Will a pissed-off Landon Donovan eat the Union alive on Sunday? Our sources say yes

Will a pissed-off Landon Donovan eat the Union alive on Sunday? Our sources say yes

United States' Landon Donovan, controls the ball during a training session on Wednesday at Stanford. (AP Photo)

We’re back for another installment of the Second Level, where Philadelphia Union writers and old newspaper buddies Steve Moore and Dave Zeitlin discuss and sometimes argue about a Union-related topic every week.

As someone who covers the team for MLSsoccer.com and CSNPhilly.com, Dave will bring you the perspective of a seasoned, award-winning journalist. And as someone who watches games from the River End While drinking a beer, Steve will bring you the perspective of an occasionally sober fan.

This week’s question: what does Maurice Edu and Landon Donovan getting cut from the U.S. World Cup team mean for Sunday’s Union-Galaxy game (8 p.m., Comcast SportsNet?)

DAVE: We’ll dive into the bigger picture of Thursday’s stunning roster announcement shortly, but as far as this weekend goes, I’ll call it a wash.

Yes, Donovan is a better player than Edu and could be angry enough about his shocking snub to torch the Union for a few goals. But assuming he does play, I have a feeling he might be a bit distracted knowing that his friends are preparing to go to Brazil while he’s taking the field opposite Leo Fernandes in Carson. Let’s remember this is a guy that took some time off last year because he was burnt out. How much passion will he have now that he knows that his international career is almost certainly over?

Edu, too, will naturally be gutted that he failed to make his second straight World Cup. But after falling out of the national team picture for a while, he had to have prepared himself for this possibility. You could even say that just making the initial 30-man roster was an accomplishment for Edu and could leave him refreshed as he continues his career revival in MLS.

Either way, the Union could certainly use Edu in the midfield Sunday with Cristian Maidana suspended and Brian Carroll on the mend from a groin injury. And his teammates seem eager to have him back.

 

Now on to the HOLY-CRAP-LANDON-DONOVAN-ACTUALLY-ISN’T-GOING-TO-PLAY-IN-THE-WORLD-CUP discussion – which is still hard to believe.

Yes, arguably the greatest American soccer player that’s ever lived, the one that’s scored five goals in the last three World Cups, wasn’t deemed good enough to make the 23-man roster.

We don’t need to get into the guys who somehow made the team in front of him, except to say that U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann made some puzzling choices. The point is this: even if he’s 32 and slowing down, even if he’s not the player he once was, even if you just use him off the bench, even if you just keep him in the locker room for karma's sake, you find a way to get Landon Donovan on the plane to Brazil.

How absurd is it that Donovan won’t be playing in his fourth straight World Cup? Grant Wahl sums it up pretty nicely in this piece, in which he delves into the rocky relationship between Klinsmann and Donovan while passing along two telling quotes. The first, from goalkeeper Tim Howard: “For me, it’s a very easy equation: If he’s on the field, he’s our top one or two players.” The second, from Galaxy and former USMNT coach Bruce Arena: “If there are 23 better players than Landon, then we have a chance to win the World Cup.”

So good news, America! We have a chance to win the World Cup now!

Now, Steve, talk me off the ledge while I curl up into a ball and watch this video of the world reacting to Landon Donovan scoring one of the greatest goals in U.S. soccer history four years ago.

[nbcsports_video src=//www.youtube.com/embed/jbn3rOPmR9w width=620 height=349]

* * *

STEVE: Having Edu back will surely help the Union. When they signed him last winter, I highly doubt the team anticipated Edu getting invited to camp, let alone going to Brazil. So, privately, they have to be relieved. There are some out there who have been underwhelmed by Edu this season. I'm not one of them. He's had some games better than others, but he is a force in the midfield, and the Union are far better with him in there.

Now, onto the real story (which led the Inquirer sports page today, in case you're one of our commenters who think "No one cares about soccer!").

Landon Donovan should be going to Brazil, there is no doubt about that.

I'm not as upset about it as I was on Thursday, and that's only because I've really liked the Jurgen Klinsmann era and I think he knows what he's doing (for the most part).

But to tell me that "guys are slightly ahead of him" is worthless. Is he the same player he was in 2010? Of course not. Is he a starter on this team? Probably not.

But check back with me in the 70th minute against Ghana or Portugal or Germany, when the good guys are down 1-0, the midfield has no cohesion and Jozy Altidore is wandering aimlessly up top and hasn't seen a ball at his feet in an hour.

You're telling me that Julian Green or Chris Wondolowski is going to be a better spark off the bench than Landon Donovan? Please.

When Donovan took his hiatus to  Cambodia in 2012 and acted like he had no passion for soccer, I was 100 percent in Klinsmann's camp when it came to incorporating him back into the side. I liked that he was benched through the Gold Cup. I liked that he wasn't a sure bet to pull on the stars and stripes every match.

He hung his teammates out to dry in the middle of World Cup qualifying. It would not have been right to welcome him back without making him earn it.

But for Klinsmann to eventually bring him back into the fold, invite him to the 30-man camp, and THEN try to tell us all with a straight face that he's not one of the best 23 guys? That's just insulting. Both to Landon and to the fans.

(via soccerbyives.net)

Klinsmann's son posted (then deleted) a horribly misguided tweet yesterday that showed that some of those hard feelings still linger.

Some are trying to say that Klinsmann is using the horrendous "Group of Death" with Germany, Ghana and Portugal as his get out of jail free card. Basically conceding this World Cup while grooming youngsters for 2018. I won't go that far (Klinsmann already, inexplicably, has a contract through the next World Cup, anyway). But I don't like the idea of using a World Cup to give young guys experience for the future. They come along too infrequently and take too long to qualify for. That's what meaningless summer friendlies and the Gold Cup are for.

