Do not weep for Landon Donovan, for a new star shall be born

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In 2009, scientists couldn’t figure out why star Cassiopeia A, which had gone supernova just 330 years ago, was emitting strange x-rays.

With the help of new data, they finally arrived at the conclusion that the exploding star had actually birthed a baby neutron star, and we were witnessing a brilliant moment in space history.

“It turns out that Cas A may be a gift from the Universe because we would have to catch a very young neutron star at just the right point in time,” said Ohio University scientist Madappa Prakash back in 2009.

America just observed the career of its very own Cassiopeia A come to an end, calling time on one of the greatest gifts to the US soccer Universe, and we’re only just realizing what we’ve witnessed. Of course, he departed a champion, defeating the New England Revolution 2-1 in yesterday’s MLS Cup Final, because we wouldn’t want it any other way.

But there is so much more from his career than trophies.

“I absolutely want to work with kids,” Donovan said when announcing his retirement. “I spoke to (Chris) Klein extensively about working with the Academy. That for me would be a really good way to come full circle. I fully expect that that will happen at some point.”  That circle has yet to completely connect, but it’s well on its way.

The Blond Haired Punk

“Landon Donovan’s ability to run away from defenders, run away from players, and be fit for 90-plus minutes and to play thousands of games in his career and stay healthy,” former USMNT player Taylor Twellman remarked, “I don’t know if he gets enough credit for that.”

Landon Donovan departed the playing field for the last time. He will no longer grace stadiums in the United States and beyond. Goodbye San Jose Earthquakes. Goodbye to Everton. Goodbye to the LA Galaxy. And most importantly, goodbye to the US National team. But it wasn’t always this nostalgic. He began with vigor, but with naivety as well.

“I remember the first time meeting Landon Donovan, with his blond hair and being a little bit of a punk,” Twellman said. “And then I remember my first training with him, and he blew everyone out of the water.”

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A young Landon Donovan led San Jose to the MLS Cup in 2001 and 2003 but rubbed some people the wrong way with a brash attitude.

Donovan’s career was the prototypical bell curve. That “punk” kid rubbed many the wrong way in the early going. Bruce Arena discovered Landon while managing DC United, and even he was a bit put off. I asked the 63-year-old to expand on his long-held belief that his first impression of Landon was not a positive one.

“He shot his mouth off, he was a wise guy, but he certainly backed it up with his play on the field,” Arena said. “That was my first impression of him, but not my last impression of him. He was a pretty typical American teenager at that time.”

And that’s what makes his story so magnetizing. Many young people – new, impressionable sports fans watching soccer for the first time – could identify with this kid, with this “punk.” And the American public wanted him to succeed, not just because he is American, but because we wanted ourselves to succeed vicariously through him, to transform with him.

Make no mistake, there will never be another Landon Donovan. One could rattle off all the achievements and numbers he holds that have been hammered into our brains, but records are meant to be broken, and as long as the national team continues to produce and Major League Soccer remains intact, they will eventually be broken.

Records may fall, but there will never be another trailblazer.

“There aren’t that many players that are going to be able to give us what Landon gave us over a long period of time,” Arena said.

But that’s precisely the point.

Ability is given but intangibles are not

Of all Landon Donovan’s great accomplishments for the sport in this country, his greatest is without a doubt the most ironic. For a man who prided himself greatly for his accomplishments on the field, he has left the sport in this country poised to slingshot its next big star – his replacement in the spotlight – to even greater heights than he could achieve. Donovan laid the groundwork for what soccer in the United States can become by priming the nation’s viewers to envision what it can potentially achieve. And a lot of it has to do with his maturation.

“Landon’s done a lot of things off the field as an elder statesman not only with younger players but with other players around the league,” said Arena. “He set the tone for the American player in the league, and hopefully as pay scales improve, he will continue to be a quiet voice behind the teams in collective bargaining on the player’s side. So there’s a lot of things that he’s done as he’s matured as a person and player, and it’s been an important part of growing the sport and growing his legend as well.”

