Donovan staying home: Where his omission ranks among others who’ll miss the World Cup

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The bubble loyalists couldn’t acknowledge burst on Thursday. Landon Donovan, the all-time leading scorer in U.S. Men’s National Team history, is not going to Brazil. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann excluded the one-time talisman from the U.S.’s final World Cup roster.

The world’s had its say on the surprise exclusion, but where does Donovan’s omission rank among the other stars who’ve been left out of squads? PST’s Kirsten Schlewitz compiled a preliminary list, but even among these high profile names, Donovan’s stands out. Unlike most of these players, there wasn’t an obvious reason why Landon Donovan wouldn’t make the U.S.’s 23-man squad:

Carlos Tévez, Argentina – As Juventus’s biggest goal scoring threat, the former Manchester United, Manchester City striker was assumed by many to be a key part of the Albiceleste’s plans. One small problem with that assumption: Tévez hasn’t been a part of his national team in three years.* Donovan’s impact for the U.S. has been diminishing, but until Tévez, he was expected to make his nation’s squad.

* – It just reminds you how much these quadrennial tournaments factor into fans’ perceptions.

Why Donovan’s omission is more surprising: Actually had the potential to go.

Carlos Vela, Mexico – Vela is the inverse Tévez. His production for Real Sociedad means he might be the best striker at Mexico’s disposal. The only problem? He’s not at Mexico’s disposal. Presumably to concentrate on his club career, Vela has elected to stay away from El Tri, leaving Miguel Herrera to wonder what his predecessors could have done to maintain the relationship between la selección and one of its brightest stars.

Why Donovan’s omission is more surprising: Actually wanted to go.

source: Getty ImagesSamir Nasri, France – A key player this season for Manchester City, Nasri’s omission from Didier Deschamps’ squad shocked Premier League fans. How can a player of that talent not be picked by his country? Nasri, however, has always had a contentious relationship with Les Bleus, something that led Raymond Domenech to leave the midfielder off France’s squad for South Africa. That Deschamps did the same for Brazil was a surprise, but one that was consistent with Nasri’s history.

Why Donovan’s omission is more surprising: Actually has a history with his country at World Cups

Francesco Totti, Italy – Say you’re a mid-30s blogger whose formative years with Serie A soccer were defined by a certain Roma icon. And say that certain Roma icon said, at 37, he’d be willing to help Italy out. And then, say, he wasn’t taken up on his offer, despite the fact he’s still one of Italy’s best forwards? Well, a certain mid-30s blogger would be heartbroken, but he’d understand. Totti has become one of the game’s legends, but he’s also never been a part of Cesare Prandelli’s azzurri.

Why Donovan’s omission is more surprising: Actually has been part of his nation’s team this cycle.

Surprisingly, it’s a player we knew was unlikely for Brazil that’s Donovan’s most obvious parallel.

source: Getty ImagesAshley Cole, England – After 14 years with the Three Lions, Cole’s 107 caps put him in rarefied air amongst England’s legends. That didn’t stop Leighton Baines and Luke Shaw from taking his spot. Despite his status, Cole was eventually passed by with both club and country, something that led to his exclusion from England’s team for Brazil. Even before Roy Hodgson’s 23 was named, it made sense that Cole wouldn’t go. His exclusion was still poignant.

Why Donovan’s omission is more surprising: Was it? To the extent it was, Klinsmann’s selection during April’s friendly against Mexico should have been a clue. Brad Davis (and, at forward, Chris Wondolowski) started in the U.S.’s last friendly, something that went beyond the knee injury Jurgen Klinsmann reported post-match.

Cole, as decorated as he is, is not the face of his team. He’s not the singular star people all over the world thinks of when they envision his country’s soccer. He’s not England’s leading scorer, nor has he ever crafted a moment like Donovan’s goal against Algeria in 2010. Soccer fans all over the world know Ashley Cole. People all over the world know Landon Donovan.

That’s what makes Donovan’s omission much bigger than anybody else’s. Even if those who watched in 2010 (2006, and 2002) don’t remember his name, they’ll still ask, “Who is that American player who scored that great goal last time? Is he playing this year?”

That player is Landon Donovan. And no, he’s not.

