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)

Lodeiro brace gives Seattle’s faint playoff hopes a lifeline

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In Major League Soccer’s forgiving playoff structure, there’s almost always a way back into the mix.

When your team has a talent like Nicolas Lodeiro, your chances get magnified quite a bit.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez bags 3 more ]

Lodeiro scored twice, once from the spot, and Seattle debuted its new Designated Player in a 2-0 Cascadia Cup win over Vancouver on Saturday.

Seattle is now eight points back of the West’s final playoff spot with 15 to play in its season. And the Sounders join Portland on three Cascadia Cup points, with the Timbers beating Seattle in the other cup match of the season.

Raul Ruidiaz came off the bench for the Sounders, and showed early glimpses of why Seattle wanted the World Cup participant from Peru.

The ‘Caps finished the match with 10 men thanks to a red card on Efrain Juarez, who saw yellow and then made contact with the referee.

The second goal took a vicious turn on its way to making goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic look capital-A awkward.

MLS 3 Things: Unstoppable Martinez grills DC in surge toward record

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Josef Martinez bagged his MLS record sixth career hat trick, and moved to within five goals of the single season goal record as Atlanta United battered DC United 3-1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: Caps’ Davies nears Bayern move ]

1) The MLS record book better get used to his name: Martinez now has 22 goals in 22 matches this season, and he’s going to break the Major League Soccer single season goal record if he’s at least half as productive over the final 12 matches.

Martinez has goals in nine of his last 10 matches. He got luck to set up his third, but look at this composed finish.

2) Another American milestone: 18-year-old USMNT prospect Andrew Carleton made his first MLS start and helped set-up Martinez’s second goal, which gave Atlanta United its first lead.

3) Rooney fails to find score sheet: England hero Wayne Rooney couldn’t find a goal or assist after picking up one of the latter in his debut. This time it was a start for Rooney, who went 66 minutes and earned a yellow card to go with his second shot.

Premier League friendlies: Saints undone by Lampard’s Rams

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Nine Premier League clubs were in action Saturday, none of them at home.

[ MORE: Neymar on diving ]

An ex-PL star, however, thrilled his home fans in a Pride Park debut, facing top flight competition.


Derby County 3-0 Southampton

Frank Lampard is the new Rams’ boss, and his first home match was a win over Premier League competition.

“Lamps” got two goals from Tom Lawrence, and another from Mason Bennett as Saints fell by three. It was Southampton’s first match since returning from a China trip which saw a draw with Schalke and a defeat of Jiangu Suning.

Notts County 1-4 Leicester City

The visitors went down 1-0 before rebounding with vigor to hammer the Magpies behind four different scorers: Demarai Gray, Wes Morgan, Islam Slimani, and Hamza Choudhury.

AFC Wimbledon 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion

The Gulls slipped to defeat, going down two before Ollie Norwood converted an Aaron Connelly-won penalty

Oxford United 1-3 Crystal Palace

Wilfried Zaha, Jeffrey Schlupp and Sullay Kaikai scored as Roy Hodgson‘s men collected an easy enough win away from home.

Real Betis 2-0 Huddersfield Town /  Roy-Weiss Essen 1-0 Huddersfield Town

The Terriers lost a pair of 45-minute friendlies in Belgium.

Elsewhere

Lille 0-0 (4-2, PKs) Everton
Lyon 4-0 Fulham
Fortuna Dusseldorf 1-3 Watford
Preston North End 2-2 West Ham United

Neymar: I get the diving jokes but “you will never understand”

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Neymar proved himself not above a laugh at his own expense this week when he posted a video regarding the Neymar Challenge, the phenomenon in which people writhe around in agony at the slightest touch.

The 26-year-old wants the world to understand his reasons for play-acting — or at least his perceived exaggerations — following some fouls, and the keyword here is apparently “some.”

[ MORE: Neymar staying at PSG ]

Neymar is consistently fouled by teams, and there’s little doubt that the majority of Brazil’s World Cup opponents were aiming to disrupt his love of the game if not outright injure the magnificent talent.

He implies, frankly enough, that he’s extra sore and feels injuries more closely than the next guy.

There’s no question Neymar made some ridiculous theater in Russia with his rolling and grimacing, but take a look at his logic and let us know if you buy the “complications” of his antics.

From Sky Sports:

“Do you think I want to suffer tackles all of the time? No, it is painful, it hurts. After the games I stay back for four or five hours putting on ice, it’s complicated but if you haven’t experienced that you will never understand. I saw [the jokes], but I took them with a humor. Even yesterday I posted on Instagram a joke with the children about it.”