WAG of the Week: Bianca Kajlich

bianca_kajlich_02In honor of the one and only Landon Donovan, who will be conspicuous by his absence when the 2013 MLS season kicks off tomorrow, our WAG of the week is Bianca Kajlich, former ballet dancer, current castmember of CBS sitcom Rules of Engagement, and onetime spouse of U.S. Soccer’s wayward son.

Kajlich and Donovan were married from 2006 to 2010, and after his epochal goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup (while they were separated but not divorced), LD threw her a “Hi Bianca” during a postgame interview.

The split was made official in December 2010 and Kajlich has since remarried, while Donovan has won a pair of MLS Cup titles, starred at Everton and then, most recently, suffered a career burnout that has him vacationing in Cambodia while the MLS season gets under way.

Los Angeles Galaxy and U.S. fans are hoping for his swift and reenergized return.

But we all know LD’s story.

Let’s have another glimpse of Ms. Kajlich:

BiancaKGoodness gracious. Happy Friday, all.

Music to U.S. Fans’ Ears

American soccer icon Landon Donovan has mostly steered clear of the media during his recent hiatus from the game, but earlier this week he popped up at USC sports journalism seminar and answered a number of questions, including this one:

Donovan also talked about several other topics, according to a series of tweets by a student named Jesse Xiao, who was attending the event. A few highlights:

On the 2006 World Cup

“[That] was really my first big failure. There were two weeks when I went into depression … I started wondering if soccer is for me again.”

On Beckham’s arrival in 2007:

“I learned a lot of important things … like what to say and what not to say.”

On why he needed a break:

“I was so exhausted from the weight of the past 15 years … really the past 28 years.”

Donovan also said that he contemplated quitting early in his career, while struggling at Bayer Leverkusen as a teenager.

He’s a sensitive soul, LD is, but a great player who probably has a lot more to give U.S. Soccer.

Beckham Goes Out in Style as Galaxy Win MLS Cup Chock Full of History (And Our Prediction Comes True)

BexTrophy

The Los Angeles Galaxy sent David Beckham out a winner, locking down a 3-1 victory over Houston in the MLS Cup final this past Saturday, and giving the Englishman—who had announced that this game would be his last in the league—his second U.S. domestic title in six seasons.

That was only the most high-profile chunk of history carved out at the Home Depot Center. Landon Donovan, who may be headed elsewhere as well, won a record-tying fifth MLS championship and became the league’s alltime leading scorer in all competitions when he scored the Cup-winning goal from the spot, giving him 146 career goals (regular season and playoffs).

The win delivered Los Angeles its fourth MLS Cup title, tied with D.C. United for the most ever.

There was also coach Bruce Arena’s fourth title—two more than any other coach in MLS history—and a second consecutive one for Irish international Robbie Keane, who who iced the game with a penalty in stoppage time, scoring his sixth goal of the playoffs, tied for second-most alltime in a single postseason.

Twenty-four year-old center back and budding U.S. national team prospect Omar Gonzalez completed his return from a torn ACL (suffered in January) by winning the game MVP award.

Also historic, if only for its Halley’s Comet–like rarity, was our spot-on—3-1 LA—pregame prediction (scroll down for it).

To the highlights, which really should be run in sepia tones:

Still can’t believe Donovan missed that sitter in the first half.

Adding to the end-of-an-era, history-making aspect of the game was the talk afterward about this Galaxy team’s place in the MLS pantheon. Are they best team in the league’s 17 years?

They’ve been to three finals and won two. They’ve won two Supporters’ Shields (and narrowly missed a third), and they suit up the league’s best player all-time in Donovan, its most galvanizing in Beckham, and one of its deadliest strikers ever in Keane.

Still, for over all balance and accomplishment, we’d give the nod to the D.C. United teams from 1996 to ’99.

They appeared in four straight finals, won three, and featured Marco Etcheverry and Jaime Moreno in their primes, alongside U.S. national teamers Eddie Pope, Jeff Agoos, John Harkes, Roy Lassiter, Carlos Llamosa, Ben Olsen, and Richie Williams.

That D.C. dynasty also won the 1998 CONCACAF Champions Cup, a precursor to the CONCACAF Champions League, and, most impressively, the ’98 Copa Interamericana, a competition between the winners of the CONCACAF Champions Cup and the South American Copa Libertadores.

The Black-and-Red defeated Brazil’s Vasco da Gama to win that trophy, and it’s probably the most impressive competitive notch on MLS’s belt in 17 years as a league.

This Galaxy side is a good and historic one, but they’re a shade behind that D.C. club.

They do have one thing in common with them, though: coach Bruce Arena.

Quote of the Day

In a wide-ranging interview published on ESPNFC today, Roger Bennett asked U.S. national team star Landon Donovan if he expects to play in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. His reply:

“I don’t have the answer to that. There are a lot of moving pieces: Will I be playing, period? Will I be part of the team? Will I be good enough to be wanted? If I had to guess I would say it is 50-50. I will have more clarity after I take a break.”

The “50-50” part of that quote lit up Twitter like a Roman candle this morning, and it’s not hard to see why. But we would pay equal attention to the last sentence: Donovan needs a break, plain and simple. He’s been playing professional soccer for 14 years, which is one year shy of half his life, and he’s gone on winter loans in three of the past four MLS offseasons.

