Los Angeles Soccer: Michael Bradley
Landon Donovan's phenomenal performance in the U.S. national team's rout of Scotland on Saturday night rang loud and true, each of his three goals providing context to his remarks last week that intimated he no longer has the hunger, the commitment, to succeed at the highest levels of his sport.
It's been a challenging 12 months for Donovan, who battled injuries as he never has while leading the Galaxy to the greatest season in Major League Soccer annals, enjoyed another superb spell in England with Everton, celebrated his 30th birthday and struggled to find his best form as L.A. followed up last year's titles with a horrid start to the current season.
He'd been away from the national team since last September, declining call-ups because he was hurt or ill or exhausted, and, having crossed into his fourth decade, has been forced to consider how much time he has left on the field.
His showing Saturday night in Jacksonville, Fla., with a hat trick priming the Americans' 5-1 romp over the Scots, suggests he remains the most potent force for the national team, no matter Clint Dempsey's stature. As U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann noted afterward: “Now we have Landon back, and he gives us the goals. We can't complain tonight.”
Donovan set another U.S. record with his 125th international start, and he extended his record goal total to 49 -- and his record assist total to 48 by setting up Jermaine Jones' goal -- while proclaiming he doesn't “want to be mistaken for not caring. I care, and I like being a part of this team. I'm a professional, and I know how to do my job. I've been doing this a long time.”
Donovan is fiercely intelligent, sharply introspective and uncommonly honest, if not quite as open as he was before Grant Wahl's book on David Beckham appeared a few years ago. Detractors have long questioned his commitment, largely because he hasn't made playing in Europe a priority, even as he has set standards for Americans with the quality of his play, ability to see the game and drive for success, in MLS and with the U.S. team.
His commitment and hunger faced heavy scrutiny after he spoke candidly Wednesday in a roundtable interview with journalists in Florida about the challenges in maintaining the focus necessary to prosper at the top levels of the game.
“That's a part that's always a challenge for athletes: trying to keep the passion alive while knowing it's still your job,” Donovan said. “There's no question that at some point, probably sooner rather than later, I'll be pretty burned out. And when that time comes, then I'll take a step back and take a look at it and see if I want to keep going.”
Chivas USA's young new star has returned the club after he was dropped from the U.S. national team roster for the “five-game tournament” that begins with Saturday's friendly against Scotland in Jacksonville, Fla., and wraps up with next month's World Cup qualifiers against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala.Juan Agudelo, a 19-year-old, Colombian-born striker acquired eight days ago in a trade from the New York Red Bulls, has been a regular for the U.S. under Jurgen Klinsmann, but his failure to make the cut from 27 to 23 players was not all that surprising. He has just returned from a knee injury and is still seeking his best form, having made only his second start of the season in his Chivas debut in last weekend's SuperClasico victory over the Galaxy.
Agudelo returned to the Goats on Thursday, is scheduled to train Friday morning and be available for Saturday's night's Major League Soccer game against the Seattle Sounders at Home Depot Center.
Also trimmed from the camp roster were Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi and two German-born players, Hertha Berlin defender Alfredo Morales and 1899 Hoffenheim midfielder Danny Williams.
Agudelo was the only one of seven forwards in the Orlando, Fla., camp who did not make the roster for three friendlies -- the U.S. plays Brazil on Wednesday in Landover, Md., and Canada next Saturday in Toronto -- and for the qualifiers June 8 against Antigua in Tampa, Fla., and June 12 at Guatemala. The forwards on the list: Galaxy captain Landon Donovan, San Jose's Chris Wondolowski, Herculez Gomez from Mexican champion Santos Laguna, and European-employed Jozy Altidore, Terrence Boyd and Clint Dempsey.
Donovan (Redlands/Redlands East Valley HS) is five local players on the roster. The others are Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando (Montclair/Montclair HS and UCLA), Rangers defender Carlos Bocanegra (Alta Loma/Alta Loma HS and UCLA), Chievo Verona midfielder Michael Bradley (Manhattan Beach), and Rangers midfielder Maurice Edu (Fontana/Etiwanda HS). Two San Diegans -- veteran Hannover 96 defender Steve Cherundolo and Club Tijuana midfielder Joe Corona -- also made the cut.
Here's the full U.S. roster for the five games:
Jurgen Klinsmann has started unveiling the names of those with whom he's ready to head into his first World Cup qualifying campaign, and Landon Donovan's name is nowhere to be found.
