Will Landon Donovan be welcomed back into national team?

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When we talk about Landon Donovan’s return, LA Galaxy fans want to know how it shapes the club and its pursuit of an unprecedented third consecutive MLS Cup crown.

Meanwhile, the majority of domestic soccer supporters are more interested in how the one of the country’s best set of soccer feet (ever, that is) can fizz up a national team attack that looks mighty flat at the moment.

Will the national team deciders welcome Donovan? The simple answer here is: Why not?

U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann has generally shown a balance between idealism and pragmatism. He certainly has bold ideas about how the United States should play, higher up the field, more controlled out of the back, looking to apply pressure offensively and without the ball.

The reality has been harder to come by, which is why the actual game-day execution under Klinsmann has frequently looked similar to the less-dynamic ways of predecessor Bob Bradley. Personally, that doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, but critics abound. They are impatient and eager to see the new ways and implementations at work. Now!

The balance may have gone slightly askew in Honduras, where some of the manager’s personnel choice seemed slightly ambitious; perhaps just a little more experience within the team’s “back five” – four defenders plus defensive midfielder Danny Williams – would have rescued the point. That just goes to prove that this is a moving target.

Idealism is wonderful, and it may serve the United States well at Brazil 2014 – but it won’t amount to a hill of practice cones if Klinsmann and Co. lose their way en route and fail (egad!) to qualify.

Which brings us back to Donovan.

Assuming the 30-year-old attacker has resupplied his depleted stores of “want to,” he will provide a boost to the attack, not to mention some missing diversity and ideas. Donovan’s critics are legion, but any reasonable person will conclude that his talents could be put to use at the moment.

Klinsmann cannot like that Donovan has come up missing so often from camps and matches. He has said as much.

FoxSports.com’s Leander Schaerlaeckens asked a good question in this piece:

Will Donovan commit firmly to remaining available to the team at least through the 2014 World Cup? If he won’t, there’s little sense in once again building around a player who openly admits that he’s had “motivational issues” throughout his career. Donovan’s return might be brief. If it turns out the prolonged off-season didn’t bring him the inner peace he has often spoken about seeking, there’s no telling when he’ll walk away again.

That article doesn’t address what may even be a more important point: will the players accept Donovan? In the less likely even that Donovan’s presence becomes a polarizing element, his return could do more damage than good. That’s a whole other jar of pickles.

As for Klinsmann, his pragmatic side will surely kick in. Donovan’s speed (of thought and feet) makes the United States dangerous on the counter. In the regular run of play Donovan is usefully versatile, more than credible as a set-up man or as a finisher near goal.

He’s also a good delivery man on set pieces; Omar Gonzalez (now front and center in the qualifying push) can be a real bother on attacking restarts, but only if the service is precise.

Plus, don’t underestimate the man’s psychological impact on match day; opponents’ awareness of Donovan’s ability creates pressure and alters strategic and tactical approaches. One for instance:  with the program’s all-time leading scorer on the field, Clint Dempsey gets a little less attention.

Again, this is all about where Donovan’s motivation lands, about the ability to rediscover the requisite fire and desire. Talented as he is, even Donovan cannot perform at international level if he cannot light the fuses of ambition rediscovered.

(MORE: Jurgen Klinsmann addressed Donovan’s career crisis back in December)

LIVE, League Cup: Man United, Man City in action

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Ten League Cup games take place on Tuesday, with the third round of the competition kicking off.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ] 

There is one all-Premier League clash as Wolves host Leicester City, while Manchester City, Manchester United, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Burnley and Fulham all face lower league opposition.

Jose Mourinho’s United side host Frank Lampard‘s Derby Country at Old Trafford, while reigning League Cup champions Man City head to Oxford United in a real David vs. Goliath battle.

Below is the schedule in full for Tuesday’s games, while we will keep you up to date with the action here at Pro Soccer Talk.


