SI reports that Landon Donovan out for upcoming United States national team friendlies

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Chances are, Landon Donovan’s absence from the upcoming U.S. national team friendlies is about his recent ankle issues and nothing more.

But when SI.com’s Grant Wahl reported Sunday that Donovan would not be included in upcoming matches against Scotland and Austria, some speculation was bound to fall.

The United States meets Scotland on Friday at Glasgow’s Hampden Park, and then travels into Austria for a match next week in Vienna. Neither team qualified for the upcoming World Cup.

U.S. boss Jurgen Klinsmann wants the strongest squad possible for the friendlies. In fact, he wants the very best bunch he can assemble for every camp and every match from now until the World Cup begins in just over six months. The time for kicking tires on new players is pretty much over; it’s all about polishing and refining, and that means calling the best players available whenever the team gets together.

Donovan is almost certainly one of his top 23 men. (That’s the magic number, since next year’s World Cup roster will be the usual 23-man assembly.)

But any absence is bound to fuel speculation, given Donovan’s complicated relationship with professional soccer and with the U.S. national team over the last couple of years.

The national team and Major League Soccer all-time scoring leader hurt his ankle during an MLS match on Sept. 14. After sitting out for about two weeks, Donovan was back on the field for an important contest against Portland on Sept. 29, but later said it probably would have been wise to remain out longer.

He kept playing through the MLS playoff stretch drive, and then into the post-season until the Galaxy was eliminated. (Which happened just days ago as the Galaxy fell to Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference semifinals.)

So it’s logical to assume this is just about getting his ankle right.

Still, there was that odd instant in one of the final World Cup qualifying matches, where Donovan left at halftime in Kansas City against Jamaica, a surprising moment that appeared performance based. So, there’s your beginning point for speculation of further fissure between Donovan and Klinsmann.

Kane named England captain, set to break record

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Call him captain Kane.

The FA confirmed on Tuesday that Harry Kane would captain England at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where he’ll break a record for being the youngest England captain at a World Cup. At just 24-years of age, Kane appears wise beyond his years and has over the past World Cup cycle developed into arguably the best striker in the Premier League, if not one of the top center forwards in the world.

The previous youngest England captain was the late, great Bobby Moore, who was 25-years old at the 1966 World Cup – hosted of course by England.

Considering the overall youth movement within the England ranks, this comes as a smart decision from manager Gareth Southgate. Though strikers aren’t usually made captains, he leads the line by example and has displayed great leadership for Tottenham over the last two years. In addition, should he remain consistent in his club and country form, he could be an England captain for another eight years or so.

In the last two World Cups, England has gone with the veteran hand for captain, with Steven Gerrard wearing the armband for both. But England was knocked out in the Round of 16 in 2010 and didn’t make it out of the group stage in 2014, which, combined with the shocking defeat to Iceland in Euro 2016, necessitated a change in management and culture.

Arsenal, Puma drop new kit for upcoming season

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Arsenal will have a new home kit next year, but there’s a bit of a twist compared to the old reliable we know and love.

Puma and Arsenal released the club’s 2018-2019 home kit on Tuesday morning, featuring a red and white top with a “pulse” design through the center, which displays different shades of red to symbolize the heartbeat of the club, and lighter red on the white sleeves. White shorts and socks will accompany the home outfit.

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Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette, Hector Bellerin and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang all modeled the new kit, giving a hint that the quartet could be in Arsenal colors next season.

The uniform also uses Puma’s “seamless evoKNIT” technology, making it easier for players to play in while running across the pitch. The club has picked the marketing campaign “#WeAreTheArsenal” to drive sales.

Will the new kits bring Arsenal more success next season? Time will tell.

Short-handed Galaxy beat Impact after Ibrahimovic red card

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MONTREAL (AP) Playing a man down after Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic got a red card in the 42nd minute, the Los Angeles Galaxy got past the Montreal Impact 1-0 Monday on a goal by Ola Kamara.

The Galaxy (4-6-1) ended a four-game losing run. Montreal (3-9-0) has lost three in a row, all by shutout, with the last two coming at home.

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Ibrahimovic was sent off after slapping Michael Petrasso, who had stepped on Ibrahimovic’s foot while marking him well away from the ball. After consulting video, referee Ismail Elfath showed Ibrahimovic the red card and Petrasso the yellow.

Both went down after the slap, and Ibrahimovic was limping as a trainer helped him off the field.

With 10 men, the Galaxy stayed back in the second half, looking for counterattacks.

In the 75th minute, substitute Emmanuel Boateng headed a ball forward that Kamara took on the run. He beat Marco Donadel and Jukka Raitala with a cut into the middle and scored his team-leading fifth goal on a low shot from inside the penalty area.

Montreal had some chances, including back-to-back shots in the 55th minute by Alejandro Silva and Raheem Edwards that were blocked by goalkeeper David Bingham.

Reina faces hearing over links with trio connected to mafia

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ROME (AP) Outgoing Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina has been summoned to a hearing at the Italian football federation over his association with people with links to the mafia.

Reina, along with Paolo Cannavaro and Salvatore Aronica, is to face the FIGC’s disciplinary committee after an investigation by Naples’ anti-mafia department.

It is reportedly one of the reasons why Napoli decided not to renew Reina’s contract, with the former Liverpool goalkeeper set to move to AC Milan on a free transfer.

The FIGC says Reina “has had and continues to have inopportune association and friendship with Gabriele Esposito, Francesco Esposito and Giuseppe Esposito.” It adds that that includes holidays and “an exchange of favors.”

Cannavaro, who had two spells with Napoli, retired at Sassuolo last year. Aronica also spent several years at the southern club before joining Palermo in 2013.