Has the Galaxy captain, who has played in just two of 10 U.S. national team games under Klinsmann after pulling out of three call-ups because of injury, fallen out of favor with the German legend? Ha!
No, Klinsmann has a reputation for doing things differently, and he's living up to it in announcing the most important roster of his 9½-month tenure as U.S. coach. It's coming in waves, with the names of the first 16 of “as many as” 29 players for a camp that begins Tuesday in Orlando, Fla., released by U.S. Soccer.
More names -- Donovan's included, to be sure -- are scheduled to be announced Sunday, and the 23-man roster for three friendlies (against Scotland, Brazil and Canada), the June 8 qualifying opener against Antigua & Barbuda and the June 12 qualifier at Guatemala will be selected May 25.
Only two Major League Soccer players were among the first 16: Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando (Montclair/Montclair HS and UCLA) and midfielder Kyle Beckerman. RSL is the only MLS club with a bye this weekend.
Donovan's last game before departing for camp figures to be Saturday's SuperClasico against Chivas USA at Home Depot Center. While with the national team, he will miss only three games: May 23 against San Jose, May 26 at Houston and the May 29 U.S. Open Cup third-rounder. MLS is virtually taking off the first two weekends in June, with just one game each week.
Rarely, if ever, has there been a day quite so golden for U.S. Soccer -- involving multiple teams -- as was Wednesday.
- The full men's national team beat Italy for the first time -- and in Italy, in Genoa -- as Clint Dempsey finished from Jozy Altidore's finish up top. Also splendid: midfielder Michael Bradley and German-born left back Fabian Johnson.
- The U.S. women's national team won its Algarve Cup opener in Portugal, dominating Denmark, 5-0, as Diamond Bar's Alex Morgan scored two more goals -- her 17th and 18th in 34 international games -- and assisted another by Hermosa Beach's Abby Wambach. UCLA products Sydney Leroux (goal) and Lauren Cheney (assist) also contributed in the scoring.
- The U.S. under-23 national team, preparing for the Olympic qualifiers in March, outclassed Mexico's U-23s, 2-0, in Frisco, Texas, on goals two minutes apart by Juan Agudelo and Freddy Adu.
One more international event to report, from Tuesday night. UCLA looked good in holding Mexico's under-20 national team to a scoreless draw at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys.
Galaxy captain Landon Donovan and returning forward Edson Buddle are heading to Genoa for next week's U.S. national team friendly against Italy.
The L.A. attackers are among four Major League Soccer players in Jurgen Klinsmann's 21-man roster for Wednesday's friendly, a prep for the start in June of the Americans' World Cup qualifying campaign. The match will be telecast on ESPN2 and Galavision (11:45 a.m. PT kickoff). Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando (Montclair/Montclair HS and UCLA) and Houston Dynamo defender Geoff Cameron also are on the list.
Donovan and Buddle are fresh off European experience. Donovan (Redlands/Redlands East Valley HS), who has been sidelined most of the past week with the flu, is coming off a successful seven-week loan to Everton. Buddle spent a year in the German second division before re-signing with the Galaxy at the start of the month.
Four local “regulars” also are on the roster: U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra (Alta Loma/Alta Loma HS and UCLA) and his Rangers FC teammate Maurice Edu (Fontana/Etiwanda HS) and Chievo Verona midfielder Michael Bradley, whose family lives in Manhattan Beach. Hannover 96 defender Steve Cherundolo is from San Diego.
Former Chivas USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan returns to the U.S. team for the first time since November 2010.
The best thing about the U.S. national team's 3-2 victory Tuesday in Slovenia -- and there were a lot of good things -- might have been the opening whistle. It gave U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra his 100th cap, a threshold only 11 American men had previously reached.
The central defender from Alta Loma (Alta Loma HS/UCLA) went the full 90 as the Yanks improved to 2-4-1 under Jurgen Klinsmann with their first victory in Europe in 3½ years.
Clint Dempsey forced a turnover that former Galaxy striker Edson Buddle finished from distance in the ninth minute, and Dempsey's header from Michael Bradley's corner kick restored the U.S. advantage in the 41st minute. Jozy Altidore converted a penalty kick two minutes later after Fabian Johnson was dragged down.
Tim Matavz's second goal of the night, in the 61st minute, pulled Slovenia closer.
Other L.A. area players seeing action were Bradley (Manhattan Beach), who started in midfield, and Maurice Edu (Fontana/Etiwanda HS) and Robbie Rogers (Palos Verdes and Huntington Beach/Mater Dei HS), who came off the bench.
