United States is streaking as a team – but not so spectacularly as Landon Donovan is individually

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ARLINGTON, Texas – There is a streak that everyone is talking about around the United States national team – but it’s the wrong one.

Yes, this showy 10-game winning streak is a record for the program, so it’s remarkable on its face. But reporters keep asking players about it, the normal course of action. Thing is, it started with a completely different set of performers (the first-choice team rather than the current, second group) so it doesn’t “feel” like a streak to Gold Cup bunch.

On the other hand, here is a streak that actually is something to which we should all raise a glass:

Landon Donovan has contributed directly to every goal the United States has scored in the last three matches. That would be saying something around any winning team, but consider that Jurgen Klinsmann’s bunch of high fliers have scored nine of them over that period!

Let that sink in.

[MORE: U.S. eases past Honduras, into Gold Cup final]

Donovan has scored or assisted on eight of them; he played a heavy role in one other but didn’t get credit for the official assist.

“I’m enjoying myself, and it’s the most relaxed I’ve ever felt,” he said minutes after doing his part and then some in Wednesday’s 3-1 dismantling of Honduras. (It really was more dominant that “3-1” sounds.”

Donovan set Eddie Johnson free for the first U.S. strike and later skillfully brought down a ball with his chest before directing it calmly into goal for a 2-0 lead. After the break, it was Donovan once again, this time with a soul-crusher as he finished off Alejandro Bedoya’s hard work to re-establish his team’s two-goal margin.

All that after contributing to all five goals in Sunday’s quarterfinal win over El Salvador. And that was after Donovan’s sweet cross-field pass finally arranged the breakthrough goal against Costa Rica in the final match of Gold Cup group play.

[MORE: U.S. cruising like never before in Gold Cup]

Consider some other numbers as Donovan, easily the best U.S. man of the tournament so far, continues to stack the dandy facts:

  • Donovan has five goals and seven assists in the Gold Cup. That’s a good season for a lot of players; Donovan has done that in five matches.
  • He is now the tournament’s co-leading scorer along with teammate Chris Wondolowski.
  • Donovan has 17 career Gold Cup goals.
  • As for the bigger picture, he keeps padding the all-time U.S. men’s national team lead in goals (56) and assists (also 56). He keeps pulling away from any pursuers although, truly, there aren’t any active men in the player pool with anything more than an outside chance of catching him.
  • He had played in 432 straight minutes, more than any U.S. man, before being subbed out by Wondolowski in Wednesday’s 72nd minute.

It’s still too much of a stretch to say the United States would not be in Sunday’s final without Donovan; truly, the U.S. side has just looked too dominant to say such a thing. But it does seem fair to pronounce that this tournament might look very different without all the brilliant work from the team’s best creator. We might be talking about a bunch that is arriving dutifully into the final, but perhaps not about one that is mercilessly brushing opposition aside with a relative ease.

A lot of that is about Donovan.

[MORE: What worked, didn’t work with Klinsmann’s changes]

“We are all very proud that he is proving a point,” Klinsmann said, mentioning Donovan’s drive to get back into the first-choice team for upcoming World Cup qualifiers. “With every game he wants to prove that, to show that, not only on the field, but off the field, too, the way is has re-integrated himself into the group.”

“In our conversations I have told him, “Your benchmark is the best Landon Donovan ever.” And that I am not taking anything less than that. I think he is trying to catch up with that. So, give him more games more time. Obviously every game helps him.”

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.