Just look back to how Landon’s miss on the 2014 World Cup resonated through the mainstream American public. It was a huge deal – and rightly so – that US Soccer’s most marketable star was absent from the selection.

Soccer in the United States is by no means a fledgling enterprise. The sport has been smoldering in the shadows for decades, awaiting a moment of true eruption. The catalyst has been provided, and now the stars of tomorrow are tasked with sparking the blast.

Along those lines, an individual can be a pioneer without being the first. Christopher Columbus was by no means the first European explorer to discover the New World – that would be Leif Erikssen, nearly 500 years prior to Columbus’s voyages. But the Italian was the most successful at popularizing the influx of exploration and growth to the region that would follow.

source: Getty Images
Bob Bradley spent years coaching Landon Donovan and saw him grow and change throughout his career.

“Growing up and seeing where he’s at today, I think the most important thing is to know that anything is possible,” said young US talent Greg Garza.

“We have an American guy that maybe in the beginning the US wasn’t that soccer-based, we didn’t have that much ‘umph’ about ourselves in the soccer world, and he’s really raised the bar for so many people around the world, and he’s really set a standard for all of us.”

Thing is, Garza’s not exactly right.

Building a foundation

When it comes to results in the World Cup – the only measuring stick that truly matters among the populous – the US national team actually hasn’t improved all that much since Landon took the field.

Before Donovan’s first World Cup in 2002, the US had made it out of the group stage once in the previous three years. In the next three with Landon, the US made it out twice. But the country never got past the quarterfinals, and were eliminated in the first group stage match once with Landon and once without.

But perception is reality, and he was able to achieve what no one else could in this country: open the floodgates of mass appeal. To put it simply, Donovan put butts in seats. More importantly, he put butts on couches. In front of televisions.

“When you look at everything that goes into growing a league, it’s incredible how far things have come [in Major League Soccer],” said former MLS and USMNT manager Bob Bradley. “That includes better TV packages, better visibility, and Landon certainly deserves a big mention because he was always committed to Major League Soccer.”

And it wasn’t just in the United States. Landon went abroad to play with Everton hoping to exorcise some early European demons, and he was an instant hit with Toffee fans despite playing just 22 matches for the Blue of Goodison Park. And it all started with his play on the field.

“He arrived at the perfect time in the 2010 season. With Baines and Pienaar, the team papercut opponents down the left flank,” said Roger Bennett, Men in Blazers co-host and die-hard Everton supporter. “Landon gave them a right side threat for the first time and forced opponents to worry about both sides of the field. His impact was immediate and evident for all to see. Landon was the perfect fit tactically for them. He grabbed the opportunity with a tremendous zeal and the fans responded in kind.

“The two cameo loan spells were fleeting but their intensity negated the charge that Landon could not hack it at the elite level. To this day, Everton fans harbor fond memories of Landon.  They talk about him with full-throated praise in a way I believe far more Americans will with the healing perspective of time.”

Donovan’s time in England was nice, but it didn’t define him. As Bradley said, he was committed to MLS.

The ultimate assist

Finally, Donovan has been dedicated to ushering in new talent in any way he can. He’s been doing it all along, and the recipients of his guidance are taking notice.

source: Getty Images
Landon has played his best ball in the MLS Cup, and that was no different this year, even though it’s his last.

“My first big call-up was against Holland in Amsterdam,” said Alejandro Bedoya of his first experience with Landon Donovan, “Before the game I remember him coming over to me and putting his hand over my shoulder and telling me ‘hey you’re here for a reason, go out there, prove yourself, just play your game, and most important just have fun and enjoy it. It’s going to be a great game.’ I’ll always remember that, it spoke volumes about him.”

“For me when I first started on the national team,” Jozy Altidore remembered, “being a young guy he always gave me confidence and was always quick to try and make sure I was focused and when I wasn’t focused he’d let me know. That was important…that’s important for any young player, to have a player that has influence in the team to help bring you along.”

