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Plaschke misses mark in discussing evolution of American soccer

Polarizing Los Angeles Times writer Bill Plaschke has worked his magic once again, this time in demanding more from American soccer fans. Essentially, Plaschke believes we should have expected a win over Algeria, instead of going absolutely bonkers when Landon Donovan knocked in the game-winning goal.

You see, we’ve been here before. But, this being soccer, we just don’t act like it.

I am as thrilled as anyone about Donovan’s extra-time goal to beat Algeria and give the U.S. its first group victory in World Cup history. I screamed. I jumped. It was cool.

But I just can’t understand why everyone is tearfully acting as if it were another Miracle on Ice. I can’t understand why we continually diminish soccer — and thus inhibit its growth — by continually setting its expectations so low in the face of opposing evidence so thick.

The miracle is that, after six consecutive World Cup appearances including that final-eight showing in 2002, we still go crazy over early World Cup success.

The miracle is that, in a country where you can’t leave your home on a Saturday morning without encountering at least one child wearing a baggy soccer uniform and clutching a juice box, we’re still acting as if soccer is some newfangled cult activity.

This miracle is that, even against a team that did not score a goal in three World Cup games and has never advanced past the group stage, we insist on celebrating like the underdog.

Plaschke almost has a point, but by narrowly missing his mark the whole column loses any value.

He needs to understand that just because much of American youth grows up playing soccer, it doesn’t mean that these children will follow the sport when they’re older. After finishing high school, most have fully-embraced MLB, the NFL and/or the NBA. If one is to continue following soccer, they have two options: 1) the mediocre MLS and its even more mediocre coverage or 2) the sporadic airplay of international league soccer.

True, America has boasted some of the best players in the world over the last 20 years. However, they usually don’t end up playing in the MLS. Instead, they are scooped up by leagues overseas. Although the talent-level is increasing, MLS play is far weaker than its international counterparts. The eyeballs just aren’t there. Americans are watching soccer now, but the other 35 months when the World Cup isn’t on they’re focused on the other sports.

This lends to the fact that America is uneducated when it comes to soccer. I know I am. We are favored to defeat Ghana later today, but how are Americans supposed to expect a victory when they are barely familiar with the players and have never experienced a World Cup championship? Plaschke is a tad unnerved that we lost our collective poo at the end of the U.S./Algeria match. We should have been prepared for a victory, he thinks.


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2010 World Cup: United States advances thanks to Donovan’s goal in closing minutes

Just minutes away from elimination, Landon Donovan saved the United States’ World Cup hopes with a thrilling last-minute goal off a rebound to beat Algeria 1-0 on Wednesday. The win means that the U.S. will advance to the second round of the World Cup.

From ESPN.com:

It gave the Americans first place in Group C. With just its fifth shutout in World Cup play, the United States (1-0-2) won a group for the first time since 1930 and will face the runner-up in Group D this weekend.

After his U.S. record 44th international goal, Donovan joyously ran to the corner flag and his teammates ran down the touchline to mob him. Donovan was in tears when the game ended and the United States had moved into the second round.

As the final whistle sounded, the U.S. bench raced onto the field and piled on top of the players on the far sideline. At midfield, Steve Cherundolo and Jay DeMerit collapsed to the ground. They all bearhugged Donovan, who with his fourth World Cup goal tied Bert Patenaude (1930) as the American leader.

As the team returned to the sideline, goalkeeper Tim Howard bounced up and down in elation. Benny Feilhaber took a water bottle and sprayed his teammates, champagne-like.

“We’re not done yet,” Donovan said. “We believe, man. We’re alive, baby.”

What an unbelievable, thrilling ride it has been so far for the U.S. soccer team. Their win today makes the tie against England that much more important and the controversy versus Slovenia a distant memory.

Do yourself a favor and check out the highlights of the win today against Algeria. The U.S. had so many opportunities to score throughout the game and at one point, it appeared as though the ball would never find the back of the net. Both teams played incredibly well – especially both goalies, who each put on a clinic today.

Donovan has key presence in Everton debut

Landon Donovan

Earlier today, Landon Donovan debuted with English Premier League club Everton and earned an assist in the 2-2 draw. The talented striker is currently on loan for ten weeks from the Los Angeles Galaxy.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The lead lasted just 16 minutes. Denilson charged down a clearance, and the ball fell to Andrei Arshavin on the edge of the penalty area. Arshavin fed Eduardo da Silva, who touched a pass back to Denilson and his low strike deflected off Osman past U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard.

With snow blowing around the stadium, Donovan came close to restoring Everton’s lead at the start of the second half. The American weaved into the penalty area, but his curling shot drifted wide.

Everton replaced Donovan with Diniyar Bilyaletdinov in the 68th minute and went ahead again in the 81st minute. Steven Pienaar raced onto a pass from Tim Cahill and chipped past goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.

Donovan’s two previous attempts abroad were met with mixed results. Regardless, with a record of 5-8-7, Everton can certainly benefit from his services.

But don’t fret — Donovan will be back on the Galaxy in March. Also, the stint in England shouldn’t be a problem with the U.S. National Team and the upcoming World Cup.

Donovan re-ups with Galaxy, confirms loan to Everton


Photo from fOTOGLIF

After signing a four-year contract extension with the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday, star striker Landon Donovan has agreed to a 10-week stint with English Premier League team Everton.

Once the calendar hits 2010, Landon Donovan is headed to Everton on a two-and-a-half month loan. Then he comes back to MLS for a couple months. Then he goes to South Africa. Then he maybe comes back to MLS or else goes back to Europe if he tears it up at the World Cup. Or maybe he comes back to MLS for a bit, then goes back to Europe after the season. Or maybe he just surprises us all and goes to Mexico.

There will be plenty of time to (again) obsess over Donovan’s long-term future in the coming months, but for now, we’ll stick to his move to the blue side of Liverpool. It’s an intriguing landing spot to be sure- a usual fixture in the top half of the EPL table whose form and injury woes have seen it drop to 15th place at the moment, just a point above the relegation zone.

Donovan had a terrific 2009 with the Galaxy, winning the league MVP and leading his team the finals. His international profile has never been higher, so it makes sense that an EPL club would seek his services.

MLS, Beckham, Interest?

http://globoesporte.globo.com/ESP/Home/foto/0,,11148068-EX,00.jpg

I can’t deny that I have a soft spot for anything soccer related. I tend to write a rather large proportion of my articles about the sport, and I’ve been lucky lately because there has actually been relevant news. However, since the beginning of this whole Landon Donovan and David Beckham “controversy” I can’t help but roll my eyes at the whole thing. So hopefully I’ll be able to make this my last article about David Beckham, I think Norman Chad over at Sports Illustrated would agree:

The way I see it, you’ve just pulled off one of the greatest scams in U.S. history. You signed a massive five-year contract, you took a lot of money from a lot of people and, in the end, you were pretty much a marketing mirage.

Essentially, you’re Bernie Madoff with a bicycle kick.

In 2007, you had no goals and two assists and the Galaxy finished with the league’s third-worst record, 9-14-7. In 2008, you had five goals and 10 assists and the Galaxy tied for the league’s worst record, 8-13-9.

Not exactly impressive, plus given the English media’s coverage of this, it’s become some sort of international incident. Anyway, David Beckham, I can’t really blame you for your behavior around here. You were certainly charming, but I don’t see anybody caring about American soccer anymore than I used to. I’d say you failed in that, but I don’t think that’s what all this was about. In any case, happy trails. Enjoy your time in Milan, I know it’s quite posh around there.

Update: Oh, he’s still here for a little bit longer. My bad.

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