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Landon Donovan reveals his role at Swansea City

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Landon Donovan has spoken for the first time about his role as part of the American ownership group headed by Stephen Kaplan and Jason Levien who took over at Swansea City this summer.

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A legend of U.S. Soccer, Donovan, 34, is certainly not resting up after his retirement from the game in December 2014. Far from it.

As well as his stints as a soccer commentator with Fox, plus his constant involvement with many Major League Soccer initiatives and having a new born son, Talon, Donovan is a busy man.

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Speaking exclusively to ProSoccerTalk as part of Captain Morgan’s Under 35 POTUS petition, the former Bayer Leverkusen, San Jose Earthquakes, Bayern Munich, LA Galaxy and Everton forward is excited about the opportunity to be part of the Swansea organization and is eager to help in whatever way he can.

[ MORE: Donovan on Olympics, player development ]

So, what exactly will the USMNT superstar be doing for the Swans?

“I’ve always had an interest in being an owner of a sports team and a football team in particular,” Donovan explained. “The new owners met with me a few months back and said this is likely going to happen and admitted that they didn’t know a lot about football and said ‘we know that you know the game and you’re passionate about it, you played at Everton, spent time in world football and sort of understand it a little better, would you be willing to help us, advise us and consult with us on certain things?’ I said yeah, that would be great and that’s something I am certainly open to.

“I made it clear from the very beginning that this isn’t going to be a situation where I am going to be in there telling them what players to sign. They’ve got a chairman there in Huw Jenkins who has been arguably as valuable to a team as anybody in the Premier League. He has brought them from the lower leagues in England all the way to the Premier League and has done an incredible job.

“For me, I want to be someone who can help behind the scenes but this is not a situation where I think I know it all and I am going into it thinking that I am going to have some huge impact. I just want to be able to help. It has already been enjoyable with the transfer window open now. They’ve had some questions on certain players and a lot of these guys I’ve played with or against or I know people who are very close to them and have played with them. So I can give some good insight on certain things that hopefully helps out.”

So, LD has already been helping the Swans rebuild their squad under manager Francesco Guidolin as major outgoings Andre Ayew and potentially Ashley Williams have been offset with the signings of Fernando Llorente, Mike Van der Hoorn and striker Borja Baston is on his way for a club record fee.

Donovan isn’t quite Billy Beane yet, but he’s on his way.

The Californian revealed that he plans to be in South Wales soon, earmarking Swansea’s home game against Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium on Sept. 11  as a potential visit, and he also gave some insight into why PL clubs are so attractive to American investors.

After all six PL clubs — Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Swansea — are now owned fully, or partly, by Americans.

“One: they (Americans) see it as a great business opportunity because I think teams in the Premier League for a long time haven’t been run perfectly. So I think they see it that way,” Donovan said. “Also I think in this case I cautioned them and said if you get into this as a business opportunity, you are risking a lot because for the fans of these teams this isn’t about business. This is their life. So I think a lot of American owners have gone in very naively in the past and said ‘well, we will do this, this and this’ and they would run it how they’d run a sports team in America. You can’t do that.

“We don’t own the team. The Swansea City fans own the team. That’s the reality and I believe that and they believe that and that’s the way it should be. Are we going to try to do everything we can to make everything better? Yes. Absolutely. But at the end, they own the team and we have to go in knowing that.”

With Manchster United spending over $120 million on Paul Pogba this week, plus a total of nearly $1 billion spent on transfers so far this summer by PL clubs, what does Donovan make of the incredible sums of money being spent?

“It is unbelievable,” Donovan chuckled. “I saw John Stones went for 50 million pounds but the reality is that the market can bear it and now with the new TV deal coming in, teams can afford it. It is going to be the norm and teams need to get used to it.”

Speaking about another league which has been dishing out huge transfer fees over the past 12 months, Donovan was asked about the Chinese Super League (CSL) and it’s push to attract star players in their prime.

Compared to a league like Major League Soccer which rarely pays transfer fees for players, is the CSL’s model something MLS will eventually have to get on board with?

“I’d be surprised at that level if the Chinese Super League is still around in 10 years. There’s just no way that’s sustainable. I think Major League Soccer has smart people who know you can’t do that if you want to be a sustainable league.”

On MLS, Donovan does believe there’s a big issue currently in North America’s top flight: a lack of minutes for promising youngsters.

“We do have an issue know where we do have some very talented young players but their problem is they aren’t getting a chance to play,” Donovan said. “If you’re an MLS coach, you have to win on the weekends. That’s your job. If you have a player on your team who is 19 years old and has the potential to be a nine out of 10 type of player but you have another guy who is already a 7.5 out of 10 and he’s 30 years old, you’re going to play the 7.5 out of 10 guy every time because the coach wants consistency and to win and keep your job. The problem is those young kids with potential aren’t playing.”