He’s suffering from burnout.

If he takes, say, four weeks off in November and December, we’d wager that he’d come back refreshed and renewed, ready to join the U.S. in Jurgen Klinsmann’s January camp, and spark the Nats in the WCQ Hexagonal in February.

Galaxy Reels Off Fourth Straight Win, Serves Notice for the Postseason

Remember when Toronto FC eliminated Los Angeles from the CONCACAF Champions League back in March, and then the Galaxy got off to a 3-8-2 start in Major League Soccer? Seems like a long time ago now.

Bruce Arena’s men clipped that same Toronto FC side (well, an injury-depleted version of it) 4-2 on Saturday to run their record to 15-11-4 and move into second place in the West, ahead of Real Salt Lake on goals scored.

They’re doing it all in a way that should put the competition on notice—with Robbie Keane and Juninho on fire (check out their goals below), with Landon Donovan rounding back into form (he had two assists on Saturday to push his league-leading total to 14), with new veteran signing Christian Wilhelmsson fitting in—and without David Beckham.

They’ll have him back for the playoffs, which will only make them more dangerous.

Highlights:

Keane’s goals were his 13th and 14th of the year, tied for second most in the league, and the win clinched a playoff berth for the Galaxy. They’re back in action next week against Colorado.

Mighty Souvenir: The Ball that Donovan Buried to Advance the U.S. at South Africa 2010

We’re a little late getting to this but it’s definitely better late than never: After Landon Donovan scored his famous last-gasp goal for the U.S. against Algeria at the 2010 World Cup, he retrieved the ball and booted it deep into the stands.

As luck would have it, two Americans caught the ball, and have never let it go.

Last month, they linked up with Donovan and told their story:

LD and Co. will be back in World Cup competition tonight, when they take on Antigua & Barbuda in their first 2014 qualifier (7:00 pm ET, ESPN).

CCL: LA Rallies for 2-2 Draw in Toronto

Major League Soccer clubs returned to action this week as Los Angeles, Toronto, and Seattle all played their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first legs on Wednesday night.

In the first game of the night, played before more than 47,000 fans at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, the home team jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on goals by Ryan Johnson and rookie Luis Silva, but could not hold on as Mike Magee pulled one back for LA before halftime and Landon Donovan buried a late equalizer.

Right this way to the highlights:

One interesting sequence not shown in the clip above: As Beckham lined up the corner kick that led to the tying goal, he was showered with streamers, abuse, and one green beer can from the Toronto faithful. He made a point of fetching up the can (it missed him) and showing it to the referee’s assistant on the sideline and the fourth official across the field before taking the corner.

Moments later, after Donovan poked home the equalizer, Beckham turned back to the fans behind him and let them have it. They did not have a counterargument.

It was fairly awesome, and another example of why Becks has won us over: he puts the soccer first, and he’s still fired up to play and compete.

Toronto visits LA for the second leg next Wednesday, March 14 (Fox Soccer, 10:00 p.m. ET).

Landon Donovan Now a Verb in the UK

Los Angeles Galaxy and U.S. national team attacker Landon Donovan has five assists in the first seven games of his winter loan stint with Everton, helping the team to big recent wins over Fulham (in the FA Cup) and top-of-the-table Manchester City.

He’s done so well in his second loan stint that former Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar, who is now headed back to the Merseyside on loan from Spurs, recently said he hopes to “have a Landon Donovan effect” in his return to the club.

That prompted The Sun to run the banner headline “Pienaar: I can do a Landon,” and thereby usher a new verb into the British football lexicon.

Think of it as a kind of antonym to the phrase “pull a Homer,” from the classic Simpsons episode “Homer Defined” (Season 3, Episode 5), in which the rotund Simpsons family patriarch stops a nuclear meltdown using the unorthodox “eeny, meeny, miney, moe” method, prompting the coining of the phrase, which means “to succeed despite idiocy.”

Donovan, Gibson, Handcuff Man City Title Hopes

Donovan (left) tees up Gibson for the winner.

In a match interrupted for five minutes after a Merseyside punter (as you can see in the video clip here, we’re using that term correctly) handcuffed himself to a Goodison Park goalpost, Landon Donovan laid off a perfect ball to teammate Darron Gibson, whose powerful shot deflected into the net past Joe Hart to give Everton a 1-0 win over Manchester City.

The deft pass was Donovan’s fourth assist in four games for Everton and his fifth in seven matches over all for the Toffees. The 29-year-old American is producing another excellent loan performance in the Premier League, following his star turn for Everton in the winter of 2010.

For City, the defeat—their fourth loss in their past six visits to Goodison Park—dropped them into a tie for first in the Premier League with crosstown rivals Manchester United, who clipped Stoke City 2-0 at Old Trafford. Both teams have 54 points after 23 games, but City holds the edge on goal difference.

Everton moved up to ninth place with the win.

Here’s a bonus shot of the punter/bloke/geezer who interrupted the game in protest of Ryanair, an airline he says fired his daughter unfairly:

Goodison Park officials were impressively quick to produce a pair of boltcutters and usher the man to the legal phase of his “protest.”