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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.

[ MORE: Every PL season preview ]

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.”

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 15

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The congested schedule means we’ve had two match days since we last took stock of the Premier League.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

We’ve got a brand new Top Five (well, in terms of the four behind eventual champions Liverpool) and two teams dipping to season lows on our ol’ litmus test.

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

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Watford — As many losses as goals (9), and that figure is one more than the Hornets’ total points. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them on the verge of full-time manager No. 3, as full-time manager of Watford is a bit more like seasonal help.
Last week: 18
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Southampton

19. Everton — A top half team in terms of talent seeks the manager who can organize its way out of the drop zone.
Last week: 17
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Norwich City
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Leicester City

18. Norwich City — The first team to 10 losses is four points shy of 17th.
Last week: 16
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-0 at Everton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Arsenal

17. West Ham United — A gigantic ball of “blah.” Should thank the world Everton exists so people aren’t more focused on this particular collection of currently squandered talent.
Last week: 20
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-2 v. Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

16. Bournemouth — It’s just not good enough, is it? To have held onto Callum Wilson and get another step up in class from Philip Billing and still be so wildly inconsistent.
Last week: 11
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Wolves
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Spurs

15. Southampton — It really feels like the Danny Ings revival show could rival any story for the best individual one in the league this season. Happy to see Ralph Hasenhuttl get some good performances, as he was being scapegoated in a hurry.
Last week: 19
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 2-2 at Arsenal
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

14. Aston Villa — Allowing a league-worst 18.8 shots per game, but staying in the mix thanks to Nick Pope and Tyrone Mings.
Last week: 13
Season high: 8
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Newcastle United
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Sunday at Manchester United

13. Arsenal — The Gunners back line gets a lot of heat, and rightly so, but maybe a little help from the midfield would be nice considering Sokratis Papastathopoulos and David Luiz have combined for 39 blocks. Sokratis is third in the PL and Luiz fourth.
Last week: 12
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Drew 2-2 v. Southampton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Norwich City


12. Brighton and Hove Albion — First win ever away to Arsenal is another feather in the cap of Graham Potter, especially nice considering they had lost four on the bounce.
Last week: 14
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Liverpool

11. Newcastle United — No one is punching above its weight more than Steve Bruce‘s Magpies, and they’ve been aided in a big way by Martin Dubravka. The Slovakian goalkeeper has a league-best 44 saves from shots inside the 18.

Also, according to Understat’s xG numbers, they should’ve lost to the Blades. In fat, the xG table says they should be dead last. Life’s funny like that. It’s Steve Bruce’s world and we’re living in it.
Last week: 15
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Aston Villa
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Man City

https://understat.com/match/11786

10. Sheffield United — Just lost for the first time since September. That’s amazing.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 3-3 v. Manchester United
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

9. Burnley — Striker Chris Wood has been credited with 12 “big chances missed” by Sofascore, more than any player in the league.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 3-0 at Watford
Up next: 10 a.m. Saturday v. Crystal Palace

8. Spurs — Jose Mourinho learned Wednesday that Moussa Sissoko is nice for the squad, but not to be leaned on.
Last week: 9
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 3-2 at West Ham United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

7. Crystal Palace — Wilfried Zaha‘s 68 dribbles are 13 more than anyone else in the league.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

6. Manchester United — Ole had himself a moment in outfoxing Mourinho without Pogba or Martial.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Drew 3-3 at Sheffield United
Up next: 11:30 a.m. Sunday v. Aston Villa

5. Chelsea — We told you, Frank. WE TOLD YOU.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. West Ham United

4. Manchester City — Aymeric Laporte is still two months away and that’s two months too long.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Chelsea
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Newcastle United

3. Wolves — This is going to sound nuts, but there are days I’d rather see Liverpool on my schedule than Wolves. The Reds are obviously better weaponized, but Wolves come at you in waves, man, and Nuno Espirito Santo is doing it without his best center back.
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-1 at Bournemouth
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Sheffield United

2. Leicester City — How’s this for an unsustainable stat? Wilfred Ndidi and Ricardo Pereira rank first and second in the league in tackles, with 67 and 62.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 2-0 at Brighton and Hove Albion
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Everton
1. Liverpool — Big Virgil Van Dijk is on track to become the first Premier League player to complete 1000 passes this season, currently at 953.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 at Crystal Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Brighton and Hove Albion

Report: Everton targeting former Porto, Fener boss Pereira

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Everton might be looking to the Chinese Super League for its next manager.

