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Donovan rues USMNT missing Rio 2016; sees big issues in US player development

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Landon Donovan is disappointed the U.S. men’s national team is not in Brazil for the 2016 Olympics.

In fact, he’s sad.

[ MORE: Donovan on Swansea role ]

The 34-year-old former USMNT and Major League Soccer star had a taste of the Olympics in 2000 in Sydney and believes that the U.S. not qualifying for Rio is a “missed opportunity” to entice more fans to the sport in the USA.

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Earlier we revealed exactly how Donovan is involved as part of an American ownership group which bought Premier League club Swansea City this summer, but the all-time leading goalscorer for the USMNT is still mainly concerned with issues on home soil.

How disappointing is it to sit back and watch the entire nation in awe of the Olympics but for the U.S. not to have a men’s soccer team in it?

“It is very disappointing. In the UK or other parts of the world it is not that big of a deal but for us in this country, we have a lot of fans who only tune in during the World Cup or during the Olympics. So we’ve missed this opportunity to have a bunch of people watch who wouldn’t normally be watching,” Donovan said. “So for us, that’s difficult because we only get so many opportunities to grow our sport that quickly. Our league is doing well. Our national team is doing well. But this is an opportunity that you can’t replace.”

Donovan was part of the 2000 Olympic squad which made it to the bronze medal match but lost to Chile and was the youngest member of that squad. He revealed the experience of competing with Team USA still resonates strongly with him today.

“Apart from the soccer part, it was just a really fun experience,” Donovan said. “That’s why it is sad for me that the men’s team isn’t the Olympics for the U.S. because it is a fun sporting experience but more than that it is just a fun life experience. For me it was really enjoyable, we did really well and almost earned a medal. I absolutely wish I had an opportunity to play in another one because I only got to play in one.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 26: Landon Donovan of the United States dribbles the ball during the Olympic Men's Soccer competition at Sydney Stadium in Sydney, Australia on September 26, 2000. (Photo by Nick Wilson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nick Wilson/Getty Images)

What does Donovan make of the U.S. women’s team — Jill Ellis’ squad won Group G and will face Sweden in the quarterfinals — and how they’ve done at Rio 2016 so far as they aim to win their fourth-straight gold medal?

“I don’t think they’ve been perfect in the way that they’ve played but they’ve had good results and I think the goal in any tournament like this, for a team who has a real chance to win it, is to peak at the right time. They are playing well enough to win and if they can play better I don’t see any reason why they can’t win the tournament again.”

In terms of the men’s team, Donovan was unsure exactly why the U.S. U-23 side has been unable to qualify for both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics under Caleb Porter and Andi Herzog but he doesn’t believe it is strictly down to the talent level of the players.

“I don’t personally see it as a talent thing. When you say talent I assume you mean the amount of talented players that are born in this country and I think we have plenty of talented players,” Donovan said. “I think what we are lacking, and I think England probably sympathizes with too, is that we are not developing players at a high enough level yet. Countries that are consistently good in world football are the countries that are developing players consistently. That’s where we need to get better. That takes time. We haven’t had great youth coach’s because we’ve never had people who know what they are talking about. Now we actually have those people who are former professionals, former players at a high level who are teaching our kids. That will help a lot.”

Donovan is a big advocate of giving U.S. youngsters a chance to flourish in MLS but believes they aren’t getting the chance to do so. He is the head coach of the MLS Homegrown team who play during at the All-Star Game festivities each year and the former San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy forward is passionate about how the USA can develop better players consistently.

Looking at the bigger picture, how can the U.S. produce better players at a younger age who can not only go on to represent the U.S. in the Olympics but also the USMNT? Does the academy setup in Major League Soccer have a big role to play in the future if the U.S. is going to qualify for tournaments and do well on the international stage?

“There’s no question and it is part of the answer. You need 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 years olds players to get better and better. Equally as important for me is kids that are 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. Right now we have too many coaches at that age who care about winning as opposed to caring out developing players and making them better. That’s a big problem, for me,” Donovan said. “If we ever want to get to the next level then we have to get that sort of mentality out of our game. We have to say that we want to develop players and we don’t care if we are making a ton of money or the next coaching gig is based on winning. If you’re an under 8s coach your next coaching gig should be about how many players you are developing. That’s where I think you get better.”

The 2 Robbies podcast: Liverpool, Chelsea through to UCL knockouts

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle on Liverpool’s nervy 2-0 win against Red Bull Salzburg to take first place in Group E of the Champions League (1:55), Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Lille to secure a place in the Round of 16 (13:15) and who is the current favorite to win it all (20:45).

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Plus, what Arsenal’s come-from-behind 3-1 win at West Ham means for both London clubs (29:10) and the Robbies discuss what they’re looking forward to most at the next Live Premier League Mornings Fan Fest in Miami Beach (46:05).

