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Landon Donovan reveals his role at Swansea City

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Landon Donovan has spoken for the first time about his role as part of the American ownership group headed by Stephen Kaplan and Jason Levien who took over at Swansea City this summer.

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A legend of U.S. Soccer, Donovan, 34, is certainly not resting up after his retirement from the game in December 2014. Far from it.

As well as his stints as a soccer commentator with Fox, plus his constant involvement with many Major League Soccer initiatives and having a new born son, Talon, Donovan is a busy man.

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Speaking exclusively to ProSoccerTalk as part of Captain Morgan’s Under 35 POTUS petition, the former Bayer Leverkusen, San Jose Earthquakes, Bayern Munich, LA Galaxy and Everton forward is excited about the opportunity to be part of the Swansea organization and is eager to help in whatever way he can.

[ MORE: Donovan on Olympics, player development ]

So, what exactly will the USMNT superstar be doing for the Swans?

“I’ve always had an interest in being an owner of a sports team and a football team in particular,” Donovan explained. “The new owners met with me a few months back and said this is likely going to happen and admitted that they didn’t know a lot about football and said ‘we know that you know the game and you’re passionate about it, you played at Everton, spent time in world football and sort of understand it a little better, would you be willing to help us, advise us and consult with us on certain things?’ I said yeah, that would be great and that’s something I am certainly open to.

“I made it clear from the very beginning that this isn’t going to be a situation where I am going to be in there telling them what players to sign. They’ve got a chairman there in Huw Jenkins who has been arguably as valuable to a team as anybody in the Premier League. He has brought them from the lower leagues in England all the way to the Premier League and has done an incredible job.

“For me, I want to be someone who can help behind the scenes but this is not a situation where I think I know it all and I am going into it thinking that I am going to have some huge impact. I just want to be able to help. It has already been enjoyable with the transfer window open now. They’ve had some questions on certain players and a lot of these guys I’ve played with or against or I know people who are very close to them and have played with them. So I can give some good insight on certain things that hopefully helps out.”

So, LD has already been helping the Swans rebuild their squad under manager Francesco Guidolin as major outgoings Andre Ayew and potentially Ashley Williams have been offset with the signings of Fernando Llorente, Mike Van der Hoorn and striker Borja Baston is on his way for a club record fee.

Donovan isn’t quite Billy Beane yet, but he’s on his way.

The Californian revealed that he plans to be in South Wales soon, earmarking Swansea’s home game against Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium on Sept. 11  as a potential visit, and he also gave some insight into why PL clubs are so attractive to American investors.

After all six PL clubs — Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Swansea — are now owned fully, or partly, by Americans.

“One: they (Americans) see it as a great business opportunity because I think teams in the Premier League for a long time haven’t been run perfectly. So I think they see it that way,” Donovan said. “Also I think in this case I cautioned them and said if you get into this as a business opportunity, you are risking a lot because for the fans of these teams this isn’t about business. This is their life. So I think a lot of American owners have gone in very naively in the past and said ‘well, we will do this, this and this’ and they would run it how they’d run a sports team in America. You can’t do that.

“We don’t own the team. The Swansea City fans own the team. That’s the reality and I believe that and they believe that and that’s the way it should be. Are we going to try to do everything we can to make everything better? Yes. Absolutely. But at the end, they own the team and we have to go in knowing that.”

With Manchster United spending over $120 million on Paul Pogba this week, plus a total of nearly $1 billion spent on transfers so far this summer by PL clubs, what does Donovan make of the incredible sums of money being spent?

“It is unbelievable,” Donovan chuckled. “I saw John Stones went for 50 million pounds but the reality is that the market can bear it and now with the new TV deal coming in, teams can afford it. It is going to be the norm and teams need to get used to it.”

Speaking about another league which has been dishing out huge transfer fees over the past 12 months, Donovan was asked about the Chinese Super League (CSL) and it’s push to attract star players in their prime.

Compared to a league like Major League Soccer which rarely pays transfer fees for players, is the CSL’s model something MLS will eventually have to get on board with?

