Landon Donovan

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Landon Donovan to lead new San Diego USL franchise

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Landon Donovan will be the leading man as the USL launch a new franchise in San Diego.

The owner of the team will be Warren Smith, who has been involved in minor league baseball teams and founded Sacramento Republic FC who have been one of the most successful lower-league teams in recent history and are now serious contenders to become one of the next MLS expansion franchises with their new ownership structure in place. 

Donovan, 37, will be the executive vice president of soccer operations as well as a minority investor, as San Diego will begin play at Torero Stadium at the University of San Diego in either the 2020 or 2021 season in the USL Championship, the division directly below Major League Soccer.

Speaking to Sports Illustrated about the new team, Donovan revealed why being a big part of something from scratch in San Diego is so important to him.

“San Diego is my new home. I don’t anticipate ever leaving, and I want to do something in this community around soccer that’s special,” Donovan said. “So why wouldn’t I want to do something with someone who clearly knows what they’re doing, who has a track record of success, of doing things with quality, and who’s as passionate as I am? Once I sat and thought about it and was able to let go of the disappointment of the previous two years, this was an absolute no-brainer.”

Donovan’s ties with San Diego has seen him involved in an ownership group which tried to bring an MLS franchise to the Californian city in recent years, but their SoccerCity plan failed to gain backing from local government and is pretty much done and dusted.

The MLS and USMNT legend moved to San Diego to be closer to his in-laws while he and his wife can bring up their family, and he is eager to do all he can to develop soccer in the area.

Donovan has made multiple comebacks in his playing career, most recently with Club Leon in Mexico and the San Diego Sockers of the Major Indoor Soccer League, and that came after heading back to the LA Galaxy after his first retirement in 2016.

But now it seems he is fully focused on matters off the pitch and on developing a focused, successful USL club to San Diego.

Smith’s expertise from Sacramento will be invaluable to building the club from the bottom up, while Donovan will be tasked with creating the structure of the team and everything on the pitch.

San Diego has a rich soccer culture and if TV audiences are anything to go by, there is huge potential for a USL team to gather serious momentum quickly which will turn heads at MLS HQ.

Could Bradley become all-time caps leader in 2020?

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Michael Bradley remains one of the most polarizing figures in U.S. Soccer, but he’s on the verge of completing a feat this summer only accomplished by two other legendary players before him: Landon Donovan and Cobi Jones.

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After Bradley’s start in the U.S. Men’s National Team’s 1-1 draw with Chile on Tuesday, the Toronto FC holding midfielder has a total of 145 appearances in U.S. colors, stretching back to his first cap in 2006. Bradley sits just 12 caps back of Donovan (157) and 19 behind Jones (164), the all-time leader.

It’s been a remarkable career for Bradley for both club and country, maintaining an incredibly-high level of physical conditioning to always be available for the USMNT and his club. And, it’s conceivable that Bradley could pass 150 appearances by this summer.

The USMNT will play a pair of friendly matches in the run up to the 2019 Gold Cup, in which Bradley could then break the 150-mark by the third of three group stage matches. This fall, the USMNT then enters CONCACAF Nations League action, with two games in each of September and October on the schedule. As many as two games could be scheduled for November as well.

In 2020, the USMNT is expected to hold its January camp, with a pair of friendlies, before another pair at the end of March. Then, like this year, teams would get two friendly matches in June, followed by either the summer off or potentially the U.S. taking part in the 2020 Copa America.

Should Bradley remain a key member of the USMNT, as he looks so far under Berhalter, the 31-year-old could break Jones’ record of 164 caps by the summer of 2020, especially if the USMNT makes a run to the 2019 Gold Cup final and plays as many international matches as available.

The USMNT could play as many as eight games this summer, with another six games in the fall. With two in January and another two in March, Bradley could tie Jones heading into the summer international soccer season, putting a bow on what’s been a decorated, yet controversial at times career.

Donovan is fed up of being told what to do

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Landon Donovan has made a comeback in recent weeks as he now plays in the Major Arena Soccer League for the San Diego Sockers.

