pulis ]

Zouma headed home close range in first-half stoppage time to restore the Potters’ advantage, after Pascal Gross had equalized in the 44th minute for Brighton.

Stoke opened the scoring just prior to the half hour mark when Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting finished off a stellar move that originated from a Xherdan Shaqiri long ball over the Brighton back line.

Brighton were fortunate not to be reduced to 10 men after Glenn Murray went in late on a challenge against Stoke defender Kevin Wimmer.

Murray thought he had won himself a penalty kick minutes prior, but referee Lee Mason decided to continue play.

Miguel Almiron named MLS Newcomer of the Year

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Unsurprisingly, one of Atlanta United’s biggest stars took home some hardware on Monday after a stellar first season in Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: Previewing the MLS conference finals ]

Atlanta attacker Miguel Almiron was named MLS Newcomer of the Year today, beating out Chicago Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic and teammate Josef Martinez for the honor.

Almiron, who joined Atlanta from Argentine side Lanus, netted nine goals and added 14 assists for the Eastern Conference squad in 2017 and helped guide the club to the MLS Cup Playoffs after finishing fifth in the East.

The 23-year-old received an 37.38% average of the vote for the award, which was compiled based on votes from a combination of media members, MLS players and executives. Nikolic finished second with 24.92 percent, while Martinez checked in at number three.

Watch Live: Brighton and Hove Albion vs. Stoke City

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Chris Hughton looks to lead his Brighton and Hove Albion to a fifth-straight result as the Gulls welcome Stoke City to the Amex Stadium on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The Gulls have won two and drawn two, powered by goals from Glenn Murray and the playmaking of Pascal Gross.

Stoke’s 3-4-1-2 has Ramadan Sobhi, Eric Choupo-Moting, and Xherdan Shaqiri attacking the final third.

LINEUPS

Brighton and Hove Albion: Ryan, Bruno, Dunk, Duffy, Bong, Stephens, Propper, Knockaert, Izquierdo, Gross, Murray. Subs: Krul, Hemed, Goldson, Schelotto, Suttner, Brown.

Stoke City: Grant; Zouma, Shawcross, Wimmer; Diouf, Fletcher, Allen, Pieters; Shaqiri, Ramadan; Choupo-Moting. Subs: Haugaard; Berahino, Jese, Afellay, Martins Indi, Adam, Crouch.