“I’d be surprised at that level if the Chinese Super League is still around in 10 years. There’s just no way that’s sustainable. I think Major League Soccer has smart people who know you can’t do that if you want to be a sustainable league.”

On MLS, Donovan does believe there’s a big issue currently in North America’s top flight: a lack of minutes for promising youngsters.

“We do have an issue know where we do have some very talented young players but their problem is they aren’t getting a chance to play,” Donovan said. “If you’re an MLS coach, you have to win on the weekends. That’s your job. If you have a player on your team who is 19 years old and has the potential to be a nine out of 10 type of player but you have another guy who is already a 7.5 out of 10 and he’s 30 years old, you’re going to play the 7.5 out of 10 guy every time because the coach wants consistency and to win and keep your job. The problem is those young kids with potential aren’t playing.”

Part Two of our chat with Landon Donovan is available here as he speaks about the USWNT at the Olympics, his own Olympic experiences and tackles the bigger issue of developing young players in the USA.

Liverpool releases statement after Sevilla stadium supporter outcry

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Liverpool has proffered a strong and cautionary statement regarding its supporters’ treatment at Sevilla on Tuesday.

Claims of police punching a woman in the back and throwing her “political” flag at her, a Liverbird with the word “Defiance” on it, are just the tip of the iceberg.

[ REPORT: Palace to get new digs ]

Fans claim that many were either delayed or denied in entry to the stadium, with “police in riot gear not letting you get to your seat” in some cases.

The Reds have released a statement, from LiverpoolFC.com:

Following detailed and troubling accounts given by Liverpool supporters attending the match against Sevilla last night, the club is seeking to establish the facts regarding their treatment at the hands of the host stewards and local police force.
The safety and security of our supporters is our paramount concern and we intend to gather all the relevant information before responding further.

Supporter treatment away from home is deservedly a hot button issue, and especially at Liverpool given the horrible Hillsborough disaster that killed 96 and wounded almost 800 more in 1989.

As for the match, the Reds squandered a 3-0 lead at Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, drawing 3-3.

Sounders in firm control after Leg 1

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The game in 100 words (or less): The Seattle Sounders took full control of the Western Conference finals with a resounding 2-0 win over ten-man Houston. The Sounders already had hit first in the 11th minute through Gustav Svensson but the red card to Jalil Anibaba changed the game. Houston had some chances later but fatigue meant the focus and control was off. Former Dynamo striker Will Bruin’s goal may have put the tie to bed.

Three moments that mattered

11′ — Gustav Svensson Goal — The Sounders wanted to set the tone early and they picked up an early goal off a corner kick, as Svensson redirected a header past Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis. The goal changed the complexion of the game to that point, until our next big moment.

28′ — Jalil Anibaba red card — Joevin Jones was a menace to deal with tonight and after getting past Anibaba, the latter pulled Jones down and as it appeared to be denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, Anibaba was given his marching orders. Suddenly, Houston, down a goal and down a man, had a lot more to do to stay in the tie. Nicolas Lodeiro missed the subsequent penalty kick but Will Bruin picked Lodeiro up later.

42′ — Will Bruin goal — The former Dynamo man scored a massive goal against his former club on a great cross from Jones on the left wing. While the tie isn’t over, the Sounders are in firm control and look set to repeat as Western Conference playoffs champions.

Man of the Match: Joevin Jones

Three things: Sounders cruise after (and before) early red

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The Seattle Sounders all but booked a return appearance in the 2017 MLS Cup final on Tuesday, doing so by beating the Houston Dynamo 2-0 in the first (away) leg of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday. The game wasn’t as close at the final score might appear to indicate.

[ RECAP: Sounders take 2-0 lead over Dynamo ]

We learned the following three things over the course of the 90 minutes…


The red card hurt Houston

No way, you’re kidding, right? Clearly a 28th-minute red card (shown to Jalil Anibaba for the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity) is going to have a massive impact on the outcome of a game. But, it really crippled Houston, given the way they play — having a numerical advantage in the center of midfield is so important to Wilmer Cabrera’s side, in the name of frantically winning the ball back after conceding half or even two-thirds of the field.

