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Showing posts with label FULHAM. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FULHAM. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

No flop or flair in Dempsey's loan to Fulham

Photo credit: Fulham FC

Clint Dempsey took Juergen Klinsmann's advice. He used his time off from MLS to go on loan to English Premier League side Fulham. It was a return of a hero. A chance to play and regain confidence after an unconvincing time in Seattle. The loan started with a promise and ended with a quiet goodbye.

Back in 2010 there was another high-profile US National Team loan: Landon Donovan to Everton. He scored, he assisted, he did not disappoint. So what's the difference between these two highly-rated players in their loan to the Premiership?

For one, Dempsey is older now than Donovan was during his loan to Everton during the winter months of 2010. And although that should not be a pretext, it should be considered a factor. Dempsey had an underwhelming campaign with the Sounders where he finished with just one goal when it was assumed they would come in bunches as it had for Fulham and Tottenham.

Landon Donovan was in his prime in 2010 in what became a career year for him in the international stage. He was the savior of the national team on two occasions in the World Cup and continued on  pace to become the highest-scoring player ever to suit up for the American side. So when Everton came knocking he was ready to go, fans bought Donovan Everton jerseys that would last only two months of relevance and he was a force on the pitch as a striker for David Moyes.

Should national team fans be worried about Dempsey? After all, this is their team captain and one whose goals they have learned to count on for many years now. With him and a struggling Altidore we're beginning to wonder just what this team would look like if either of these players fail to make an impact.

But what are the positives for Dempsey? He stayed active. He played in one of the world's top leagues. He remained relevant in Europe, as odd as that may sound. Dempsey thrives on competition. He excels versus talented squads like Chelsea, Manchester United, England or Italy. If anything, this loan likely recharged his batteries for Seattle during a season in which they desperately need to win a trophy.

So Klinsmann has at least had his captain playing at the highest level during the MLS offseason. It was no flop with Fulham, the team is in a tailspin right now and threatened with relegation. There was no flair either, however. We'll see just how good Dempsey looks with the American squad versus the Ukraine today.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dempsey is United's Boogeyman

Photo credit: AP
It's been half a season for Clint Dempsey in the Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur and it is deja vu all over again. Early in the campaign, the recently-signed American scored a game-wining goal for the Spurs versus Manchester United to give the White Hart Lane team its first victory over United in 23 years. Today, on a snowy evening, he did it again. "Deuce" scored in the 93rd minute to give his team a 1-1 scoreline and prevent the Manchester club from obtaining another impressive win.

It is now twice in one season that Manchester United has seen points erased by Mr. Dempsey and you can be sure this will not be forgiven or forgotten. That's a total of 5 points deducted from United this season courtesy of the American and he's showing no signs of stopping at 5 goals and 7 in all competitions. Little things like always scoring against the biggest teams tend to snowball into greater effects. Perhaps this is to be a trend for Dempsey? For now let's just say that the top English teams have categorized him as a major threat and Manchester United will look to double up on him from here on.

Much has been said recently about the former New England Revolution and Fulham FC player: he's better than Landon Donovan, he's the best United States player, he chose his team well. While the Donovan argument is just that, an argument, he is undoubtedly the best American player in the world at the moment, and yes, Tottenham was the right destination for him.

Aside from his exploits at the club level, Dempsey must now step into different shoes with the national team: he must be the one to carry the team into World Cup 2014, just as Donovan did for 2010. His partnership with Altidore must blossom in order to get the most out of  what is potentially a high-scoring American attack. While Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones have significant knowledge of the game, their position is more withdrawn and their attacking communication with Dempsey is thus limited. Due to this, and in the absence of Donovan, players like Mixx Diskerud, Joe Corona, Graham Zusi, Brek Shea and Danny Williams will need to step up their game if they are to deliver the passes to Dempsey.

For now let's enjoy what the Texas native and Furman University product has to offer. Clint Dempsey is pure class and pure fantasy:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

American Stoke City

Photo credit: Getty Images
Once there was a club named Fulham FC of the Barclay's Premier League in England where many Americans got their first taste of European soccer, some to reach new heights (Clint Dempsey) and others to rethink their path (Eddie Johnson). It was clear to the team that American soccer players were a valuable asset and it helped them stay afloat in the always-competitive Premiership.