Bocanegra debuted for the U.S. in December 2001 and has served as the team's captain since June 2007.
“It was a special night,” Klinsmann told reporters afterward. “The team was pumped up all day, and they wanted to do well for him.”
Five of the top seven on the all-time U.S. caps list are from Southern California -- Cobi Jones (Westlake Village/Westlake HS and UCLA), Landon Donovan (Redlands/Redlands East Valley HS), Marcelo Balboa (Cerritos/Cerritos HS), Paul Caligiuri (Diamond Bar/Walnut HS) and Eric Wynalda (Westlake Village/Westlake HS) -- and Bocanegra is joined at 100 caps by Joe-Max Moore (Irvine/Mission Viejo HS and UCLA).
U.S. Soccer has put together a “infographic” -- a poster, more or less -- commemorating Bocanegra's 100 maches, and a PDF is available for download.
U.S. CENTURY CLUB
(100 international appearances)
1. Cobi Jones 164
2. Landon Donovan 138
3. Jeff Agoos 134
4. Marcelo Balboa 128
5. Claudio Reyna 112
6. Paul Caligiuri 110
7. Eric Wynalda 106
8. Kasey Keller 102
9. Earnie Stewart 101
10. Carlos Bocanegra 100
Tony Meola 100
Joe-Max Moore 100
If the Galaxy advance Thursday night against New York, then beat Real Salt Lake in Sunday's Western Conference final, Landon Donovan will miss some of the preparations for the Nov. 20 MLS Cup title game.
Nothing out of the ordinary.
Donovan (Redlands/Redlands East Valley HS) would be the only player in the MLS Cup final -- or Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman, should the Utahns advance -- in Jurgen Klinsmann's roster for friendlies Nov. 11 against France in Saint-Denis and Nov. 15 against Slovenia in Ljubljana.
He might not make the trip to Slovenia. If he (or Beckerman) are in Major League Soccer's championship, he (or Beckerman) will be released following the game against France.
Only three other MLS players -- Columbus winger Robbie Rogers (Huntington Beach and Palos Verdes/Mater Dei HS), FC Dallas winger Brek Shea and D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid --- are in the 22-man group, which gathers Monday in Paris.
U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra (Alta Loma/Alta Loma HS and UCLA) would reach 100 caps with appearances in both games. Other locals on the roster are defender Michael Orozco Fiscal (Orange/Magnolia HS) and midfielders Maurice Edu (Fontana/Etiwanda HS) and Michael Bradley (Manhattan Beach). Former Galaxy striker Edson Buddle also is included.
RSC Anderlecht's aim is to remind everyone in Belgium who's boss. Rangers just wants more hardware.
The second-tier European powerhouses, both featuring Southern California talent, have quickly made their points, racing atop their leagues' standings -- and one of them is threatening to run away from the field.
Scottish giant Rangers, with Alta Loma's Carlos Bocanegra and Fontana's Maurice Edu, returned from the international break on a sour note -- a 1-1 home draw with St. Mirren -- but stand seven points ahead of Motherwell and 10 in front of archrival Celtic. More impressive: Gers has a plus-19 goal difference after just 11 games.
The Glasgow club, founded in 1872, has won 54 top-tier league titles -- that's a world record -- and is seeking its fourth straight championship. Hated crosstown/sectarian rival Celtic, which has won 42 Scottish league championships, is, as always, the real competition.
Rangers or Celtic have won every title since 1986.
Brussels-based Anderlecht, Belgium's foremost club, blew it last year, nosediving during the playoff phase after winning the regular-season title, and the Mauves must make amends.
With Huntington Beach's Sacha Kljestan taking on a more influential role in midfield this season, RSCA is off to a 7-1-2 start, good for a one-point lead on Club Brugge, and coming off a 5-0 rout of Standard Liege, last year's runner-up and the Jupiler League champion in 2009.
EUROPA REDUX: UEFA's Europa League returns to action Thursday. Group L leader Anderlecht (2-0-0) plays at Austria's Sturm Graz (1-1-0). Tottenham (1-0-1), without former UCLA star Brad Friedel -- he's Spurs' league goalkeeper -- is home against Russia's Rubin Kazan in first-place showdown.
All's well and all that after the 24-year-old midfielder, one of the U.S. national team's most influential players the last four years, landed at Chievo Verona.
It was a fortuitous opening: Bradley has been a Serie A fan since childhood, and the opportunity to play in Italy will certainly help in his development.
“I think what you have in Serie A right now is a good mix of the tactical teams and then some skillful players,” Bradley told Major League Soccer's website last week. “It makes for a good game and a competitive season. It's been good to get my feet wet. Not I just need to concentrate on continuing to improve.”
Bradley, a cerebral player who thinks the game much like his father, former U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley, has gone the distance the last three games at the right-midfield slot in the Flying Donkeys' 4-3-1-2 formation.
Chievo is 2-1-2 and in eighth place with most of the season to go, and winning a European slot next season -- finishing among the top five -- would be a huge success. Finishing in the upper half of the 20-team league would be admirable.
After hardly playing during the January-to-May loan to Aston Villa, Bradley's happy he can contribute.
They're chasing Ireland (and Russia) as qualifying for next year's European Championship comes to a close, and a showdown next Tuesday in Dublin could determine which heads to a home-and-home playoff next month for a berth in Poland and the Ukraine.
Armenia (4-2-2, 14 points), which was under Soviet control until 1991 and has since not come close to qualifying for a World Cup or European Championship, also needs to beat Macedonia on Friday in Yerevan. Ireland (4-1-3, 15) plays Friday at minnow Andorra.
Russia (5-1-2, 17) is more or less conceded the top spot in Group B. A win at Slovakia (4-2-2, 14), which also is in the mix, will be enough; there's no way the Russians lose their finale at home to Andorra.
Movsisyan, who was born in Azerbaijan, moved to Pasadena when his family was granted asylum a decade ago and now plays in Russia, has scored four goals in seven qualifying appearances.
“It is possible for us to win the group if we win our last two games and if Russia lose their two, but although it is possible, it is unlikely,” he told Irish daily The Evening Herald. “I can't see Russia dropping points in their last two games, and I have to be realistic. Russia have been lucky so far in some games, but they have got the results they needed, and that's what is important, too. But we can finish in second place, and that is our aim.
“It's hard for me to say too much about Ireland, I've only played against them once. But they have great players in their team, they all play with good English clubs. So it's hard to know how all of the matches over the next week will work out, but I believe we can win our games.”
Alta Loma's Carlos Bocanegra and Fontana's Maurice Edu, both from Rangers FC, and Manhattan Beach's Michael Bradley, from Italy's Chievo Verona, also are on international duty. The U.S. plays friendlies Saturday against Honduras in Miami Gardens, Fla., and Tuesday against Ecuador in Harrison, N.J.
Also in for these games is former Galaxy forward Edson Buddle, now playing at FC Ingolstadt in Germany's second division. Buddle was called in Monday to replace former L.A. teammate Landon Donovan, who pulled out because of a strained quad.
MAUVE-A-LOUS: Sacha Kljestan and RSC Anderlecht are soaring in two competitions. The Mauves are atop Belgium's Jupiler League after nine games and have won both of their contests, quite handily, in the UEFA Europa League.
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando has received his first U.S. national team call-up from Jurgen Klinsmann.
The former UCLA star is among six Southern California products -- the others squad regulars -- on the 22-man roster for friendlies Oct. 8 vs. Honduras in Miami and Oct. 11 vs. Ecuador in Harrison, N.J.
Rimando (Montclair/Montclair HS), 32, was the top domestic keeper under former coach Bob Bradley, and he was on the U.S. roster for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in June, but he's made only five international appearances, the last in a 1-1 draw in January against Chile at Home Depot Center.
The Americans' top netminders have been based in Europe, primarily England, for more than a decade. Tim Howard, who plays at Everton and is on this roster, is America's No. 1. Rising youngster Bill Hamid, who plays for D.C. United, is Klinsmann's third keeper for this set of games.
Alta Loma's Carlos Bocanegra made his imprint, too.
Both Americans scored early goals for the Glasgow giant, which followed with a 2-0 victory Tuesday over Kilmarnock -- with Edu assisting the second goal -- to open a seven-point lead on archrival Celtic barely two months into the season.
Bocanegra headed home Steven Davis' corner kick in the ninth minute, his second goal for the Blues since arriving from France's Saint-Etienne, and Edu doubled the advantage with an impressive 20-yard blast eight minutes later.
Edu, who has exhibited erratic form since joining Rangers in 2008, was superb all afternoon, and manager Ally McCoist singled him out for praise.
“I'm delighted with Maurice,” McCoist, a former star striker for Rangers and Scotland, said on the club's website. “I'm just pleased for him, because there have been a couple of times when his form hasn't been great. He has had a little bit of criticism, as everybody does when you sometimes warrant it and things aren't going well. I did say that the one thing he would do would be play his way out of it and keep going, and he has to keep doing that.
“He's that type of player, and he has to use his athleticism and aggression. He's a mean footballer when he uses those two attributes. I think the best qualified people to talk about Maurice Edu are his teammates, and they are all pleased for him.”
Michael Bradley has moved into Chievo Verona's starting lineup after his move from Germany's Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Bradley debuted for the Flying Donkeys in a 2-1 loss last weekend at Parma, coming on in the 72nd minute for Paolo Sammarco. The 24-year-old central midfielder, whose family is based in Manhattan Beach, went the full 90 in Wednesday's 1-0 surprise home victory over Napoli.
Bradley is the first American to start in Italy's Serie A since Alexi Lalas played for Padova in 1994-96.
EUROPA ROMP: Huntington Beach's Sacha Kljestan assisted the last goal in Matias Suarez's hat trick as Belgian power RSC Anderlecht opened UEFA Europa League group play with a 4-1 Group L victory over Greece's AEK Athens.
Brad Friedel's club, Tottenham, drew, 0-0, at Greece's PAOK Salonika in a Group A opener, but the former UCLA star was not on the 18-man game roster. Italy's Carlo Cudicini has been in the nets for the European matches, with Friedel getting the call for league duty.
Huntington Beach's Sacha Kljestan (Huntington Beach HS) is expected to be in Belgian power RSC Anderlecht's midfield for a Group L home game against AEK Athens.
Former UCLA star goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who is Tottenham's starter in league games, figures to back up Carlo Cudicini or Heurelho Gomes as Spurs head to Greece to take on PAOK Salonika in Group A of Europe's No. 2 club competition.
Kljestan's influence is growing at Anderlecht, where he had a roller-coaster first season but nailed down a starting job, with some very good reviews, last spring.
The Mauves met AEK in Europa group play last year, too, winning at home, 3-0, without Kljestan.
TWO DEBUTS?: Van Nuys' Tristan Bowen made his debut for his new club, but Michael Bradley will have to wait another week.
Bowen, on loan from Chivas USA to Belgian second-division side KSV Roeselare, went the the full 90 up front in a scoreless tie Sunday with Standaard Wetteren.
Bradley, whose family lives in the South Bay, was on the 18-man game roster but did not play for Italy's Chievo Verona in a 2-2 tie against Novara in its Italian Serie A opener. The Flying Donkeys play this weekend at Parma.
Bradley, 24, moved from Germany's Borussia Mönchengladbach at the end of the summer transfer window last week. He had been searching for a new home after Aston Villa declined to extend a loan deal from the last half of last season and 'Gladbach reported he was no longer in its plans.
The son of former U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley -- considered a frontrunner for the open Santos Laguna job in Mexico -- has evolved into the most important central midfielder in American soccer and was among the most influential U.S. players at last year's World Cup. He had been linked to Italy all summer, with reported interest from American-owned AS Roma. Word of interest from Chievo Verona surfaced last month.
“We had heard for a few weeks that they were interested in finding a player in my position,” Bradley, whose family is based in Manhattan Beach, told U.S. Soccer's website. “They had watched me over a period of time and gotten to know me as a player. My situation was such that I was looking for a new challenge, and at the end of the day the people at the club showed a great amount of interest and that they were committed to bringing me to the club.
“I had discussions with the coach, the sporting director and the president, and I had a good feeling about what they are trying to build here. I’m excited to be a part of it, and I’m looking forward to the challenge of playing in Serie A for Chievo.”
The Serie A season kicks off this weekend after the first round of games was wiped out by a labor stoppage. An agreement between club owners and players was reached this week.
Chievo went 11-14-13 and finished 11th last season, 36 points behind champion AC Milan and 17 points out of a Europa Cup berth. Bradley believes the Flying Donkeys, as they're known at home, can compete for a berth next season in Europe.
“We can have a good team this year,” he said. “There’s a good mix of veteran players who will provide experience and some young, talented players. The mentality seems really good, which is important in any team. Because of the strike, there were no games [the last weekend of August], and you can feel that everyone is really excited to get going.”
ARMENIAN SURPRISE: Look who's suddenly in the Euro 2012 race.
Armenia, needing victories to stay alive in tight, tough Group B, on Tuesday stunned Slovakia, romping to a 4-0 away victory to climb to third, just two points off the lead -- and an automatic berth next year in Poland and Ukraine -- with two qualifiers to go.
Pasadena's Yura Movsisyan started the rout, scoring in the 57th minute, his fourth goal in seven Euro 2012 appearances.