Part Two of our chat with Landon Donovan is available here as he speaks about the USWNT at the Olympics, his own Olympic experiences and tackles the bigger issue of developing young players in the USA.

Southgate: Kane, Sterling setting England example on, off the field

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Perhaps Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling aren’t leaders in the most traditional sense — grizzled veterans who have been around the block and seen everything there is to see — but nevertheless, they’re the ones setting the example for England’s next generation of young stars, many of whom aren’t so much younger than they are.

[ MORE: Eric Dier out of England squad, back at Spurs with another injury ]

It’s clear for all to see that Kane and Sterling are leading and inspiring the Three Lions with their on-field performances, for club and for country — they have 55 goals and 19 assists between them since August — but to hear Gareth Southgate speak of their leadership off the field, one can’t help but feel the England program has been entrusted to very safe hands — quotes from the Guardian:

“To have such a top striker, like Harry, who has such humility and such a low ego, has a huge impression on the whole group, because at the moment he is the star player. You wouldn’t know it from the way he conducts himself, you wouldn’t know it from his application to training and the way he is disciplined with his preparation and his focus.

“Equally, that’s the same for Raheem. You see his focus in training, his preparation for those things, so for young players coming on it’s an easy equation: if I do the things those two do, there’s a good chance that I’ll get the performances that they are putting in.”

It’s certainly a new concept that players could be the undisputed leaders of the England squad at 25 and 24 years old, respectively — particularly to Southgate, who came through the England setup in the 1990s — but it’s something he’s been quick to embrace.

“I think young people in all walks of society have a little bit more belief. I think bosses in all industries are less draconian in the way they work, and I think that helps youngsters to come in and be more creative and believe they can make a difference. They don’t baulk at anything. I just think, generally speaking, given an opportunity, they’ll go and surprise people.”

“(During Southgate’s career) You were told: ‘Don’t get carried away, you’ve got to earn your right to play, you’ve got to earn your right to do this. Did that get the most out of us? Probably not. There were some great qualities that gave us, and we’ve got to make sure we don’t lose that, because respect is important, as is appreciation of what you’ve got, but equally, we want to let talent have its head.”

In particular, 17-year-old Jadon Sancho already views Sterling as a hero, a mentor and a friend. Asked whether Sterling “was now one of the daddies of the team”:

“Yeah,” the 18-year-old replied, his face lighting up as he began his eulogy. “His numbers are crazy this year, and he’s showing all the youngsters what it’s about. I’m just happy that I’m sharing a pitch with him.”

Orlando City wins as Kljestan downs thin NY Red Bulls side

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Sacha Kljestan came back to bite his former club as his 72nd minute goal provided a 1-0 victory for an otherwise poor Orlando City side over a New York Red Bulls squad looking thin during the international break.

With Aaron Long and Michael Murillo away on international duty and Florian Valot to a recently torn ACL, the Red Bulls welcomed Orlando City to Red Bull Arena already struggling for depth. Then, just 20 minutes into the match, defender Connor Lade was forced off due to injury. He might have been given a bit longer to recover and return to the match, but New York came close to conceding while reduced to 10 men, so Omir Fernandez was summoned off the bench.

While the Red Bulls seemed to have control of the match, they weren’t exactly of high quality. The hosts managed just four shots on target through the match and completed just five passes in the penalty area all game. The left flank for New York was especially devoid of creativity as all four key passes came from the right. Marc Rzatkowski picked up three of those four key passes, while Daniel Royer, Alex Muyl, and Vincent Bezecourt failed to record any. Bezecourt had an extremely poor match, with just six completed passes in 60 minutes of play before he came off in favor of young Mathias Jorgensen.

As the second half dragged along, Orlando City surprisingly went in front as Kljestan reached a cross by Joao Moutinho at the far post that was likely meant for Dom Dwyer, but as it skittered behind the striker, Kljestan was there streaking in from midfield to meet the ball and strike it home.

New York began to feel a sense of urgency after the goal, and nearly equalized in the 82nd minute but Orlando City defender Carlos Ascues was on hand to clear the ball off the line. Things would get much worse on the injury front for New York, as Fernandez required a substitute himself in the 80th minute before Alex Muyl came off in stoppage time with the Red Bulls already out of subs. Muyl came back on the field, but he initially had signaled for a substitute before realizing they were out.

The loss leaves New York with just three points through the season’s first three matches and sees them fail to take hold of an opportunity against a poor opponent at home. Orlando City, meanwhile, earns its first win of the campaign and jumps above New York into fifth in the Eastern Conference.

Youthful FC Dallas side earns home win over Colorado

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The kids are alright in Dallas as a 2-1 win over Colorado pushed them into the mix near the top of the Western Conference standings four games into the 2019 season.

