Did Landon Donovan’s World Cup omission force him into early retirement?

11 Comments

Was Landon Donovan always planning to retire at the end of the 2014 Major League Soccer season, or was his hand forced?

The real reasons behind his decision will likely come out in the coming days and weeks, but it has certainly been one heck of a summer for the all-time leading scorer in MLS and the U.S. national team.

[RELATED: Donovan to retire]

At the end of May, Donovan was shockingly left off the USA’s final 23-man World Cup roster for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as his chance to play in a fourth-straight World Cup for the Stars and Stripes was taken away from him.

Donovan’s fall from grace with the national team could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

After taking a self imposed sabbatical during the 2013 offseason, then coming back stronger than ever to lead the U.S. to Gold Cup success in 2013 and prove himself to Klinsmann once again, the damage done to Donovan’s pride at being left off the World Cup roster this summer seems to have been lasting.

[RELATED: LD hails U.S. fans as “lifeblood”]

Just days after his omission was confirmed, Donovan, in true fashion, showed the USA what they would be missing as he scored twice vs. Philadelphia to become Major League Soccer’s all-time leading scorer. Time and time again Donovan proved the doubters wrong and now he has achieved pretty much everything you can as a professional soccer player.

source: Getty Images
One of Donovan;s finest moments came at the 2010 World Cup. His last-gasp goal sent the USMNT through to the last 16.

He has scored at two different World Cups for the USA. He has played in, scored more goals, and played in more MLS All-Star Game games than any other player. He has played in the Bundesliga and the Premier League for historic clubs. He is the all-time leading scorer for the USA with 57 goals in 156 games. He is the all-time leading scorer in MLS with 138 goals in 320 appearances.

Donovan has been the face of the league and soccer in North America for well over a decade and has stuck to his task or constantly promoting the game, rallying behind the U.S. Soccer Federation and MLS to do whatever he can to help raise soccer’s profile. Then, as Klinsmann deemed his play to not be good enough for the USA’s efforts in Brazil this summer, Donovan was cast aside and humiliated.

Donovan’s swansong for the USA was taken away from him.

Justified or not. That must have accelerated his decision to retire at the age of 32. With the 2015 Gold Cup, 2016 Copa America and perhaps even the 2018 World Cup coming up for the USA and Donovan, had Klinsmann selected the LA forward this summer, maybe Donovan’s career would have lasted for another three or four years. Players like David Beckham, Thierry Henry and many others have continued into their late 30’s before calling it quits.

Instead for Donovan, it’s almost over. His U.S. omission has a lot to do with it.

Yes, Donovan thrived and enjoyed being the face of MLS. However, his time leading the U.S. national team was seemingly over, and that may have been enough to make him reconsider his future as a pro. With no more U.S. duty for Donovan, playing solely in MLS week-in, week-out, for the next few years may not have been enough.

He has tasted success as the face of the USA’s soccer hopes. Now, a man who has spent most of his time in the spotlight was reduced to league play. Nothing less, nothing more. That’s okay for some players but not Donovan.

On the face of it, perhaps this was the right time for Donovan to step down. On Wednesday he jumped off the bench in Portland, arguably the center of soccer’s uprising in North America, in front of a packed house and scored the game-winning goal against German giants Bayern Munich (a team he once played for, but got a rough deal with) in the All-Star Game. He then left the pitch to a standing ovation. Since he made his debut for the San Jose Earthquakes in 2001, the league has grown exponentially and the state of soccer in North America has never been healthier. Donovan is a big part of that. Ask any casual soccer fan, or just any sports fans, to name the first U.S. soccer player that comes in to their head. Now, and for the foreseeable future, I bet they say: Landon Donovan.

Now, we know when Donovan’s fairytale career will come to a close. Whether he gets one last chance to suit up for the U.S. or finishes everything off in style by winning MLS Cup 2014 with the LA Galaxy remains to be seen.

The way Donovan’s storybook career has played out over the years, you’d be a fool to bet against it. The king of soccer in the USA has almost left the building. The first truly great American soccer player will be sorely missed.

Was this the right time for Donovan to hang up his boots?

Player ratings: Liverpool – Arsenal

Leave a comment

Liverpool – Arsenal player ratings: This was a real story of defense against attack as the Gunners sat back and Liverpool’s attacking stars had plenty of the ball.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Alexandre Lacazette’s opener saw Liverpool behind briefly, but quickfire goals from Sadio Mane and Andy Robertson put them ahead and Diogo Jota scored a late clincher.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]    

Here’s a look at Liverpool – Arsenal player ratings, as we give the players a mark out of 10.