Top 5 Premier League storylines in Week 9

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Manchester City continues to dominate its opposition at the top of the Premier League, but there are plenty of other details to watch for this weekend around England’s top flight.

The 2017/18 PL campaign has seen several of the league’s top sides struggle through eight matches, while surprises Watford and Burnley attempt to stake their claim as legitimate title contenders.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Below, PST takes a look at the top 5 storylines around Week 9 of PL action.

Blues hope to end recent woes against surprise Hornets

Chelsea vs. Watford — Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

What’s going on with Chelsea? The Blues nearly gave away all three points against Roma in Wednesday’s Champions League clash. That was after Antonio Conte‘s suffered back-to-back league defeats against Manchester City and bottom side Crystal Palace.

Injuries have certainly played a role in some of the club’s shortcomings recently, but there is still plenty of positive squad talent for Chelsea to pick up its performances. N'Golo Kante‘s absence in the midfield is notable because of his high work rate, but the Blues will have to make due in the mean time without the Frenchman.

Eden Hazard‘s brace against Roma is a good sign though for Chelsea, who will need their most dangerous player to influence the attack in addition to Alvaro Morata’s strong early return since joining from Real Madrid.

Clarets look to spoil City’s perfect start

Manchester City vs. Burnley — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The Clarets proved last season that they could be one of the most dangerous home sides in the PL, but 2017 has shown that Sean Dyche‘s men could present a real threat in England’s top flight.

Burnley is unbeaten in seven of its first eight matches, with its lone defeat coming to West Brom. Although that match proved to be a bit of an anomaly given the team’s win over Chelsea on opening day and subsequent results against Tottenham and Liverpool on the road.

The Citizens will present a different threat given the club’s highly-potent attack, but Burnley’s back line has been a revelation thus far by allowing just six goals. That ranks fourth in the PL behind only Man City, Man United and Spurs.

[ MORE: PST ranks the top 20 players in the latest PL power rankings ]

Kane presents challenge for Reds’ defensive unit

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool — Sunday, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Prior to Wednesday’s 7-0 thrashing of Maribor in the UCL, Liverpool had drawn three straight matches in all competitions. It doesn’t really have to be stated, but Tottenham is not Maribor… they’re a lot better.

In fact, Harry Kane is budding into one of — if not the best — strikers in the world at the moment. The Englishman has already scored 11 goals in as many matches across all competitions, which poses a massive threat to a Reds defense that has struggled mightily.

Liverpool has conceded 12 goals in eight PL matches, which is only one fewer than Watford for the most allowed out of the top 14 sides in England’s top flight. Jurgen Klopp‘s group has surely built something special up front with the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah threatening opposing back lines, but that is all for not if they cannot establish a solid unit defensively.

Can the Toffees stop the bleeding at the Emirates?

Arsenal vs. Everton — Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Two wins in their first eight is far from the expectations that anyone around Everton would have hoped for this season. The departure of Romelu Lukaku was an undoubted blow, but the Toffees have looked in shambles on both sides of the ball through the first eight weeks of play.

Everton is tied for the fourth-most goals conceded thus far in the PL (13), while only managing five finishes up front. Ronald Koeman has a lot of work to do with his side, who sit just two points above the relegation zone. That’s nowhere near the top 6/7, where the club has been accustomed to finishing in recent years.

[ MORE: The biggest surprises, disappointments in UCL so far ]

New-look Hammers head to Old Trafford

Swansea City vs. Leicester City — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET online

It’s still hard to pinpoint Leicester’s problems, but another manager has gone by the wayside and the club is running out of excuses for the team’s poor play. We saw a similar struggle from the Foxes last season, after having had won the PL in 2015/16, but the team just looks less desirable at the moment.

The Foxes currently sit in 18th place through eight matches, this despite still having Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Kasper Schmeichel — each of whom are widely-regarded as some of the best players at their position in the PL

For the Swans, goals have been hard to come by through the first weeks of the season. The loss of Gylfi Sigurdsson prior to the new campaign beginning was a massive blow, but the club has still managed eight points thus far.

TFC’s Giovinco says Toronto FC would “avoid relegation” in Serie A

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Toronto FC won’t be leaving Major League Soccer for Serie A any time soon — or probably ever — but wouldn’t it be fun if they had the chance to?