But just when we thought the end might be here, Donovan returned to that brash kid who had the confidence of a Navy SEAL on a mission, and told the world “not just yet.” Just a month ago in the MLS Cup – where Donovan had arguably played his best soccer through the course of his career – the US legend scored a hat trick at home (because, of course he did) plus an assist in the second leg of the Western Conference semifinals against Real Salt Lake in a game where coming in the Galaxy needed a win to move on. They won. By a lot.

With the retirement of a legend, the growth of Donovan’s career and parallel growth of the sport in the country will allow the next big US soccer icon to become a mainstream star athlete within the fabric of sports in the United States.

Donovan was once the brightest beacon of hope guiding MLS ships to safety on the rocky and treacherous shore of American sports. Now, as his bulb burns for the final time, he can be content in knowing the waters are becoming safer. Many will come after him and bring soccer to new heights, but for Landon, his greatest gift was one he couldn’t help but give.

“When it’s all said and done, we only get one life – some careers are long, some careers are short – Landon can say he did it his way,” said Twellman. “And very few athletes can say that. I’m not saying it was easy for him by any means, he took some heavy criticism. But when it’s all said and done, I don’t think Landon will have any regrets, and you have to respect the hell out of that.”

By the way, this is Cassiopeia A:

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From a kid whose mother, in his first soccer game as a child, was hoping he wouldn’t “get his feelings hurt” we have been lucky enough to witness an extraordinary career. Sometimes when you step back and look at the big picture, the result is pure beauty, even if complicated.

It’s not over for number 10. He told ESPN’s Wayne Drehs that he’ll be coaching soon. But in true Donovan fashion, he was quick to clarify what he meant. “Youth soccer. The pros? I can’t deal with the egos.” Obviously.

Thanks Landon and congratulations on the win, you sure are a LegenD. Now the United States will look for someone new to fill the void in their own way.

Man United ‘got away with one’ after dramatic late win at Brighton

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Manchester United reaction from Brighton was honest as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players looked somewhat sheepish as they snuck out of the Amex Stadium with a dramatic 3-2 win.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

After being dominated for most of the game, Man United went behind then equalized via an own goal and took the lead after a piece of solo brilliance from Marcus Rashford.

Brighton saw a penalty kick decision overturned, hit the woodwork five times and then scored a 95th minute equalizer, only for Man United to be awarded a penalty kick after the final whistle blew as VAR was used and Bruno Fernandes won it in the 100th minute.

Speaking to BT Sport in the UK after the game, Solskjaer couldn’t help but laugh when trying to sum it all up and he admitted Man United secured an undeserved win.

“You can’t sum it up. We got away with one, to be fair. Maybe one point was what we deserved. I don’t think we deserved more,” Solskjaer admitted with his Manchester United reaction. “The character deserved more. That’s a big thing for us, compared to last season. We had too many draws last season. They [Brighton] created too much for my liking. They are a difficult team to play against and they have really good ball players at the back.

“We don’t really have the legs and sharpness still, but we will get there. We have plenty of work to do, we know that, and the players know that. The players know we got away with one. We have to take the points and know we have to improve a lot. Last week was disappointing, today at least we showed the character and showed a response and the lads showed their quality a few times. Strikers and forward making chances and David de Gea making saves.”

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Bruno Fernandes had a mixed outing and his Manchester United reaction showcased that. The Portuguese superstar set up the first goal via a free kick, set up Rashford’s superb strike and scored the late penalty kick winner, but he also gave away a penalty kick and lost Solly March for Brighton’s late equalizer.

“It is a difficult game. In the first half we left so many spaces for them to play. We were not as aggressive as I want. Big teams need to believe until the end. We created the chance, and at this point we need to look forward and do much better than we did today,” Fernandes said. “The point is to score goals, not hitting the crossbar and the post. Sometimes you have to have luck and the goalkeeper playing well and David de Gea did really well.”

Manchester United have now lost to Crystal Palace and snuck by Brighton in their first two games of the Premier League season and it is clear that Solskjaer’s side are yet to hit full fitness after a brief offseason due to reaching the latter stages of the UEFA Europa League.