Vitor Pereira is the top target for the Merseyside set, report our partners at Sky Sports, as the Toffees begin life after Thursday’s firing of Marco Silva.

Pereira, 51, has been in management since 2002, leading Porto, Olympiacos, Fenerbahce, and current club Shanghai SIPG amongst others.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

He’s won titles in Greece, China, Saudi Arabia, and his native Portugal, but there are suitors beyond the Toffees’ reported interest.

The 51-year-old is currently one of the highest paid coaches in the world and was recently offered the job of managing the Chinese national team.

It is understood he is currently considering a new contract offer from Shanghai, which will guarantee he earns £30m a year.

Duncan Ferguson is the interim boss as Everton hosts Chelsea this weekend.

MLS teams no longer will play every opponent each season

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NEW YORK (AP) Major League Soccer is breaking away from soccer’s tradition of having each team play every opponent in its league.

MLS is expanding to 26 teams in 2020 with the additions of Miami and Nashville but will keep a 34-game regular-season schedule. A team will play each of its 12 conference opponents home and away, and will face only 10 of the 13 teams in the other conference.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Nashville opens Feb. 29 at home against Atlanta and David Beckham’s Inter Miami starts March 1 at Los Angeles, the league said Thursday in announcing all home openers. Defending champion Seattle opens March 1 against Chicago.

Other Feb. 29 openers are Colorado at D.C., New England at Montreal, LA Galaxy at Houston, Toronto at San Jose, Philadelphia at Dallas, Salt Lake at Orlando and Kansas City at Vancouver. Games the following day include New York City at Columbus, Cincinnati at New York Red Bulls and Minnesota at Portland.

Home openers on March 7 are Chicago at New England, Red Bulls at Salt Lake, NYC at Toronto, Cincinnati at Atlanta, Houston at Kansas City, Orlando at Colorado and Vancouver at LA Galaxy. Four more home openers are set for March 14: Dallas at NYC, LA Galaxy at Miami, D.C. at Cincinnati and San Jose at Philadelphia.

The final home openers are Red Bulls at Minnesota on March 15 and Atlanta at Chicago on March 21 as the Fire return downtown to Soldier Field, their home from 1997-2005. The played in suburban Bridgeview from 2006 through last season.

More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Saint-Maximin proud to score first Premier League goal on mom’s birthday

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Newcastle United is reveling in another win, the Magpies claiming a point for the fifth time in six matches with a 2-0 win at Sheffield United.

Allan Saint-Maximin was richly rewarded for his effervescent season with a first Premier League goal, though it came in unexpected fashion.

[ RECAP: Blades 0-2 Newcastle ]

The dribbling wizard rose above his mark to head a Javi Manquillo cross past Dean Henderson for the first goal of the match at Bramall Lane, and he was quite happy to do it on a memorable day for his family.

“It’s special because I score with my head and I never think I can score with my head,” he said, via The Chronicle.  “I’m really proud because today is the birthday of my mother, and I score my first goal for my mother and I’m really happy to do that.”

Saint-Maximin has quickly become a fan favorite, and the Frenchman showed he’s ready with a joke, too, when noting midfield Jonjo Shelvey scored his team-best fourth goal of the season thanks to some decisive refereeing from Stuart Atwell and VAR.

[ MORE: Wilder enraged with VAR ]

“I’m happy for the best striker in Newcastle – four goals.”

Funny stuff from the man his manager Steve Bruce once described by saying, “He’s only 22 and he’s got more outfits than I’ve seen.”