Where Carlos Bocanegra and Brian McBride broke ground, Kasey Keller guarded the doors and suddenly other teams went looking for gold across the Atlantic. In came Tim Ream, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and even Landon Donovan. All except for Ream left too soon, but their legacy remained.

So when Stoke City agreed to terms with up-and-coming Geoff Cameron of MLS' Houston Dynamo, a new pathway open for American players. Cameron settled quickly, closed gaps and made Stoke a better team. Maurice Edu joined before the close of the transfer window but the defensive midfielder did not impress enough, possibly due to his diminished form after Glasgow Rangers folded (he is now on loan to Turkey's Bursaspor). And yet, the Stoke City management decided to roll the dice on American talent one more time: Brek Shea.

I was as surprised as many other fans, no doubt, that the FC Dallas winger could be on his way to the Premier League. He had a lackluster 2012, but so did Tim Ream in 2011 when he signed with Bolton during the January transfer window of 2012. He's a young lad at only 22 and if injuries are overcome and he is patient and disciplined, his skill and speed can become quite an asset. Two goals against Mexico during the USA's term with Klinsmann have been generated through his play and he was a go-to winger in the absence of Landon Donovan.

Are we likely to see any more Americans make the jump to Stoke? Probably not, but the team's commitment to the developing game in the United States cannot be understated. This is why Dempsey joined (and thrives in) Tottenham, and it is why Michael Bradley now plays for Roma. Expect bigger things from our compatriots abroad. Stoke isn't the beginning, that goes to Fulham. Instead, the Trotters are an assertion that American soccer players have joined the elite and are here to stay.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

American Breakthrough: Dempsey scores for Spurs

Photo credit: Action Images

Some dreams are worth dreaming. Some scores are bigger when the game ends. Some players are just special. That was US international Clint Dempsey today for his new team, Tottenham Hotspur. Dempsey scored the game-winner against Manchester United at the famed Old Trafford and re-wrote the role of Americans in premier club soccer.

Clint Dempsey's goal was special for several reasons. Besides the obvious significance of the rival, the very fact that the game was at Old Trafford and one that the Spurs had not won since 1989 elevates Dempsey's goal. Additionally, it brings Tottenham up to 5th place after a 3-game winning streak. It is a credit to Villas-Boas for acquiring the US international and starting him in important matches.

Dempsey has a knack for scoring important, if we may say, scavenger goals. He seems to always be at the right place at the right time and has the presence of mind to adjust the speed and strength of his shots in order to break the goal line. This is what has made him such a threat during his career. Dempsey took his time and remained focused during a transfer season that he saw as his last chance to play for a major team in Europe. An 11th hour move to Tottenham was what he deserved, and after starting 3 matches, he found the back of the net in style.

This is an American breakthrough because of who Clint Dempsey plays for, for his abilities on the pitch, and the path behind him. He elevates other Americans abroad playing for important teams like Michael Bradley (Roma) and Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar) and sets up higher expectations for future United States talent. Dempsey has given us his share of important goals, from recent games in World Cup qualifying, to his goals for New England and Fulham, to unforgettable strikes versus Egypt and Spain at the Confederations Cup 2009, versus England at World Cup 2010, and the winner versus Italy on Italian soil earlier this year. He has added to his repertoire today by scoring for his latest, and most impressive club in the best soccer league in the world. Dempsey is pure American magic and we haven't seen all he can do yet.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Buy American: from Dempsey to Edu

Photo credit: @SpursOfficial
The most highly-regarded American international--Clint Dempsey--finally made a move out of mid-table Fulham FC of the Premier League to Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League during the closing minutes of transfer deadline in Europe. This after 5 stellar years with the London outfit and scoring 23 goals in all competitions during the 2011-2012 season. And even though his move was deserved, and that he flirted with teams like Liverpool and Arsenal, a more impressive effect has occurred: top European teams are buying American.

It's true that this has happened before with the likes of Jozy Altidore making a move to Villarreal and Onyewu to AC Milan, but the back-top-back transfers of Bradley and Dempsey should have American fans excited. Now comes word that Maurice Edu, a top competitor and long-time player for the ill-fated Glasgow Rangers, is joining forces with Geoff Cameron at Stoke City. A new American Premier League team is born. If you were to start both at center back then you'd have the tandem that came away with a shutout at Estadio Azteca in the US' first ever win over Mexico on Mexican soil. Great selling point, right?