Brighton were unlucky. Man United were unlucky. Solskjaer admitted it, and that’s fair enough. But sooner rather than later they have to get back up to speed as the Red Devils will be left behind.

They now face Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal within their next four Premier League games and they won’t let them off the hook like Brighton did.

Instant classic: Manchester United beat unlucky Brighton amid late drama

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Brighton – Manchester United: This was an instant classic, as Brighton hit the woodwork five times and Graham Potter’s side coughed up a lead but fought back to make it 2-2 in the 94th minute, only for Man United to win it in the 99th minute via a penalty kick.

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Neal Maupay’s Panenka penalty gave Brighton a deserved lead but an own goal from Lewis Dunk and a sublime solo effort from Marcus Rashford saw Man United fight back in a dramatic game which saw VAR heavily used, penalty kicks overturned and a late equalizer in the 95th minute from Solly March.

With the final act of the game Harry Maguire’s header was handled by Maupay and after the referee blew the final whistle, VAR was used to award a penalty which Bruno Fernandes fired home to win it.

Man United have now picked up three points from their first two games of the season against Crystal Palace and Brighton, but it has been far from straightforward. Here’s a look at everything from a wild Brighton – Manchester United clash.


3 things we learned: Brighton – Manchester United

1. Rashford and Fernandes ooze class: Sure, Fernandes gave away a penalty kick and could have done better on Brighton’s goal but he oozed class when they needed him most. His free kick set up the first, he set Rashford away for his brilliant goal and then he smashed home the penalty late on to win it. Rashford’s solo goal was brilliant and his direct running on the break was always a threat. United’s two superstars stood tall on a day when many others struggled. That was the difference.

2. Silky Brighton unlucky: They didn’t deserve to lose this game. They just didn’t. Leandro Trossard hit the woodwork three times on his own (post, post and crossbar hat trick) and Brighton hit it five times. Graham Potter’s side were silky on the ball and created so many chances. They had 18 shots, had a penalty overturned and found David de Gea in good form. If only they could finish. On their early season showings there is no way Brighton will be in relegation trouble and they will instead by pushing for the top 10.

3. Man United struggling to shake off rust: This was by no means a deserved win for Man United, but they will take it. Solskjaer’s side are struggling to shake off the rust after their European exploits this summer and even though they had glimpses of brilliance, overall they struggled to control this game. They look like a team playing a preseason game and that’s because they are given the schedule they’ve had. Things will improve, and they have to. Fast.

Man of the Match: Marcus Rashford – His brilliant solo goal was stunning and he carried United’s threat. Trossard was a very, very close second.


Brighton started well and Leandro Trossard went so close to opening the scoring as his lovely left-footed shot smashed off the post and out. Man United barely woke up and their first chance of the game fell to Greenwood but he dragged his effort wide, then Bruno Fernandes’ cross just evaded Anthony Martial and skipped wide.

Trossard then hit the other post with a low shot as Brighton’s fluid play caused Man United plenty of problems. Brighton then hit the bar as Adam Webster’s looping header flicked off the bar with De Gea again trying to claw it away.

Before half time Man United’s star attacking trio combined as Martial found Rashford who played in Greenwood to finish, but Rashford was just offside. Brighton then took the lead as Bruno Fernandes clipped Tariq Lamptey’s heels in the box and a penalty was given, which Maupay scored with a Panenka.

Right on half time Man United equalized as Fernandes’ free kick to the back post was flicked back in by Nemanja Matic and a combination of Maguire and Lewis Dunk bundled it home.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The start of the second half started in frantic fashion as Aaron Connolly won a penalty kick after contact from Paul Pogba, but the referee overturned the penalty kick decision after looking at the pitch-side monitor and realizing that Connolly initiated the contact.

Rashford then had a one goal disallowed and scored another soon after as his superb solo effort was deflected into the top corner to give Man United the lead. Brighton kept pouring forward and after a lovely flowing move, Solly March hit the inside of the post as the Seagulls were denied by the woodwork for a fourth time in the game.

There was time for Trossard to hit the crossbar to complete his unwanted hat trick as the Seagulls hit the woodwork for a fifth time, then David de Gea denied Trossard as he stood tall in stoppage time.