Listen, Landon Donovan was never going to be the key to this team making waves in Brazil. And if you thought he was, then it'll be a short trip for the US-of-A.

And guess what? The fact that so many people are SO ANGRY about this is a really great thing for U.S. Soccer. It means people care. It means people are emotionally invested in this team and this sport. What it really shows is that ESPN ratings for U.S. games next month are going to be astronomical.

I'm still just as excited for the World Cup as I was on Wednesday, and can't wait for it to start (working on a few fun World Cup-related things here at the Level). I hope Jurgen proves me wrong and Julian Green scores the game-winner against Portugal. I'll happily admit he was right all along.

In the meantime, I'll count down the days until USA-Ghana (24 days away) and hope Landon picks Cambodia again over showing up for Sunday's game against the Union.

Steve's Prediction: Landon Donovan 13, Union 1.

Instant Replay: Central Florida 71, Temple 69

uspresswire-temple-team-huddle.jpg
USA Today Images

Instant Replay: Central Florida 71, Temple 69

BOX SCORE

Temple and UCF went for punch-for-punch in the final two minutes, and the Owls missed their final swing in a 71-69 loss Wednesday at the Liacouras Center.

Down by one with 20 seconds left, Temple fouled Tacko Fall to attempt a one-and-one. The 7-6 center, who is a 47 percent free throw shooter, missed a and Temple gained possession. 

Temple had a chance to gain the lead on the ensuing possession out of the timeout, but Mark Williams missed a wide-open three-pointer from the wing. 

The loss is Temple's fourth in five games and forces them to 14-15 on the year and 5-11 against AAC opponents. Meanwhile, UCF won for the third straight time to improve to 18-10 (9-7 AAC).

Temple head coach Fran Dunphy has only finished with a record under .500 twice since becoming the Owls’ head coach in 2006.

Ding ding
Midway through the second half, Matt Williams threw an elbow at Shizz Alston Jr. that left the Temple freshman on the floor and a bloody lip. Alston followed by getting in Williams' face as the refs separated the two from each other. 

The refs ruled the elbow by Williams a basketball play and no foul was called.

Williams and Alston were involved in another scuffle at the scorer’s table after Alston got a steal. Williams shoved Alston and was called for his first personal foul as the two again had to be separated. 

Inside the box score
• Fall finished the game with 14 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and two assists in the contest.

• After finishing the first half 0 for 3 from the field, Obi Enechionyia caught fire for the Owls by shooting 5 of 6 from downtown in the second half. The junior led the Owls in scoring with 17 points. He also had five rebounds, two assists and a steal.

• Temple shot 47.6 from beyond the arc. The Owls are 6-3 this season when they shoot ball 40 percent or better from three-point land.

• B.J. Taylor finished the game with 19 points, three rebounds and three assists. It's the 10th consecutive game he scored in double figures this season. 

• Mark Williams scored 11 points on 5 of 11 shooting off the bench.

Temple's starting lineup
For the fourth straight game, Dunphy went with the same starting lineup featuring Damion Moore instead of Ernest Aflakpui and Quinton Rose instead of Alani Moore II.

The Owls are 1-3 with this lineup so far. 

After scoring a career-high 11 points on 5 of 5 shooting against UConn on Sunday, Moore finished with two points against UCF. 

First half
Temple had a hard time avoiding the 7-6 big man, Fall, in the first half. Fall had six points, three rebounds and four blocks. But he also picked up two quick fouls, forcing him to the bench at the 4:23 mark.

While Fall watched from the bench, Temple's offense found some rhythm. 

Temple went on a 15-3 run toward the end of the first half as UCF hit only two field goals in the final eight minutes of the frame.

Rose led the Owls with eight points in the first half, while Alston Jr. and Mark Williams each had seven points.

The Owls finished the first half shooting the ball 46.9 percent from the field. That tripled their amount of points in the first half the last time they faced UCF. They finished with only 11 points in the first half in their first meeting Dec. 31.

What's next
Temple will play its final home game of the season against Tulane on Saturday at noon.

UCF will face Cincinnati at the CFE Center Sunday at 3 p.m.

Report: Bulls continuing trade push for Jahlil Okafor

Report: Bulls continuing trade push for Jahlil Okafor

The Bulls are apparently still after Jahlil Okafor.

Chicago has continued its trade push for the Sixers’ big man, according to a report Wednesday night by The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.

In early February, the Bulls inquired about Okafor, according to a report by CSNChicago.com.

With Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline nearing, the clock is ticking on the Sixers’ possible trade of Okafor, who will get moved” by the mandatory cutoff date, according to NBA.com’s David Aldridge on Tuesday.

The Sixers already have one trade nearly completed. They are currently finalizing a deal that will send Ersan Ilyasova to the Atlanta Hawks, a league source confirmed to CSNPhilly.com Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato on Wednesday night (see story).

With Okafor, aside from the Bulls, other teams have reportedly expressed interest in the second-year center, including the Pacers, Blazers and Pelicans (who are expected to be out of the running after landing DeMarcus Cousins).

Okafor is averaging 11.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in 23 minutes per game this season over 38 contests. Last season, he played 53 games (48 starts) as a rookie and averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds.

The 21-year-old has taken all the trade buzz in stride.

“Trade rumors are something that’s going to be part of my life probably for as long as I’m in the NBA," Okafor said on Feb. 4 after the Bulls’ reported interest originally surfaced. "I’ve been hearing it since I’ve been in the NBA about me being traded. I just try to focus on what I can. That’s being here on this team and trying to help this team win.”