The Dallas starting 11 included five homegrown players and included 18-year-old Jesus Ferreira as well as 18-year-old Edwin Cerrillo and 19-year-old Paxton Pomykal. 20-year-old Reggie Cannon and 21-year-old Pablo Aranguiz also manned the midfield, making goalscorer Michael Barrios feel like an old man at 27.

And yet, it was Barrios who opened the scoring just past the half-hour mark. He received the ball near the top of the box and let rip a speculative effort, contorting his body awkwardly to get power on a near-post shot, and it was enough to slip by Tim Howard.

Colorado pulled level in the 69th minute as Tommy Smith chested the ball into the back of the net with Jesse Gonzalez on the ground. VAR gave it a look but determined Smith did not handle the ball as he was on his knees on the doorstep.

Sticking with the home side’s theme, FC Dallas brought 17-year-old academy product Thomas Roberts off the bench, and it was he who helped create the winner. His assist to fellow sub Zdenek Ondrasek fed the latter with a shot, and while that was saved, Ryan Hollingshead was on hand to slot the ball home.

Euro 2020 qualifiers: Italy, Spain, Switzerland all secure wins

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Sergio Ramos provided the winner from the spot as Spain took home a 2-1 win over Norway in Valencia. Rodrigo bagged the opener 16 minutes in, volleying home Jordi Alba’s floated baseline cross. Alvaro Morata nearly bagged a headed goal just past the half-hour mark as part of a ruthless first-half onslaught by the home side, but Rune Jarstein made a fabulous stop. Alba then nearly had his own, putting it into the back of the net but pulled back for the offside flag.

The hosts would rue not taking their first-half opportunities as Norway would pull level after the break as Inigo Martinez toppled over substitute Bjorn Johnsen in the box on a set-piece. Bournemouth attacker Joshua King slotted it home from the spot and evened the score. That wouldn’t last long though, as Spain moved back in front just six minutes later with Ramos from the spot as Jarstein came off his line on a Spain break and scythed Morata down, delivering a cheeky Panenka down the middle.

Italy went wire-to-wire to top Finland 2-0 in Udine. 22-year-old Cagliari midfielder Nicolo Barella opened things up in the seventh minute with a deflected volley that found its way past Lukas Hradecky. Finland could only manage a single shot on target the entire way through, with Teemu Pukki badly missing wide in the 65th minute with their best opportunity, and Italy secured the win with a second goal 10 minutes later. 19-year-old Moise Kean made a perfect run through the two center-backs and Ciro Immobile delivered an incredible ball to slice them up, with the teen needing just one touch to slot it home for his first international goal on his first start.

Edin Dzeko earned his 100th cap, but 24-year-old Deni Milosevic was the biggest winner as he provided the eventual winner for Bosnia & Herzegovina who picked up a 2-1 win over Armenia. Rade Krunic put the hosts 1-0 up past the half-hour mark in Sarajevo, and then Milosevic struck with 10 minutes to go, streaking down the middle to meet Edin Visca’s long cross from the right. Henrikh Mkhitaryan slotted home a penalty in the third minute of stoppage time but it was nothing more than a consolation.

Greece flew to a 2-0 win over Lichtenstein in Vaduz as Konstantinos Fortounis and Anastasios Donis delivered the strikes. The first came at the stroke of halftime, brilliantly volleying a laser beam delivery from Dimitrios Kourbelis. The second came with 10 minutes to go with Donis firing home sealing the victory. It was elementary for the visitors, holding 73% possession and holding Liechtenstein without a single shot on target on just three total efforts.

Ireland topped Gibraltar 1-0 in Mick McCarthy’s first game back as manager. On a windy day at Victoria Stadium in Gibraltar, Ireland held 63% possession but could only manage three shots on target, picking up a 49th minute winner off the foot of Jeff Hendrick who came streaking down the middle to meet David McGoldrick’s cross from the left.

Sweden held off a late comeback from Romania to win 2-1 in Stockholm. Mainz striker Robin Quaison bagged the opener just past the half-hour mark with a wonderful touch on the outside of his foot at the near post. They doubled the lead through Victor Claesson just seven minutes later as Quaison’s cross was deflected right to his feet near the top of the box and he fired past Ciprian Tatarusanu. Romania scored just before the hour mark but it proved just a consolation as they couldn’t find an equalizer.

It was an elementary day for Switzerland who topped Georgia 2-0 behind second-half goals from Steven Zuber and Denis Zakaria. Switzerland was dominant from start to finish, pumping off 25 shots with eight on target and holding the hosts to just a single shot on target among six total efforts.

RESULTS

Spain 2-1 Norway
Italy 2-0 Finland
Bosnia & Herzegovina 2-1 Armenia
Lichtenstein 0-2 Greece
Gibraltar 0-1 Republic of Ireland
Sweden 2-1 Romania
Georgia 0-2 Switzerland
Malta 2-1 Faroe Islands