Mid-week matches are often ignored by Player of the Week voters. This time, it put a legend over the top. With one goal and four assists across LA Galaxy’s two wins last week, Landon Donovan was recognized as Major League Soccer’s Player of the Week, a decision we pile on with our own honor.
Donovan started the week last Wednesday against visiting D.C. United, contributing to an early onslaught the devolved into a 4-1 romp. Along the way Donovan assisted on goals by Omar Gonzalez and Baggio Husidic, adding his own from the spot in the 75th minute.
On Sunday against Chivas USA, Donovan added two more helpers, setting up Gyasi Zardes for goals in the 41st and 71st minutes. Joining teammate Robbie Keane at the top of MLS’s assists chart (12 on the season), Donovan is now within six of the league’s all-time record, giving the legend nine games to claim another place in Major League Soccer’s record book.
Returning our focus back to last week, there is a case for being more muted about Donovan’s performances. One of this assists against D.C. was a hockey assist, where his stats were padded by a relatively simple ball before A.J. DeLaGarza’s cross. His other mid-week helper was a corner kick – a decent if unremarkable effort put home by Gonzalez. Against Chivas, his second assist was an uncontested square ball across the six, while his first created a relatively innocuous (if, ultimately converted) chance on the counter. Even his Wednesday goal carries a caveat, coming from the spot.
But consider that a devil’s advocacy, one that doesn’t address Donovan’s winning case. Quantity may not always be glamorous, but it’s important. Playing a part in five of his team’s seven goals, Donovan illustrated how important he was.
So for the second week in a row, a legend claims our honor. And for the second week in a row, an icon’s shown what we’ll miss with his impending departure. Like Thierry Henry last week, Landon Donovan has snared our Player of the Week nod.
- Red Devils unbeaten in 31 of last 32 home fixtures vs. Newcastle
- Newcastle winless in its last six PL matches
- Lukaku hasn’t scored in United’s last seven games
Manchester United hosts Newcastle United on Saturday from Old Trafford (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com) as the Red Devils could potentially welcome back several of it biggest stars for the match.
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Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Marcos Rojo could return for Jose Mourinho’s side this weekend, as Man United looks to bounce back from its 1-0 defeat to Chelsea on Nov. 5.
The ex-Sweden international Ibrahimovic hasn’t appeared in a match since April 2017, after being United’s top goalscorer a season ago.
The Red Devils will have to deal with the absence of Phil Jones at the back, though, as the England international misses out on the match with a thigh injury.
Newcastle will be without Christian Atsu and Jamaal Lascelles, which certainly hurts the squad’s attack, while Mikel Merino and Paul Dummett remain sidelined with respective injuries.
What they’re saying
Jose Mourinho, on Paul Pogba’s status: “I can say now because he’s back – I don’t like to speak while he’s injured – you can clearly see there is a Manchester United this season before Paul’s injury and after Paul’s injury. There are qualities in our football, qualities that influence our approach in matches, with Pogba and without Pogba. Simple as that.”
Rafa Benitez, on growing pains of being a young side: “We are a newly-promoted club that has to settle down in the Premier League. We have a young squad, so it’s a learning process for everyone and losing some games is part of the process. Hopefully we can stop that this weekend, but we know it has to be like this. We have to think that the target is to stay in the Premier League, then after try to go as high as we can in the table.”
Newcastle has had its share of struggles this season, and running into a Man United side that is gaining full fitness is a dangerous task. The Red Devils are a tough squad to beat at home, so Rafa Benitez and Co. have their hands full. Man United 2-0 Newcastle
David Luiz‘s pair of stints at Chelsea have been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride of emotions — joyous highs and painful lows.
[ MORE: Pogba, Zlatan back form injuries; available this weekend ]
After returning to the club for a second time in the summer of 2016, Luiz instantly slotted into Antonio Conte‘s three-man backline and was a pivotal part of the Blues’ title-winning team last season.
Much like the second half of his first four seasons at Chelsea, Luiz’s second season (the second time around) has started so hotly. After playing eight of the first 10 games during Chelsea’s ongoing title defense, Luiz was unexpectedly dropped from the squad for the victory over Manchester United.
Now, two weeks later, Conte has announced that Luiz has rejoined the squad and is available for selection when his side visits West Brom on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold) — quotes from the Guardian:
“David Luiz is in the squad, yes. [His exclusion] was a technical decision. When it’s a technical decision every player has to react well and accept my decision. It’s normal, this.
“I like to speak about the team and the next game that we have to pay attention to. This is the most important thing, not speaking about a single player. I repeat: I don’t like to speak about a single player.”
The only saving grace when it comes to injuries is that, eventually (usually), players recover from them and return to the team.
[ MORE: 2018 World Cup Power Rankings — who comes out on top? ]
It’s been a long seven months for the soccer world to be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic (torn ACL on April 20), just as it’s been a painfully long 10 weeks for Manchester United fans following Paul Pogba‘s hamstring injury on Sept. 12. Man United have dropped eight points during the latter’s absence and now coincidentally sit eight points behind Manchester City in the Premier League title race.
A bit of good news on this Friday: United manager Jose Mourinho announced today that the dynamic duo, along with defender Marcos Rojo (knee ligament damage on April 20) have returned to full fitness and will be available for selection during Saturday’s home clash with Newcastle United (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com) — quotes from ManUtd.com:
“The players that stayed here and [were] recovering from injuries, even the ones that are recovering from big injuries, they are ready to play — Pogba, Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo.”
“[Ibrahimovic] made a full recovery. Now you cannot expect him to be ready to play 90 minutes or to be ready to play consecutive matches like he did all his career.
“Now he needs time to be back to his level, his fitness, his confidence, his sharpness, his everything. But, from the clinical point of view, to be good and ready is fantastic.”
209 days — that’s how long the world is still being made to wait for the opening game of the 2018 World Cup. It’s close, in that all 32 berths have been secured, but still so far, in that the draw is still two weeks away.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s 2018 World Cup coverage | USMNT | Premier League ]
Perhaps then, and only then, will it begin to feel really real.
According to our esteemed panelists — Joe Prince-Wright, Nicholas Mendola, Kyle Bonn, Matt Reed, Dan Karell and yours truly — four clear-cut favorites for the semifinals have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, followed by another six or eight sides with one half of their squad firing on all cylinders but some serious kinks to work out elsewhere.
[ MORE: Round 1 of the WC power rankings | Round 2 ]
Finally, the latest edition of PST’s 2018 World Cup Power Rankings, now featuring all 32 teams qualified for Russia…