Donovan, 37, has retired twice from the professional game, took a lengthy sabbatical and has admitted to battling with depression and anxiety throughout most of his glittering career.

In an open, honest interview with the Guardian he opened up about why he didn’t really care about ‘making it big’ in Europe, and how winning six Major League Soccer titles with the San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy more than filled the void of a lack of playing time overseas.

“I was just doing what my gut was saying, which was like, ‘Landon, you need to play soccer.’ I didn’t care about playing at Bayer Leverkusen – they were in the Champions League and all this – I didn’t give a f***, I just wanted to play soccer. So I’m glad I got out of there as quickly as I could, because I wanted to play. I needed to be happy.”

Donovan also revealed that he is done with being told what to do.

One of the greatest players the U.S. has ever produced, Donovan was the poster boy of U.S. soccer for well over a decade.

In fairness to him, he never shirked his responsibility of being a face of the game and trying to grow its popularity whenever he was asked to, but now he’s more than okay with taking a backseat.

“Since I was 16, everything was planned for me. You were told what to do, when to do it and how to do it, and that carried into my personal life, where I’d expect people I was dating to tell me where we’re going and when. That’s all I knew. So at some point I had this light – like, wait a minute, I can have my own ideas and make my own decisions. That was really powerful. … [Now] I really try hard not to just accept everything as society says it’s supposed to be.”

At times during his heyday, Donovan was a little bland in interviews and was seen as a bit of an outsider by some of his teammates.

He is a deep-thinker, no doubt, but Donovan’s recent outbursts seem healthy and let us get to know the man behind one of the best players in American soccer history.

You be you, LD.

The Soccer Hall of Fame’s “Essential XI” is infuriating

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Let’s get this out of the way: The National Soccer Hall of Fame’s “Essential XI” ballot — vote today! –will make you want to massage a mannequin made of broken glass.

That’s not because the XI isn’t fun, or the NSHOF won’t be amazing, but because choosing the members of this particular 3-4-3 is improbably difficult.

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I’ve filled out the XI a bunch of times, and not once have I felt good with my picks. Even the positions which seem clear cut… just… aren’t.

There’s one tip I’d give anyone considering their ballot: DO NOT choose a foreign player who played in the old NASL or an import who spent the waning days of his career in a nascent MLS.

Franz Beckenbauer and David Beckham definitely deserve credit for their contributions to American soccer, but having one of them pop up in an all-time XI would be an embarrassment in my — and I’m assuming many others’ — eyes.

Also, don’t do the write-in… the candidate won’t win (I made an XI of Josh Wolffs, anyway).

So here are the main options I wrestle with when I look at the nominees. Having men and women in the same XI is also a headache given the USWNT’s success.

Goalkeepers

Brad Friedel
Frank Borghi
Hope Solo
Nick Rimando
Tony Meola
Kasey Keller
Brianna Scurry
Mary Harvey
Tim Howard

Respect to all of these players, but it’s hard not to immediately strip this to Keller versus Howard (with Friedel in third, which is insane given our soccer culture). There’s recency bias here, I’m sure, but Howard’s success with Manchester United and then at Everton, holding the No. 1 chair for 10 seasons? That’s nuts. Keller’s career is nearly as amazing, and his performance against Brazil in the 1998 World Cup is close to Howard vs. Belgium in 2014. Brutal choice.

Ultimately I went with… Howard.

Defenders

Franz Beckenbauer
Harry Keough
Alexi Lalas
Marcelo Balboa
Christie Pearce Rampone
Steve Cherundolo
Carla Overbeck
Paul Caligiuri
Carlos Bocanegra
Brandi Chastain
Joy Fawcett
Kate Markgraf

Let me say this first, as a (horrible) forward, for some reason my favorite players were always backs. Bocanegra and Cherundolo are in my Top Three USMNT players of all-time. That said, it’s impossible to avoid Chastain’s status of holding the most iconic moment in U.S. Soccer history (It is called a Hall of Fame, after all), and Rampone held her position through one of the most competitive times in USWNT history. Keough gets the nod for his status on a legendary USMNT team and a storied career in coaching, too. He’s an architect.

