Americans Abroad: Donovan ends first Liga MX season with shoving match

Landon Donovan LeonHector Vivas

Landon Donovan’s return to soccer south of the border started with a lot of fanfare and his first season in Liga MX ended with some fireworks – though it may not have been the type he wanted.

Entering as a substitute in Leon’s 2-0 victory over Chivas, Donovan attempted to go in hard on Fernando Beltran late in the match. The tackle missed Beltran completely, but it drew the ire of Isaac Brizuela, who threw a body check into Donovan as he went up the field. Donovan shoved Brizuela, and the two sides came together. Both Donovan and Brizuela were issued yellow cards.

Leon missed the playoffs despite the victory and a clean sheet for William Yarbrough. Donovan’s first season with Leon ended with plenty of talk but not a whole lot of production. He failed to score or add an assist in his eight appearances for the club, six coming in Liga MX and two in the Copa MX.

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Besides a goal in a friendly against his old team, the San Jose Earthquakes, his only contribution to the scoresheet of any kind was successfully taking his penalty in a Copa MX shootout loss.

But if there was a question as to whether Donovan would fulfill the last six months of his contract and return for the Apertura, he appeared to answer it talking to reporters after the match.

"It was difficult my first tournament on the field for me and the team, but my personal experience and with my family has been very nice; I really hope it can get better for next season,” Donovan said.

"For this club it is not normal to be out of the Liguilla and that's why we have to improve. It's very clear, we all know that we must improve and hopefully we will be ready to fight and reach the Liguilla [next season].”

Donovan walked into a tough spot, signing after the Clausura had already begun. He had to get acclimated quickly and find match fitness after an extended layoff following his Galaxy retirement. At age 36, that never was going to be easy.

Of course, questions will remain whether at his age Donovan can ever be close to the player he once was. But if Leon is willing to have him back, it appears we will get another half season to find out.

Wood breaks duck in Hamburg win

Bobby Wood Hamburg Wolfsburg Bundesliga

It was only a penalty, but Bobby Wood will certainly take it.

The struggling Hamburg striker didn’t win the spot kick against Wolfsburg this Saturday – that honor went to Tatsuya Ito as he was hauled down by Josuha Guilavogui. But Wood stepped up and slotted it home as Koen Casteels went the wrong way, giving Hamburg a 1-0 lead. They went on to win 3-1.

It was Wood’s first goal for Hamburg since Aug. 25, when he scored in a 3-1 win against now-relegated FC Koln. He did find the net three times for the United States in the interim.

“I am also pleased for Bobby,” Hamburg coach Christian Titz said after the match. “He has been training very well lately and today he has rewarded himself with a goal for his good performance.”

Hamburg has appeared to be heading for relegation for most of this season. However, the win gives them some measure of hope. While the club remains in one of the two automatic relegation spots, they are just two points from the relegation playoff spot, currently held by Wolfsburg.

Guaranteed safety may be impossible – Mainz and Freiburg both won this weekend to extend their advantage over Hamburg to five points with only two games remaining. But if Hamburg had been offered the relegation playoff at the start of the month, they’d have probably taken it.

Meanwhile, Wolfsburg’s John Brooks was only on the bench for the match after his abbreviated return last week. Given his side’s continued struggles defensively, he may find himself back in the lineup for their final two games as his club again aims to avoid the drop to 2.Bundesliga.

George keeps it going

Jahn Regensburg celebration

Between Sept. 8 and April 8, things could have gone better for Jann-Christopher George.

A hot start after he and Jahn Regensburg made the jump to the 2.Bundesliga saw him score three goals and add an assist in the first five games of the year. However, he then scored just a single goal in a stretch that spanned 20 games.

As of late, George has rediscovered his early-season form. Over Jahn Regensburg’s last three games he’s scored three times and added another assist – including his effort this past Sunday which temporarily brought his side level with Duisburg.

Unfortunately for the unlikely promotion hopefuls, Duisburg went back in front two minutes later and went on to a 4-1 victory. With Holstein Kiel’s win over Alfredo Morales and Ingolstadt, the gap from third to fourth is now five points with just two games to play, meaning Jahn Regensburg’s chance at back-to-back promotions is all but done.

Despite that disappointment, this stretch of excellent form should cement the fact that George is good enough for the 2. Bundesliga level. At 25 years of age, he still has time to potentially show he can do even more next season.

Americans in the Liguilla

Jorge Villafana Santos Laguna Liga MX

While Donovan and Yarbrough won’t be in the Liga MX playoffs, there will be some Americans taking part in the Liguilla.

Jorge Villafana has gone from a player who struggled to make the XI in the Apertura to every-week starter for Santos Laguna at left back. And he’s been part of a side that finished fourth in the Clausura, though Santos comes in on a three-match losing streak.

Joe Corona has been more of a role player for Club America since his move from Tijuana, as he made just three starts and 12 substitute appearances in the league. His lone goal came in the CONCACAF Champions League against Panamanian side Tauro. But he’ll have a chance at silverware as America finished second in the Clausura.

Rubio Rubin, Alejandro Guido and Michael Orozco will be part of a Tijuana side that booked its place in the Liguilla with a 1-0 victory over Toluca on Friday.

Omar Gonzalez looks to have cemented his place back in the Pachuca lineup as he went 90 minutes in a scoreless draw with Atlas. The bad news is that draw against the 15th-place team in the Clausura ensured Pachuca fell just short of the playoffs.

Free Kicks

Tim Ream Fulham Sunderland ChampionshipGetty Images

– Tim Ream and Fulham came back to secure victory against already-relegated Sunderland on Friday. The win has them a point back of Cardiff City for automatic promotion with one game remaining.

– Erik Palmer-Brown has found playing time hard to come by at times on loan at Belgian side KV Kortrijk but has now played in their last four games, starting in two of them.

– Romain Gall bagged both goals in Sundsvall’s 2-1 victory over Elfsborg in the Swedish Allsvensken. One was from the spot and the other was an impressive run and finish from a tight angle at the near post. He has now scored three times in his last two games and five times in eight games in all competitions in 2018.

– 19-year-old Jonathan Amon had not featured since February until coming on at halftime last week. Given the start this week, he scored in the 16th minute. It’s his second goal in eight total SuperLiga appearances for Nordsjælland.