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When you have to haul off one of three central midfielders, in hopes of still being about to force-create chances on the rare occasion you recover the ball and move it forward, three things are bound to happen: 1) legs are going to get very heavy, very quickly; 2) the clock appears to be counting up in double-speed; 3) you begin to concede two-thirds and three-quarters of the field instead — every move Seattle worked during the second half came after a waltz in the final third before finally meeting resistance.

At right, you can see every Sounders pass originating in Houston’s half of the field — remember, Seattle are the away team here. Playoff games rarely, if ever, come much easier than that.


Addition by subtraction… again?

This one isn’t so much a lesson from Tuesday’s game, as much as it’s a trend played out over the course of an entire season: much like they wound up being in 2016 following Clint Dempsey‘s heart condition robbing him of the final four months of the season, the Sounders are once again, dare I say it, better without another indomitable figure: Osvaldo Alonso.

Here’s the numbers to back it up: without Alsono in the starting lineup this year, Seattle went 6W-2D-2L. In those 10 regular-season games, they scored 20 goals (2.0 per game, versus 1.3 with him in the lineup) and conceded 12 (1.1 per game, same when he played).

The central midfield pairing of Cristian Roldan (7) and Gustav Svensson (4) has proven a formidable foe for anyone and everyone during the second half of the season. On Tuesday — granted, against 10 men for more than an hour — they could do no wrong. (Passes attempted on the right; defensive actions on the left — green triangles are tackles won, orange are recoveries, blue are interceptions, purple are clearances, red are tackles lost.)

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Alonso has been an unbelievable servant for nine MLS seasons, he’s an MLS Cup champions, a four-time U.S. Open Cup winner, a Supporters’ Shield winner and one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS history. He’s also 32 years old with a growing history of lower-body injuries that seem to never fully heal, and he’s now clearly third in the pecking order behind Roldan and Svensson. It’s clearly an oversimplification to say that soccer is a young, mobile man’s game these days, but it’s certainly true of MLS, and the results are in near total agreement.


May I have some hope, please?

Here’s a not-so-fun fact if you’re a Dynamo fan: your team won one — singular — game on the road in 17 tries this season. Not a dark enough outlook? OK, have this: that lone away win came against D.C. United, who finished 21st out of 22 teams if you put MLS into a single table.

Maybe Seattle weren’t so good at home this year… I’m really just searching for anything at this point, you’re thinking. OK, it’s possible, I suppose. They lost once at home all season, to Toronto FC, the best regular-season team in MLS history, by the final score of 1-0, in the month of May.

We’ll see you in Toronto or Columbus for MLS Cup, Seattle Sounders.

Toronto FC holds Columbus on the road

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The game in 100 words (or less): Without two of its stars, Toronto FC set out to play compact and hold on for a draw on the road, and that’s exactly what they did. Michael Bradley recorded 17 recoveries and a trio of interceptions as TFC broke up play and covered the passing lanes, frustrating the Columbus Crew all night. The best chance fell to Harrison Afful late, but TFC goalkeeper Alex Bono made a crucial save to keep it at 0-0.

Three moments that mattered

0′ — The starting lineup — In a game with chances few and far between, the tactical set-up by Greg Vanney – in which his side without Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore came out in a 4-1-4-1 formation – proved to be the difference in the game, frustrating the Crew all night.

52′ — Pedro Santos penalty kick no-call — Justin Meram plays a neat pass through the TFC backline that Santos runs on to, and he appears to be taken down in the box by Bono. Referee Robert Sbiga doesn’t blow the whistle and lets play continue, where Ola Kamara takes a shot that’s deflected away. Santos appeals for video review, and receives a yellow card for his efforts.

85′ — Big Save Bono — Gregg Berhalter’s 77th minute substitution to bring on Kekutah Manneh helped to push Afful higher up the field, which led to this late-game chance. Bono, who hadn’t had a whole lot to do, came up with a massive stop to keep the tie level.

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Man of the Match: Alex Bono, Toronto FC