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 16

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The Premier League didn’t issue too many surprises at the bottom of the table this week, but two top-tier sides didn’t behave as such and shook up our rankings.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Chelsea and Man City have dipped low, and Bournemouth’s skid doesn’t have it sinking lower (yet) because of the teams beneath it.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Watford — Liverpool and Manchester United are next, and it’s looking a long way back to safety.
Last week: 20
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 0-0 v. Crystal Palace
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Liverpool

19. Norwich City — Outshot, out-passed, our possessed Sheffield United at home and still lost. Bad vibes, man.
Last week: 18
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Sheffield United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Leicester City

18. West Ham United — Just feels like there’s something lurking below the surface here. Doesn’t smell right given the Irons talent.
Last week: 17
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-1 v. Arsenal
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Southampton

17. Bournemouth — Losing to Liverpool is no shame, but it’s almost officially time to worry.
Last week: 16
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

16. Aston Villa — Tom Heaton is a heck of a goalkeeper but he can’t be expected to save four A-plus danger chances per game.
Last week: 14
Season high: 8
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 4-1 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Sheffield United

15. Southampton — West Ham and Villa back-to-back have to provide four points if Saints revival is to be believed.
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Newcastle United
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. West Ham United

14. Everton — Duncan Ferguson gives the Toffees board reason enough to be patient with their managerial hire, and then Napoli goes and fires Carlo Ancelotti.
Last week: 19
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Won 3-1 v. Chelsea
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Manchester United

13. Burnley — The defending against Spurs — we know, Spurs are good — was enough to drop them far lower than four spots. Abject stuff from a Sean Dyche side.
Last week: 9
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 5-0 at Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Newcastle

12. Arsenal — Freddie Ljungberg started Nicolas Pepe, and Nicholas Pepe was his best player. Stunning stuff, really. Look at the assist below.
Last week: 13
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Won 3-1 at West Ham
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Man City

11. Crystal Palace — I want to believe, but am holding out for something more. A derby win versus Brighton would suffice.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 0-0 at Watford
Up next: 2:45 p.m. ET Monday v. Brighton

10. Newcastle United — Again, Steve Bruce‘s men are getting tremendous Fortune and he’s pushing almost all the right buttons (It takes guts to start Andy Carroll over the struggling record signing Joelinton). This could be a sign of the Geordie Apocalypse.
Last week: 11
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Southampton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

9. Sheffield United — A little wobbly lately, but still a good comeback at Carrow Road.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-1 at Norwich City
Up next: 10 a.m ET Saturday v. Aston Villa

8. Brighton and Hove Albion — Doesn’t it say something that a country who starves for young, strong English coaches had one sitting in Sweden for eight years? Graham Potter is legit.
Last week: 12
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Won 2-1 at Arsenal
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

7. Chelsea — Some of those young guys who’ve played so well, so early, are looking a little ragged. It’s a shame Frank Lampard is still waiting on Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who will really help things take another step.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 3-1 at Everton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

6. Manchester City — It probably has nothing to do with the system, and a lot to do with not having Aymeric Laporte, Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane… Still, it needs to be better than a home derby loss to a Paul Pogba-less United.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 6
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Manchester United
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Arsenal

5. Tottenham Hotspur — We’re gonna need multiple screens on Sunday morning, as Wolves-Spurs and Man Utd-Everton are both must-monitor.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 5-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Wolves

4. Manchester United — Ole’s at the wheel, and still doesn’t feel like Lewis Hamilton or anything but we’re not worried about heading off a cliff.
Last week: 6
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 2-1 at Man City
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Everton

3. Wolves — Beat Spurs on Sunday and I’ll go ahead and bet on them as a Top Four finisher, even after the Brighton draw failed to deliver the goods.
Last week: 3
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 2-2 at Brighton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Spurs

2. Leicester City — Wow.
Last week: 2
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 4-1 at Aston Villa
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Norwich City

1. Liverpool — Wow, only atop the table.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 3-0 at Bournemouth
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

Champions League Weds. preview: Two spots remain

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Only two spots remain in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds, and those will be settled Wednesday afternoon.

In Group C, hosts Shakhtar Donetsk need to beat Atalanta to go through, while the visitors can also go through with a win if Dinamo Zagreb fails to defeat Man City.

[ MORE: Ancelotti reportedly speaking w/ Everton ]

In Group D, Atletico Madrid is through with a win over Lokomotiv Moscow, though Bayer Leverkusen can complete a remarkable comeback from an 0-3 start to the group stage if they beat already-qualified Juve and Atleti loses to their Russian visitors.

You certainly wouldn’t be against Diego Simeone there, though.

“Tomorrow is a great opportunity, every day that you wear the Atletico shirt is,” Simeone said, via Marca. “I believe in my team, in the humility that they have at the moment. The results will come based on what they are demonstrating on the field.”

Premier League sides Man City and Tottenham Hotspur both have their fortunes settled, with City having won Group C and Spurs settled into Group B’s second spot, but they still have plenty to figure out on Tuesday.

Jose Mourinho’s Spurs are going up against a Bayern team that walloped them at home, while City is living an unusual 2W-3D-2L lull in form.

Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League action

12:55 p.m. ET
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Atalanta
Dinamo Zagreb v. Man City

3 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Bayer Leverkusen v. Juventus
Paris Saint-Germain v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Red Star Belgrade
Bayern Munich v. Tottenham Hotspur

Ancelotti fired by Napoli as Everton, Arsenal lurk

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Carlo Ancelotti won a place in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds, then lost his job.

The Napoli’s boss strained relationship with club president Aurelio De Laurentiis came to a head, with the Neapolitan side advancing in Europe to end a nine-match winless run.

[ MORE: Sporting KC adds Liga MX top scorer ]

That run may’ve included seven draws, but it also saw Napoli dip into seventh on the Serie A table. They are seven points back of sixth and 17 points behind leaders Juventus.

A strained relationship got worse when Ancelotti refused to take the team on a De Laurentiis-ordered “team retreat” following a draw against Salzburg in early November.

Gennaro Gattuso is rumored as Ancelotti’s replacement, and the fired coach himself is being mentioned as an immediate target for Arsenal and Everton.

In fact, the Toffees are in discussions with the Italian legend already, according to Sky Sports. Football Italia claims Arsenal is in on the action, too.

Ancelotti has won the Champions League with AC Milan twice and a third time with Real Madrid. He’s claimed domestic titles in five of Europe’s top leagues, with silverware at Chelsea, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid.