Los Angeles Soccer: Tottenham
CARSON -- The Galaxy announced Thursday they will take on Tottenham Hotspur in a July friendly at Home Depot Center. What they didn't announce is how difficult a fit the game is in their schedule.
The July 24 date makes for five matches in 15 days in the middle of one of the toughest stretches in L.A.'s schedule: Seven of eight league clashes on the road, with the home game (and one of the away games) a SuperClasico match against Chivas USA.
The Galaxy plays at Portland on July 14, at Vancouver on July 18, and at home July 21 against Chivas. L.A. is off to play FC Dallas in Frisco, Texas, four days after the Tottenham match.
Summer friendlies are increasingly a highlight of the American soccer schedule, and the Galaxy is expected to play two top clubs this summer. Tottenham, with which L.A. has a longstanding relationship, had long been rumored. Manchester United's name has been bounced around a bit, too.
What about Real Madrid? The Galaxy played friendlies with the Merengues the past two seasons, at the Rose Bowl and the Coliseum, and manager Jose Mourinho has annually brought his team -- first Chelsea, then Inter Milan, the Real -- to UCLA for preseason. There has been speculation Mourinho will depart Real in May, and former president of business operations Tom Payne last summer told ESPN Los Angeles that he had told the Spanish giant that their presence in Southern California prevented other clubs, which the Galaxy hoped to play in friendlies, from visiting the area.
The Galaxy has been more aggressive about scheduling friendlies since Bruce Arena took charge in August 2008. AC Milan and Barcelona visited in 2009, Real Madrid and Argentina's Boca Juniors in 2010, and Manchester City -- currently second in the EPL -- played at Home Depot Center eight days after last year's Real Madrid tilt. Chelsea visited HDC in 2007.
The Galaxy also played a July 2009 friendly against Crystal Palace in Richmond, Va., but it was abandoned at halftime because of heavy rains.
Tottenham, which features American goalkeeper Brad Friedel and has spent most of this season sitting third in the English Premier League standings, has a business relationship with the Galaxy, and David Beckham and Robbie Keane are close to Spurs manager Harry Redknapp, who could become England's national team coach in May. Beckham trained before the 2011 season with Tottenham, and Keane, a former Spurs striker, spent a few days in January working out with the club before joining Aston Villa on loan.
BECKHAM IS WEALTHY: Beckham is the soccer world's second-best earner, France Football magazine reports, making $41.5 million last year through salary, endorsements and other earnings. He was MLS's only player in the top 20, no surprise except that New York's Thierry Henry was a regular presence on the annual list until arriving in the league two years ago.
CARSON -- The choice of captain belongs to the manager, David Beckham said Thursday as he addressed for the first time publicly Fabio Capello's abrupt departure last week as England's national team coach.
Capello, one of the most respected of Italian coaches, resigned last week after The Football Association, the sport's governing body in England, stripped the national team captaincy from Chelsea defender John Terry after a trial date was set on charges that Terry used racist insults during an English Premier League match in November.
The F.A. made the decision without consulting Capello, who blasted the decision in an interview with Italian television before he stepped away from the job four months before the start of the European Championship.
“Obviously, I was surprised just because European Championship's coming up, and after working with Fabio for quite a few years, it's sad that he's stepped down at a critical stage for England,” Beckham said following the Galaxy's 3-2 preseason victory over Chivas USA on the club's Home Depot Center training field. “He's done it for his own reasons, and he's a manager that I respect and a person that I respect a lot, and I wish him all the best.”
Beckham, who played at Real Madrid and for England under Capello and served as England's captain from the end of 2000 through the 2006 World Cup, was asked whether the choice of captain should be the manager's or the F.A.'s.
“Coach's call. Coach's call,” he replied. “You know, I think that's always the case. Obviously a decision was taken to take the captaincy away from John, but, going forward, I'm sure the captain will be picked by whatever manager comes in.
“Now as a nation we have to come together and concentrate first on getting a new manager and then going to the European Championship.”
Terry, 31, succeeded Beckham as England's captain, but his tenure has had its controversies. He was dropped as captain in February 2010 after an extramarital affair with former national team defender Wayne Bridge's ex-girlfriend.
Terry was replaced by Rio Ferdinand, whose younger brother, Anton, a Queens Park Rangers defender, Terry is accused of racially abusing last November. Terry was reappointed 11 months ago after an injury to Rio Ferdinand.
David Beckham might have decided to remain with the Galaxy, but he's taking his time making that official.
More than a week after Paris Saint-Germain announced that it would not sign the English superstar -- and that Beckham would be returning to L.A. -- the Galaxy continue to negotiate with their midfield leader.
“We're hopeful we're going to re-sign him,” head coach/GM Bruce Arena said Thusday from the MLS SuperDraft. “We're in discussions with David and his representatives, and we're hopeful he'll be playing with the Galaxy.”
Is Arena confident Beckham will sign?
“I'll be confident,” he said, “when I'm told he has signed a contract.”
British broadsheet The Guardian reported Thursday that Beckham's representatives expect him to sign soon with the Galaxy. His contract with L.A. expired on New Year's Eve, and the club has offered him a one-year deal with a rolling mutual option believed to be of comparable value to his original, five-year contract, in which he made $6.5 million in annual average compensation.
Spurs pulled even on points in the English Premier League with second-place Manchester United after a one-sided 2-0 triumph over the Toffees, who nearly scored at the start but couldn't keep up the final 89 minutes.
Donovan played the full 90 minutes for the third straight game and was active, if not sharp, on attack. His off-target feed led to Louis Saha's chance after just 52 seconds, and he picked up a yellow card in first-half stoppage following a late challenge on Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who went down and rolled around after the slightest of contact.
American goalkeeper Brad Friedel wasn't called upon to make a save in the shutout. Aaron Lennon provided Tottenham a 35th-minute lead, and Assou-Ekotto got the second in the 63rd minute with a tremendous blast from distance.
It was Donovan's first meeting with Friedel, his former U.S. national teammate, since the netminder's remarks last month to the BBC World Service praising Fulham's American star Clint Dempsey included this: “You get a player like a Landon Donovan, who in my opinion chose to take the easy road and stay in the States. It’s much harder to ply your trade over here.”
Friedel apologized for the “misunderstanding” after the comment went viral in American soccer circles, and he again clarified his thoughts in an interview with Fox Soccer Channel shown before its coverage of Wednesday's match.
“Landon Donovan is a tremendous player, and he's done great, great things for U.S. Soccer over the years ...,” said Friedel, a former UCLA All-American who was part of the Americans' 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cup teams. “Listen, I don't have one problem with Landon. Where he plays is entirely up to him. It's fantasitc for him that he's re-signed for Everton. I know Everton loved him there the first time, and I'm sure he's going to be great for them this time.”
Aston Villa hopes to have Robbie Keane on its roster within the next few hours, and manager Alex McLeish already is anticipating the good things the Galaxy's striker will bring to his club.
The Birmingham club is looking to complete on Monday a loan agreement with L.A., estimated to be worth as much as $1 million, to acquire Keane for seven weeks. The Irish striker has been training with Tottenham in advance of the Galaxy's preseason camp, which is tentatively scheduled to begin Jan. 23, and reports from Spurs manager Harry Redknapp have McLeish nearly giddy.
“We've had dialogue with Spurs, and the report back we are getting is that he looks in much better condition than he did this time last year, when he went to West Ham,” McLeish, who as Birmingham City manager tried to acquire Keane on loan from Tottenham a year ago, told reporters over the weekend. “What we are hearing is that he is in tip-top shape. And the Ireland boys have [Euro 2012 this summer] to look forward to. Robbie wants to be at his peak for that.
“We've been speaking. He feels that's the right way to go forward. He feels he wants to keep right on top of his sharpness. So if he has that kind of motivation, it can only be good for us.”
The Galaxy has agreed to the transfer, and it is expected to be finalized after solving what McLeish called a “bit of red tape.”
Aston Villa (5-7-8) is 13th in England's Premier League, scoring just 22 goals in 20 games, and has advanced to the fourth round of the F.A. Cup, in which they'll face the winner of Monday's Arsenal-Leeds United match in three weeks.
Keane, 31, has been a consistent scorer in a career that has included stints at Wolverhampton, Coventry City, Inter Milan, Leeds United, Liverpool and Celtic. He scored four goals with two assists in 11 competitive matches after signing with the Galaxy in August (and hit the post twice in the playoffs), and tallied four times in three games on L.A.'s postseason tour of Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia.
“I think [Keane's arrival] will give everyone a lift. You are now talking about a guy who is at his peak ...,” McLeish said. “He can make it if up if he is not as quick physically by what he has in his head. He loves to play football, he’s got leadership qualities as well that can help in the dressing room, too, and he can score a goal. He’s got great movement, and he can hurt defenders. He’s a very, very experienced player.”
It's reunion time for Landon Donovan, who on Wednesday will see American Brad Friedel, next weekend likely reconnect with Galaxy teammate Robbie Keane -- and now he's got a matchup with fellow U.S. national team attacker Clint Dempsey.
Everton was drawn Sunday with Dempsey's Fulham for the fourth round of the F.A. Cup, which will be played the weekend of Jan. 28. Dempsey scored a hat trick in the Cottagers' 4-0 rout of fellow Londoners Charlton Athletic in their tournament opener Saturday.
Donovan played a key role in Everton's 2-0 victory over non-league Tamworth, in which he got to visit with former Galaxy teammate Kyle Patterson. It was his second 90-minute appearance since his eight-week loan to the Toffees began on New Year's Day.
“I feel great, cardio-wise. My legs are a little tired, so hopefully I'll get a few days to kind of come down and recover a little bit, and then a really big game that I'm excited for,” Donovan said after Saturday's win, on video posted on Everton's website. “I think the team struggled a little bit [in Donovan's first game, a loss Wednesday] against Bolton. I thought we played a little bit better today.
“We're going to need a big effort against Tottenham [on Wednesday], but it's been nice to be back. I've enjoyed the couple games so far and just want to keep going.”
Tottenham, which sits third in the Premier League standings with a 13-3-3 record, features former U.S. national-teamer Friedel in the nets, and this will be the first meeting since the former UCLA All-American's comments last month to the BBC's World Service that appeared to slight Donovan.
Robbie Keane is returning to English football -- that has been confirmed. That prospective loan deal to Aston Villa? That's something else.
Keane, 31, is joining Tottenham, the London-based club he left in August to sign with the Galaxy, for training through Jan. 20, Spurs officials announced Tuesday. He then, according to plan, would return to Southern California for the opening of the Galaxy's preseason camp.
Aston Villa, according to British media reports, hopes he'll stick around a little bit longer. Alex McLeish, the Birmingham-based club's manager, who tried to sign the Irish striker last January, apparently wants to bring Keane in on a two-month loan deal.
The Irish Daily Star on Tuesday reported that L.A. is willing to agree to terms with Aston Villa, but the Galaxy have nothing to say on the matter and McLeish has refused to comment.
L.A. opens its quarterfinal home-and-home in the CONCACAF Champions League on March 7 in Toronto, and the Major League Soccer season begins March 10.
UPDATE (3:05 p.m.): Tim Leiweke said Tuesday that the Galaxy would consider loaning Keane to a club in England.
“Only if Robbie wants to do it,” said Leiweke, president of club owner AEG. “And for us, it's an opportunity for Robbie from a conditioning standpoint, to stay healthy and in shape.”
Landon Donovan already is on loan in England, with Everton, and Leiweke mentioned central defender Omar Gonzalez as he noted that it was “amazing, I've never seen so many teams asking for loan agreements” on Galaxy players. He said any loan, any player, would require a late February return.
French fans continue to prepare for David Beckham's arrival, politicians debate the appropriateness of his would-be salary and Paris Saint-Germain's Qatari owners express confidence the English star's name will be on a contract shortly.
Leonardo, the Parisian giant's sporting director -- “general manager,” in American sports terminology -- admits he's not so sure.
Two French newspapers reported last week that Beckham had agreed to an 18-month, $18.7 million deal with PSG, and Agence France Presse reported that he is expected to sign next week in a trip to Qatar, but the Galaxy midfielder's representatives have balked at such claims.
They did so again Friday.
“There is no agreement with PSG at this time,” 19 Entertainment said in a statement. “An offer does not make a contract, we continue to hold negotiations with a number of clubs. No decision has been made, and we do not expect one at the moment.”
Leonardo said he's not sure Beckham, who also is considering a sixth season with the Galaxy, is coming at all.
“He is in L.A., he has his family over there,” the Brazilian told media Friday as he introduced Carlo Ancelotti as PSG's new coach. “We have talked a lot and we are still talking, but I’m not sure it will be done.
“We have a very good rapport with David Beckham, but we never said it was a done deal. We have studied it and we are studying it. It’s always been a question of personal matters.”
Brad Friedel's criticism of Landon Donovan? It's all a misunderstanding, the American goalkeeper said Friday, after his remarks to BBC's World Service earlier this week caused a major stir in soccer circles on this side of the Atlantic.
“Not in a million years would I disparage an American player,” Friedel told Major League Soccer's website after comments he made, that Donovan “chose to take the easy road and stay in the States” rather than play in England and that “he gets a lot more notoriety because [soccer is] sponsorship-driven” in the U.S., went viral Thursday.
Friedel, 40, the former U.S. national team star who plays for Tottenham in London, reached out the MLS's website and to Donovan's representatives to apologize that what he said was twisted so badly.
His remarks came in response to a question about midfielder Clint Dempsey, who scored his 37th English Premier League goal Monday for Fulham, setting a new standard for Americans in the world's most respected league.
“My two comments were that Clint plays over here and a lot of it is sponsorship-driven [in the US], trying to create heroes over in the U.S.,” Friedel said. “I used Landon as an example. When I said 'easy road,' I’m not saying that everything Landon has done is easy because he stayed in the U.S. I’m not saying that at all. I could have used other players as an example. It’s just that Landon came up at the tip of my tongue because he’s one of the best U.S. players.
“At no time did I want to disparage or demean Landon Donovan in an way, shape or form. And if people read my quotes in a negative manner, I apologize for that. But at no time would I ever speak publicly in a negative way about another American player and mean it and actually go out and have a go at the guy. That’s not me. That’s not my personality.”
One of America's greatest goalkeepers had some sharp words for Landon Donovan earlier this week, setting alight soccer message boards and blogs.
UCLA product Brad Friedel, 40, a former U.S. national team star who has played in England since 1997 and now toils for Tottenham, was praising Clint Dempsey for becoming the English Premier League's top American goalscorer when he suddenly bashed the U.S.'s best-known and most accomplished player.
The beef: Donovan plays in Major League Soccer.
“You get a player like a Landon Donovan, who in my opinion chose to take the easy road and stay in the States,” Friedel, Donovan's teammate on the U.S. side that reached the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals, told the BBC's World Service on Tuesday (first reported state-side in The Sporting News). “It’s much harder to ply your trade over here.
“[The English Premier League] is the best league in the world to play in, and this is where [Dempsey] got better, in my opinion. This is where he became one of the best the United States ever produced.”
Dempsey is fantastic -- he and Donovan and are the two finest field players this country has produced -- and his goal Monday to lift Fulham past Liverpool is worth noting. It was his 37th in EPL play, the most by a Yank, surpassing the 36 Brian McBride netted in his tenure with the London club.
Donovan, 29, has been criticized before for choosing MLS over superior European leagues, and his choice surely has been informed by poor experiences in Germany, as a teen with Bayer Leverkusen, with which he signed at 16, and in a 2009 loan spell with Bayern Munich.
He went to the EPL, to Everton, on loan in 2010, and was a revelation, winning the Liverpool-based club's Player of the Month honor, winning acclaim from teammates and fans, and prompting the club to look deeply into the possibility of bringing him on full-time.
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.
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.
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 M÷nchengladbach.
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.