Tuesday’s EFL Cup schedule (all games 2:45 p.m. ET, unless noted)

Manchester United vs. Derby County — 3 p.m. ET
Oxford United vs. Manchester City
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Leicester City
West Bromwich Albion vs. Crystal Palace — 3 p.m. ET
Bournemouth vs. Blackburn Rovers
Burton vs. Burnley
Millwall vs. Fulham
Blackpool vs. Queens Park Rangers
Wycombe vs. Norwich City
Preston North End vs. Middlesbrough

Report: Mourinho tells Pogba he will not captain Man United again

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Reports are circulating that Jose Mourinho has told Paul Pogba he will not captain Manchester United again.

After United’s 1-1 draw against Wolves on Saturday, Pogba approached reporters in the mixed zone at Old Trafford and told them United must “attack, attack, attack” when playing at home.

He set up United’s goal against Wolves but was at fault for the equalizer.

Pogba has worn the captains armband for several games this season (mostly due to Antonio Valencia’s ongoing injury problems) despite his outspoken nature in the media and reports of a rift between himself and Mourinho over the past 12 months.

The BBC claim that Mourinho has told Pogba he will not wear the captains armband again, as the French superstar appeared to undermine his authority when it came to tactics. A separate report from The Times states that Mourinho told his entire squad that Pogba would no longer captain the team on Tuesday ahead of their League Cup clash with Derby County at Old Trafford, as he addressed the team at the training ground and dropped Pogba from the matchdsy squad.

Mourinho is said to have reminded his players that nobody is bigger than the club and was furious with Pogba’s attitude in recent games.

Speaking in his programme notes ahead of their clash with Derby on Tuesday, Mourinho said the following about his players.

“[The game against Wolves was] an important lesson; a lesson that I repeat week after week after week, a lesson that some boys are not learning,” Mourinho said. “Every team that play Manchester United are playing the game of their lives, and we need to match that level of aggression, motivation and desire – 95% isn’t enough when others give 101%.”

Rumors persisted all summer long about Pogba leaving United to move to Barcelona or going back to Juventus.

Those reports will now intensify ahead of the January transfer window as Mourinho seems to have finally lost his patience with the enigmatic midfielder. Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, has had plenty to say about his client and will no doubt be talking in the coming days.

Since his then world-record transfer of $120 million from Juve in the summer of 2016, Pogba has struggled to find cosistency at United under Mourinho and was dropped last season and his attitude was questioned.

Even though his form for France in their 2018 World Cup win was much improved and he won many plaudits, Mourinho was hardly complimentary of Pogba’s displays, further fuelling the fire of a significant rift between the duo.

It seems that the relationship between Mourinho and Pogba has now hit rock bottom. Where do they go from here? What a mess.

Details for free NBC Sports Gold Premier League pass

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A free preview of the NBC Sports Gold Premier League pass is now available to sign up for.

[ SIGN UP: Get NBC Sports Gold free ]

The deal will begin on Sept. 26 and run until Oct. 1, with access to a huge range of exclusive live Premier League games online, plus plenty of other shows and features from around the PL.

If you can’t get enough from the Premier League, Gold’s Premier League Pass is for you.

Click on the link above to sign up for the deal.

 

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Premier League player Power Rankings are back after Week 6 of the 2018-19 season.

[ MORE: Full Power Rankings archive ]

The cream usually rises to the top but this week we have quite a few surprise inclusions into the upper echelons of our rankings.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League and based on them actually playing in the previous Matchweek. If they didn’t play due to injury or suspension, they aren’t going to make this list. Simple.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


  1. Ilkay Gundogan (Man City) – New entry
  2. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – New entry
  3. Aaron Lennon (Burnley) – New entry
  4. Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) – New entry
  5. Ruben Neves (Wolves) – Up 7
  6. Bernardo Silva (Man City) – New entry
  7. David De Gea (Man United ) – Up 11
  8. Jorginho (Chelsea) – Even
  9. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Down 3
  10. Harry Kane (Tottenham) – New entry
  11. N’Golo Kante (Chelsea) – New entry
  12. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – Down 12
  13. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) – New entry
  14. Joao Moutinho (Wolves) – New entry
  15. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – New entry
  16. James Madisson (Leicester City) – New entry
  17. Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham) – New entry
  18. Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – Down 2
  19. Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) – New entry
  20. Joe Hart (Burnley) – New entry