[ MORE: Landon Donovan considering U.S. Soccer presidency run ]

Star striker Sebastian Giovinco brought up the hypothetical in a recent interview, and the former Italian international believes that his current TFC side is good enough to avoid relegation in Italy’s top flight.

“There’s no doubt that [MLS] has improved,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “It’s still not on the same level as the elite European leagues, but it all depends on the desire and the effort you put out there. Big names keep arriving and there are a lot of top quality South Americans.

“[If Toronto were in Serie A] we would avoid relegation easily, maybe finishing in mid-table.”

The comments were prompted by the Atomic Ant after Italy manager manager Gian Piero Ventura openly expressed concerns with Giovinco playing in MLS instead of one of Europe’s top leagues. The same could be said about Ventura’s predecessor and current Chelsea boss Antonio Conte.

It’s difficult to equate MLS directly to Serie A, or any other league for that matter, but one thing has been clear throughout Giovinco’s tenure in Toronto. He’s really good.

Giovinco has scored 54 regular season goals for TFC since joining the Canadian side in 2015, while adding 37 assists. Additionally, during last season’s playoff run — which saw Toronto advanced all the way to MLS Cup — Giovinco had four goals and as many assists.

Europa League roundup: Lyon tops Everton, Giroud guides Arsenal

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It was a wild and crazy Thursday full of UEFA Europa League action, and while one Premier League side lucked out, another continued its fall from grace.

Arsenal picked up a 1-0 win over Red Star Belgrade on the road after Olivier Giroud’s 85th-minute overhead kick give the Gunners three points and complete command of Group H.

[ MORE: Dusan Tadic tells his story of his move to Southampton ]

Meanwhile, Everton fell 2-1 to Lyon on the day, as the Toffees remain at the bottom of Group E with one point in three Europa League matches. Toffees defender Ashley Williams was very lucky not to earn himself a straight red card after a terrible challenge on Lyon keeper Anthony Lopes.

The challenge came four minutes prior to Williams netted the equalizer for Everton. However, Bertrand Traore scored the winner for Lyon with a quarter hour remaining in the match.

Elsewhere, Real Sociedad scored six goals en route to a comfortable win over Vardar, while AC Milan had to settle for a scoreless draw against AEK Athens.

Here are all of Thursday’s results from around the Europa League.

Astana 4-0 Maccabi Tel-Aviv
BATE 1-0 Cologne
Hapoel Beer Sheva 1-2 Steaua
Konyaspor 2-0 Red Bull Salzburg
Lugano 3-2 Viktoria
Marseille 2-1 Guimaraes
Nice 1-3 Lazio
Ostersunds FK 2-2 Athletic Bilbao
Red Star Belgrade 0-1 Arsenal
Vardar 0-6 Real Sociedad
Zenit 3-1 Rosenborg
Zorya 2-1 Hertha Berlin
Zulte-Waregem 1-1 Vitesse
AC Milan 0-0 AEK Athens
Atalanta 3-1 Apollon Limassol
Austria Vienna 1-3 Rijeka
Dynamo Kyiv 2-2 Young Boys
Everton 1-2 Lyon
Fastav Zlin 1-1 Copenhagen
SC Braga 0-2 Ludogorets
Sheriff 1-1 Lokomotiv Moscow
Skenderbeu 0-0 Partizan
TSG Hoffenheim 3-1 Istanbul Basaksehir
Villarreal 2-2 Slavia Prague

Video: Giroud gives Arsenal three points with superb overhead finish

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Red Star Belgrade posed a big test to Arsenal on Thursday, but it was Olivier Giroud that had the last laugh for the Gunners.

[ MORE: Atlanta’s Gressel is emerging as a legitimate MLS ROTY candidate ]

The Frenchman delivered in spectacular fashion five minutes from time when Giroud scored a makeshift-bicycle kick following Theo Walcott‘s headed pass inside the penalty area.

Arsenal went on to win the match, 1-0, and currently sits atop Group H in the UEFA Europa League on nine points through three matches.

Giroud, who went the full 90 minutes for the Gunners, has had a knack for scoring some fine goals in an Arsenal kit over the years. That includes last year’s tremendous scorpion-kick goal against Crystal Palace in Premier League play (watch below).