Liverpool player ratings

Alisson: 7 – Made a good save to deny Lacazette in the second half and had little else to do. Kicking a little shaky on occasions.

Trent Alexander-Arnold: 8 – Superb cross for Mane early on and had a vicious shot deflected onto the bar.

Joe Gomez: 6 – Didn’t have much to do but a few gaps appeared between him and Van Dijk in the second half.

Virgil van Dijk: 7 – Shot well-saved by Leno and a cool customer, as always, throughout.

Andrew Robertson: 8 – A menace down the left and gave Bellerin a torrid time.

Fabinho: 7 – Sat in and soaked up the play in midfield, and won the ball back time and time again.

Georginio Wijnaldum: 6 – Solid, steady and reliable. Does he ever have a bad game!?

Naby Keita: 6 – Wasn’t able to make his runs forward from midfield. Tidy enough.

Mohamed Salah: 7 – Lovely run and shot to set up the first goal and bullied Tierney. Greedy in the second half and took a chance of Jota.

Roberto Firmino: 7 – Good movement and occupied Luiz and Holding to allow Mane and Salah to cut inside.

Sadio Mane: 7 – Could have been sent off early on for an elbow on Tierney and hit a shot straight at Leno.

Substitutions
James Milner (80′ on for Keita): 6 – Helped Liverpool see out the game by clogging up midfield.
Diogo Jota (80′ on for Mane): 7 – A debut PL goal for Liverpool and had some good runs, a cross and two other shots were both off target. Very lively on his Anfield debut.
Takumi Minamino (90′ on for Firmino): N/A


Arsenal player ratings

Bernd Leno: 6 – A decent stop from Mane but his distribution was sloppy.

Rob Holding: 6 – Did okay defensively but never looks that comfortable in possession.

David Luiz: 6 – Sloppy on the ball at times, and struggled to cope with Liverpool’s pressing.

Kieran Tierney: 5 – Caught out on Liverpool’s first goal but caught by Mane’s elbow early on.

Hector Bellerin: 5 – Caught napping on both of Liverpool’s goals. Didn’t add anything from an attacking perspective.

Mohamed Elneny: 6 – Worked hard, as always, and tried to string a few passes together.

Granit Xhaka: 5 – Overrun in midfield and couldn’t get on the ball. Subbed off.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles: 5 – Should have done better to control a ball over the top and pinned back.

Willian: 4 – Switched off to allow Robertson to finish for Liverpool’s second. Offered little in attack.

Alexandre Lacazette: 6 – Scored his goal as he was in the right place at the right time. Worked hard but missed a great chance for a second.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 5 – Hardly involved and when he was he failed to run at Liverpool or provide quality.

Substitutes
Dani Ceballos (60′ on for Granit Xhaka): 6 – Made a real difference when he came on as he got on the ball.
Nicolas Pepe (68′ on for Willian): 5 – Barely involved.
Eddie Nketiah (74′ on for Lacazette): N/A

3 things we learned: Liverpool – Arsenal

Liverpool - Arsenal
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Liverpool – Arsenal was an interesting tactical battle, as Liverpool pressed high and Arsenal stuck to their defensive shape but the extra quality of Liverpool’s attack shone through.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]   

Alexandre Lacazette’s opener saw Liverpool behind briefly, but quickfire goals from Sadio Mane and Andy Robertson put them ahead and Diogo Jota scored a late clincher.

Here’s a look at what we learned from Liverpool – Arsenal at Anfield.


Jota the perfect understudy to Mane

Sadio Mane wasn’t happy to be subbed off but Jurgen Klopp was perhaps keeping him away from a red card he probably should have got early on. Mane was lucky to stay on the pitch after an early elbow on Kieran Tierney. Was it intentional? No. Was it reckless? Yes. Mane chased down Tierney but raised his elbow and caught Tierney in the face. VAR didn’t determine he should have been sent off as Mane was only booked and stayed on the pitch to duly score the equalizer and was a constant thorn in Arsenal’s side. Liverpool’s star winger wasn’t happy about being replaced by Jota with 10 minutes to go as Klopp had a quiet word.