Brighton’s equalizer did arrive as March headed home in the 95th minute but the drama wasn’t over. With the final act of the game Harry Maguire’s header in the 97th minute but headed off the line, but after the referee blew the final whistle VAR was used and Maupay had clearly handled the ball.

A penalty kick was given and Fernandes smashed home to seal a dramatic 3-2 for Man United with the final kick of the game.

VIDEO: Rashford scores stunning goal v. Brighton

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Marcus Rashford goal v Brighton will be trending very soon.

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Rashford scored a simply superb solo goal in the second half to put Manchester United 2-1 up against Brighton.

The England forward was set free by Bruno Fernandes and ran towards goal but still had four Brighton defenders and a goalkeeper to beat.

He did that, beating one defender twice, as he cut past Ben White easily, turned Brighton’s defense inside out and his shot found the top corner as Man United’s players celebrated wildly and Brighton’s players were left on the floor in a heap.

Rashford had a goal disallowed in the second half as the England star was a real threat on the break and even though Brighton dominated the game and hit the woodwork five times, Man United’s extra clinical edge shone through.

Their academy product led the way as Rashford added another fine strike to his collection as he stands tall for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side early in the season.

Check out the Rashford stunner in the video above, as the England and Man United was at his very best to lead his team at Brighton.

Crystal Palace – Everton: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

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Crystal Palace – Everton: It’s a battle of perfect teams on Saturday when Everton visits Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park (Watch live at 10 am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

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The Eagles have knocked off Southampton and Manchester United to open their 2020-21 Premier League season while Everton has handled Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

Two legends of the game will be at the helm when Roy Hodgson and Carlo Ancelotti match wits on Saturday. Can the former continue to coax unexpected results of his Eagles against the strengthened and powerful Toffees?


Team news: Crystal Palace – Everton (INJURY REPORT)

James Tomkins (thigh), Nathan Ferguson (knee), Patrick van Aanholt (shoulder), Christian Benteke (ankle), Gary Cahill (thigh) and Jairo Riedewald (undisclosed) are miss out.

Eze starts as Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew are up with him in attack.

Fabian Delph returned for the midweek League Cup game but Everton won’t have Jarrad Branthwaite (ankle), Mason Holgate (ankle), Cenk Tosun (knee), and Jean-Philippe Gbamin (calf).

Ancelotti has named an unchanged team.


What they’re saying

Roy Hodgson on how the Eagles won (again) at Old Trafford: “We made certain and kept them playing in front of us and they could not profit from those spaces they are skillful enough to find. And when we had the ball I thought we looked very dangerous and threatening so I don’t think it was a big surprise that we scored three.”

Carlo Ancelotti after Jordan Pickford made a gaffe against Fleetwood Town: “I think the first goal was not an individual mistake because we passed the ball back to Jordan, it was a really difficult ball and we could behave differently. Of course you have to improve there. We want to build up from the back, but when there’s no risk. If it’s risky it’s no good because we can concede a goal like we did. It can be a good lesson for the future. I didn’t speak to him and, as I said, I have to speak with players that were involved when we build-up.Jordan was not the only one.”

Jordan Pickford
FLEETWOOD, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 23: Jordan Pickford of Everton is challenged by Josh Morris of Fleetwood Town (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images).

Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Palace is an underdog despite beating United and it’s perhaps a bit surprising to see them at +275 with a draw at +220. An Everton win delivers +110.

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Crystal Palace – Everton prediction

Hodgson has coaxed some tremendous midfield performances out of James McArthur, James McCarthy, and Luka Milivojevic in his tenure at Palace but out-performing Abdoulaye Doucoure, Allan, and Andre Gomes is a big ask even for that steely crew. James Rodriguez is in incredible form but so is Wilfried Zaha. Couldn’t this one go either way? Yes, but if Everton’s moving in the direction many believe it will be able to take all three points in a composed 2-1 win.


How to watch Crystal Palace – Everton stream and start time

Kickoff: 10 am ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com