Dempsey and Edu weren't alone today and in the recent weeks. Up-and-coming Terrence Boyd, a player with no professional experience prior to his recent games with the US U-23 and full national team, signed with legendary Austrian team Rapid Vienna and became a starting striker that already has 4 goals in all competitions. Add to this Alejandro Bedoya's move to Helsingborg, Mixx Diskerud's loan to Rosenborg, both whom have scored key goals already, as well as Onyewu to Malaga of the Spanish Primera, and we suddenly see that buying American is getting quite fruitful for teams in Europe.

It remains to be seen, of course, how some of these moves will pan out. Bradley, aside from a recent injury, slid right into a starting role for Roma and has made a difference so far. So has Cameron. If Dempsey can crack the starting 11 for Spurs and if he can score consistently, then American soccer will finally have taking that extra step to become a provider of top talent for the world's most beautiful sport. And World Cup 2014 is right around the corner.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Clint Dempsey: Hat trick hero

A month ago I wrote about the "Donovan vs Dempsey" competition. Who is the better player? Well, I think there are waves of talent in life when you are struggling, and others in which you are anything but. Now Dempsey is truly the king of US Men's soccer as Donovan hands over the baton in amicable manner.

And how does Dempsey do this? Well, as a midfielder, one usually doesn't score as many goals as forwards. As a midfielder/forward this becomes more possible. For the second time this month, Clint has scored a hat trick. His first was in FA Cup action. His second came in the Premier League today against 5th place Newcastle United, winning the game for the Cottagers 5-2. It is the first hat trick for an American in the Premier League. Dempsey continues to write history.

Enjoy the goals:

<a href='http://foxsports.com?vid=b3d31c83-2e5b-4e25-bd59-6e55aefe496b&mkt=en-us&from=sp^foxsports_en-us_videocentral&src=FLPl:embed::uuids' target='_new' title='Clint Dempsey is sensational' >Video: Clint Dempsey is sensational</a>

Monday, January 2, 2012

Eddie Johnson's Uncertain Future

Photo credit: USA Today

There was once a time when the name "Eddie Johnson" signified the future of American soccer. Today, after 8 months of inactivity due to injury and being out of contract, his time as a potential player for Puebla FC of Mexico's Primera came to an abrupt halt. Lack of fitness and pace doomed his entry to the team and Puebla refused to sign him. This after shunning an MLS return during the summer transfer window.

As a youngster with the U-20 USA team, Johnson scored 23 times in 25 games during 2000-2001. He soon caught the eye of Bruce Arena, then manager of the US national team. Johnson scored 7 goals for Team USA during the World Cup 2006 Qualifiers and cemented his spot as a forward in Germany 2006. He would make two appearances at that tournament and also helped the US win the Concacaf Gold Cup of 2007.

His playing career started with FC Dallas of MLS in 2001 where he was an outstanding attacker amassing 24 goals in 84 games. He transferred to Kansas City in 2006 and scored 17 goals for the team before a blockbuster transfer to Fulham FC of the English Premier League. This was the team of Kasey Keller, Carlos Bocanegra and Clint Dempsey. A Team America in the Premier League? So it seemed until Bocanegra and Keller exited and when Johnson failed to impress.

Johnson was loaned out to Cardiff City for the 2008-2009 season and played 30 games, scoring twice. He became a journeyman, a-la-Adu, when he transferred to Aris Salonika of the Greek League. He scored on 5 occasions for the Greek team but his contract was not extended. Another loan to Preston North End and brief, goal-less times with Fulham concluded in a termination of his contract with his parent club at the close of the 2010/2011 season.

Eddie Johnon had all summer of 2011 to search for a new home in Europe. It did not materialize. It could have been a return to his homeland with MLS but he pulled out of an agreement late in August and thus remained in limbo during the closing months of 2011. No one heard of him until a possible deal with Puebla surfaced earlier in December 2011. Would this be a new beginning for Johnson? A revival like DaMarcus Beasley has been able to attain with the same team? No. And for all the wrong reasons.