In that 10 minutes the Portuguese winger scored his first Liverpool goal, hit the side-netting, set up a chance and should have had another but Salah nicked the ball off his foot. Life after Mane, Firmino and Salah is not something Liverpool fans will have to (or want to) think about for a while but Jota, still just 23 years old, is a fine signing from Wolves and will be the perfect understudy to Mane as his pace, finishing and movement is very similar. It’s almost like Liverpool and Klopp have a plan…


Resilient Arsenal showed a little too much respect

Arsenal had two touches in opposition box in first half. Two. It was their lowest total in a single 45 minutes since Opta started recording the stat and it showed how much respect they gave Liverpool. Like they have done against the top teams since Arteta arrived, Arsenal sat back deep and tried to keep the ball at the back to draw Liverpool up the pitch. It didn’t work but they stayed in the game. Arsenal couldn’t string enough passes together to launch dangerous counters but Lacazette did have a big chance to make it 2-2 but he hit his shot straight at Alisson. Arsenal were more resilient than they have been against Liverpool in the past and Arteta’s project has just started. They have taken strides forward, we shouldn’t forget that. Arteta has made them gritty but they still have a long, long way to go.


Sloppy Liverpool caused own problems

They gave Arsenal the opening goal after Andy Robertson couldn’t control the ball in the box, then were cut open in the second half on the break but Lacazette couldn’t make the most of it. It wasn’t a case of Arsenal creating lots of chances, but instead Liverpool giving them the few they did have.

If Liverpool are going to win the Premier League, and other trophies, this season then they must tighten up at the back. They conceded three against Leeds on the opening weekend and have now given Chelsea and Arsenal plenty of chances to score. Klopp worked so hard to eradicate the silly defensive mistakes which riddled his first few years as Liverpool boss but now they’re creeping back in.

Liverpool too much for Arsenal after early scare

Leave a comment

Liverpool – Arsenal: Sadio Mane, Andy Robertson, and Diogo Jota all scored as Liverpool quickly overcame an early error to beat Arsenal 3-1 at Anfield on Monday.

Alexandre Lacazette scored early off a Robertson error but Mane answered within two minutes and the reigning champions were up 2-1 by halftime.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Liverpool joins Everton and Leicester City as the lone 3-0 teams in the Premier League, with Aston Villa sitting at 2-0 after a Monday win and holding status as the Reds’ next PL opponent.

Arsenal loses after winning its first two matches. The two sides meet again at the same venue in League Cup fourth round action on Thursday.

Arsenal’s next PL match is home to Sheffield United on Sunday.


Analysis, notes, and stats from Liverpool – Arsenal

1. Mixed results for Arsenal litmus test: A 34 percent possession number and 21-4 deficit in shot attempts show the Gunners have a long way to go to catch Liverpool despite the dreams inspired by the club’s Project Restart win at the Emirates Stadium. Jurgen Klopp’s Reds could’ve scored a bunch more than three and while Alisson did well to twice deny Lacazette after his opener, the chances mostly belonged to the champs.

2. Aubameyang’s off day: He wanted a card for a Fabinho drag down in the 69th minute, which was one of the few times he was in focus. With 20 minutes to play, Aubameyang had 23 total touches and had completed just 7-of-16 passes. Would he find a moment to make the difference? He managed one more touch before a stoppage time rush with the match out of hand.

3. Alexander-Arnold’s arrows: Liverpool’s assist man completed three key passes on an 88-touch day on the right side.

Man of the Match

Fabinho and Alisson get knowing nods for fine days and Alexander-Arnold was influential as usual, but Mohamed Salah’s incisive passing should’ve easily provided a goal for at least one of his teammates. Really good-looking stuff that will not find any highlight reels.


Liverpool – Arsenal recap

Sadio Mane saw an early yellow card for a forearm to the face of Kieran Tierney in a move that has sometimes seen the referee brandish a red.

Naby Keita slipped Andy Robertson into the box for an 11th-minute chance that was blocked for a corner by Rob Holding.

David Luiz cleared a Virgil van Dijk header off the line after Trent Alexander-Arnold spotted the center back at the back post.

Leno stopped a bullet Mane shot in the 16th as Liverpool asked all the questions. Alexander-Arnold had a shot deflect off the cross bar five minutes later.

