While the U.S. men's national team is gearing up for Tuesday's all-important World Cup qualifier against Jamaica, its all-time leading scorer is continuing his return to fitness on the MLS reserve level.
Landon Donovan, who was left out of the two matches against Jamaica as he nurses a hamstring injury, returned to the field Monday, shaking off the rust with a goal in an assist in his first nine minutes off the bench in the Los Angeles Galaxy's 4-0 reserve match victory over Portland. Donovan came on in the 57th minute and combined with Pat Noonan for two scores in his first time back on the field since injuring his hamstring in the U.S. national team's 1-0 win at Mexico almost a month ago.
Donovan, who had never played a reserve match in his career, said that he was targeting a first-team return on Friday, when the Galaxy play the Colorado Rapids.
"It's a fine line between it being ready enough to play on and not hurting anymore," Donovan told LA Galaxy Insider. "Right now it's just ready enough to start working on and now we have to be careful with it to get ready for Friday."
Here are a few more stories to get your day going:
UEFA WITHHOLDS PRIZE MONEY
UEFA is serious about getting teams to comply with the financial fair play regulations, and the organization is withholding prize money from 23 teams across Europe for failing to either pay off their debts or taxes.
Oddly enough, both of Oguchi Onyewu's teams — parent club Sporting Lisbon and current loan club Malaga — were impacted by the ruling. Other high-profile times include Atletico Madrid and Fenerbahce. Here is the list of all 23:
FK Borac Banja Luka (BIH), FK Sarajevo (BIH), FK Željezničar (BIH), PFC CSKA Sofia (BUL), HNK Hajduk Split (CRO), NK Osijek (CRO), Club Atlético de Madrid (ESP), Málaga CF (ESP), Maccabi Netanya FC (ISR)
FK Shkendija 79 (MKD), Floriana FC (MLT), FK Budućnost Podgorica (MNE), FK Rudar Pjevlja (MNE), Ruch Chorzów (POL), Sporting Clube de Portugal (POR), FC Dinamo Bucureşti (ROU), FC Rapid Bucureşti (ROU)
FC Vaslui (ROU), FC Rubin Kazan (RUS), FK Partizan (SRB), FK Vojvodina (SRB), Eskişehirspor (TUR), Fenerbahçe SK (TUR)
BRAZIL ROUTS CHINA
Brazil's preparations for being the host team at the 2014 World Cup continued with a friendly against China, and it was about as one-sided as can be.
The Selecao ran rampant on their Chinese opposition, with Neymar's hat trick paving the way for an 8-0 victory. Ramires, Hulk, Lucas Moura and Oscar each scored as well, and China pitched in with an own goal to help Brazil roll to the victory.
The result was a bounce-back one and confident booster for Brazil, which was unconvincing in a 1-0 win over South Africa on Friday.
NEW ZEALAND TOPS OCEANIA QUALIFYING TABLE
The fourth-place finisher in the CONCACAF hexagonal will square off with the winner of the Oceania region in a playoff for a place at the 2014 World Cup, and in the early going of the final qualifying round it looks like a certainty that the Oceania representative in that playoff will be New Zealand.
The Kiwis blew past Solomon Islands, the second-place team in the four-team final qualifying group, 6-1 on Tuesday. Six players scored for New Zealand who have a three-point edge and a +10 goal differential advantage on Solomon Islands through two games. The other two teams in the qualifying group, New Caledonia and Tahiti, both have 0 points and square off on Wednesday.
Happy to see Donovan returning to the field? If he is playing, do you think he should be with the national team even though he's not fully fit? What do you think of UEFA withholding prize money from teams? Will that send a strong enough message? Do you think all of these friendlies against lesser opposition will help Brazil prepare for the 2014 World Cup? Do you see CONCACAF eventually getting four places in the World Cup, or will the Oceania winner (likely New Zealand) provide a test in that playoff round?
Share your thoughts below.