Ultimately I went with… Keough, Chastain, Pierce-Rampone.

Midfielders

Walter Bahr
Michael Bradley
DaMarcus Beasley
Heather O’Reilly
Megan Rapinoe
Cobi Jones
Kristine Lilly
Carli Lloyd
Earnie Stewart
Julie Foudy
Tab Ramos
Claudio Reyna
David Beckham
John Harkes

First off, you have to include Lilly. She owns 354 caps and scored 130 goals, the latter of which is insane for a midfielder.

Now if you include Foudy, Rapinoe, Bahr, or Harkes — the latter’s omission perhaps the most egregious — you’ll have to exclude three absolute icons of the American men’s game.

Cobi Jones is the USMNT’s all-time caps leader, and his record is safe for some time. His iconic dreadlocks also just trump Alexi Lalas as the top look in U.S. Soccer (apologies to all the bald GKs and Bradley).

To me, Reyna and Bradley are similar players, generals, and trendsetters. Given the World Cup qualifying failure of the 2018 cycle, there’s a temptation to look past Bradley but that’s asinine. He’s got 140 caps, 17 goals, memorable goals at Azteca and in a qualifier’s qualifier against Costa Rica. And Donovan against Algeria doesn’t happen if Bradley doesn’t equalize against Slovenia. This doesn’t include his exploits at Roma, Gladbach, and Toronto FC. He’s really good.

Reyna won three NCAA championships under Bruce Arena at Virginia, earned 112 caps for the USMNT, and opened doors for Americans in Germany and Scotland (winning a double at the latter) in addition to becoming a fixture for Man City, making a World Cup Best XI, and winning the freaking Hermann Trophy.

All this leaves out Earnie Stewart and a two-time women’s World Player of the Year in Lloyd. Wow.

Ultimately I went with… Jones, Lilly, Reyna, Bradley.

Forwards

Landon Donovan
Carin Jennings-Gabarra
Tiffeny Milbrett
Abby Wambach
Cindy Parlow-Cone
Eric Wynalda
Alex Morgan
Michelle Akers
Jozy Altidore
Brian McBride
Clint Dempsey
Giorgio Chinaglia
Mia Hamm
Pele

This one feels reason enough to demand separate XIs for the USMNT and USWNT. In order to include a male, you need to ditch either Abby Wambach, Michelle Akers, or Mia Hamm. You have to exclude two of those to get both Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey on the XI!!

Hamm scored 158 goals (second all-time) and 145 assists (first) in 276 caps. Even given the investment in American women’s soccer compared the rest of the world, that’s absurd. Akers scored 107 times in just 155 caps. That’s insane. Wambach, as dominant as she was, doesn’t touch that.

Which pretty much brings us to Donovan or Dempsey (Sorry, Eric Wynalda and Brian McBride). For me, the level of success Dempsey found as a flame-holder for American soccer in England tips the scales for me. He’s scored the same amount of goals in 16 less caps, though Donovan torches him in assists. If you forced me to take Donovan over Dempsey, I wouldn’t put up much of a fight.

Ultimately I went with… Hamm, Dempsey, Akers

It’s confirmed: Club Leon parts ways with Landon Donovan

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Landon Donovan’s four-month adventure in Mexico appears to be over.

Club Leon announced on Sunday that it had parted ways with Donovan, despite the 36-year-old having a contract through the end of the calendar year. Donovan made just eight appearances for Leon, with just one start, and failed to score or assist on a goal as Leon slumped to 13th place in the Clausura season.

[READ: England squad reconnects with fans]

“…both parties have decided not to (keep the contract) for the Clausura that united us,” Leon said in a statement. “The departure of Landon from our team has been exemplary in all aspects. The club loses a legendary professional from the world of sports that leaves an indelible institutional imprint.”

It’s unclear what’s next for Donovan, but he stated in an interview with PST’s Matt Reed that he intends to continue playing in Mexico.

Donovan recently drew the ire of U.S. Men’s National Team fans and Donovan’s former teammates when he revealed he was rooting for Mexico at the World Cup this summer as part of a Well’s Fargo campaign.