Arsenal scored with its first chance of the game, French striker Lacazette crossing himself at his good fortune at both Andy Robertson whiffing a clearance onto his path but also a mishit ball finding its way past Alisson Becker. 1-0, 26′.

Liverpool made it 1-1 in the 28th, a deserved goal that came when Leno saved Mohamed Salah but Mane deposited the rebound.

Robertson made amends for his mistake when he found himself behind the Gunners’ back line to deposit a Hector Bellerin-altered Alexander-Arnold cross.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Alisson stopped Lacazette’s chip in the 59th, though the flag was up, as Arsenal had a rare chance. He was onside when Alisson stopped his similar effort in the 63rd.

Diogo Jota’s Liverpool debut could’ve easily included a goal or two off the bench but he sliced one shot wide of the far post and saw a near-post effort go off the outside of the side netting.

He got his goal in the 88th minute, a nice finish inside the near post of Leno.

Seven American players to watch in final weeks of transfer window

De La Fuente to Girona
Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
Leave a comment

There have been a number of USMNT players and U.S.-eligible players to make moves this transfer window, headlined by Weston McKennie’s move to Juventus and Antonee Robinson heading to Fulham.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

There’s also a report that Reggie Cannon’s move from FC Dallas to Portugal’s Boavista could be a prelude to Ligue 1 football. Cannon could join USMNT forward Timothy Weah at Lille.

Longtime USMNT men Fabian Johnson and Danny Williams are still looking for homes as free agents, but we’re only listing potential transfer targets currently with clubs. We’ve also neglected players who may well be seeking moves if we could not find any linked destinations (like Club Brugge goalkeeper Ethan Horvath).

Sergino Dest, Ajax

Let’s start with the one we’ve followed the closest in recent weeks.

This one is still not announced, but the 19-year-old’s courtship by Ronald Koeman at Barcelona and Hansi Flick at Bayern Munich has reportedly tilted toward the latter with an announcement possibly coming as early as Monday.

The latest report is that Bayern feels “betrayed” that Ajax agreed with the Bavarians but eventually pointed Dest in the direction of Ronald Koeman and Barca.

Dest was named Ajax Young Talent of the Year last season and a member of the 2020 Golden Boy shortlist.

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tottenham Hotspur

The powerful 22-year-old is a good passer out of the back but has not been able to earn first team time in North London.

Carter-Vickers has taken five loans in the Championship and had his best stint yet in helping Luton Town make a great escape. Bournemouth has been linked with Carter-Vickers this month.

Matt Miazga, Chelsea

The 25-year-old move from New York Red Bulls to Stamford Bridge in 2016 and almost immediately played the only two Premier League matches of his career.

He’s since been loaned to Vitesse Arnhem twice, Nantes, and Reading twice. There have been rumors of a loan to a fourth nation with Turkey’s Trabzonspor.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United

Now third choice at right back — Steve Bruce used the 27-year-old at left back in the League Cup last week — Yedlin’s future is said to be troubled by his big Premier League wages.

A move to MLS would see him as a Designated Player at right back, a rarity, while The Athletic’s Chris Waugh says Besiktas has interest but the rub is that it could require the Champions League outfit to sell another American…

Tyler Boyd, Besiktas

The only reason the newly-minted USMNT man would be sold is if the Turkish side needs his international slot to acquire reinforcements at another position.

The 25-year-old winger has started all five of Besiktas’ matches this season between domestic play, Europa League, and the Champions League. He’s scored once, bringing his total with the Turkish side to four goals in 33 outings.

Where would he go? Doubtful he wants to go anywhere, but Rizespor has been mentioned. Besiktas’ other foreigners include two Canadians in Cyle Larin and Atiba Hutchinson.

Konrad De La Fuente, Barcelona

If Dest goes to Barca he could just miss 19-year-old De La Fuente, though he won’t be difficult to locate.

De La Fuente has been linked with a loan to Catalan neighbors Girona, who play in Spain’s second tier and have been a notable spot for Man City loanees in recent years (Douglas Luiz, Pablo Maffeo).

But a report says Koeman wants to keep the teen, who is well-wanted, and if he does go it would be to a top-flight side.

Brenden Aaronson, Philadelphia Union

A report from clued-in MLSSoccer.com says the USMNT midfielder is set to join Jesse Marsch at Red Bull Salzburg pending a medical.

The 19-year-old would stay with the Union for the rest of the 2020 season. He’s also been linked with Celtic.