Johnson is in danger of becoming a cautionary tale in US Soccer. He is now in a worse position than Freddy Adu was. Adu remained confident and humble at the same time. He was unafraid to rejoin the MLS ranks. Johnson had been in personal decline since his time at Aris ended in 2010. Never recovering both mentally and physically from journeying through Europe at a time when worldwide competition and expectations surpass most player's attributes.

It is sad to see this once-promising young talent slowly fading from view. His decline came as a whimper, not a crash. He will now need to revive his career by joining a team in the lower leagues of US Soccer, perhaps at the NASL or even the USL. Blatant, shocking, to some, were his views about MLS. The league is likely not to pick up on his services while he reconditions himself.

There is a certain mentality to playing abroad and the right conditions at the right team to continue player development. Altidore had to learn this the hard way but his age and international play served him enough to earn a contract with AZ Alkmaar, where he has flourished this past season. Dempsey never went to a bigger club and is happy making history at Fulham. Even Donovan found it hard to play abroad when he tried in Germany. It wasn't until he was mentally ready that a stint with Everton in 2010 brought light that yes, he can cut it abroad. Not all contracts in bigger leagues mean player growth. Sometimes it's just as good to remain home, cement your place with the national team and enjoy playing with the stars at the FIFA World Cup. Just ask Donovan, Ricardo Clark or Sacha Kljestan.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dempsey vs Donovan

Photo credit: FIFA

There are two aces in American soccer at the moment: Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan. Both are at the pinnacle of their careers. Both have great goal-scoring track records, both in quantity and on momentous occasions. So can we really say one is better than the other? Yes and no.

Yes, Landon Donovan has far more international goals than Clint Dempsey. He is the leading all-time scorer for the US national team with 46 goals. He has also scored in two separate World Cups (2002 and 2010), amassing a 5-goal total in 3 cups.

Donovan has also been stellar with MLS sides San Jose Earthquakes (2 titles) and LA Galaxy (2 titles). His forays abroad, however, did not work out as many in the American soccer media had hoped. His time with Bayern Leverkusen of the German Bundesliga was limited and he showed very little with Bayern Munich during a loan spell in 2009.

By contrast, Clint Dempsey has been successful abroad with 39 goals for English Premier League side Fulham since he joined in 2007. This is the highest total goals scored by any American in the Premier League. He surpassed Brian McBride earlier this month. Dempsey was also instrumental for the New England Revolution, helping it reach the MLS Cup final twice.

Dempsey has had an important influence with the US national team. He has scored 24 goals and helped the US with several key moments including the third goal in the American's win versus Egypt at the 2009 Confederations Cup that sealed the team's improbable run to the semifinal. At the semifinal itself Dempsey scored the insurance goal in the 2-0 win versus reigning European Champions Spain. Another magical moment was the long-range shot that Rob Green fumbled into goal in the opening group match that pitted the United States versus England. This proved instrumental since the tie versus the English side would eventually lead to the Americans winning the group.

Recently, storied American goalkeeper Brad Friedel commented about the Donovan vs Dempsey comparison and argued that Dempsey was a better player because of his success abroad. To his credit, there is a point to be made here: Dempsey has stayed in Europe and has been successful. Donovan, on the other hand, has only managed loans abroad after his failed stint as a youngster with Bayern Leverkusen.

But wait a second. What about Donovan's loan to Everton in 2010? It was a major success, as the American provided important assists and scored two goals in only 10 games. He is now headed back there for another two months during a short loan from parent club LA Galaxy. A permanent move is all but ruled out due to Landon's considerable asking price, but David Moyes has asserted that he would try to enable a move if the American ace were to inquire about a permanent transfer.

So, to Friedel's credited apology, there is much to be seen still in this friendly competition between our two midfielder/forwards. Donovan is at a point in his career where going abroad is no longer necessary to "prove himself." He is already an American soccer superstar and one of the only few names synonymous with the sport in this country, mainly thanks to his clutch goal versus Algeria in last year's World Cup. Donovan is in a good place with MLS and can remain competitive for years to come without needing to step into other leagues to be considered for the national team. Dempsey, on the other hand, is quite content abroad and his life and game has profited from it.

Is it really fair to compare our more important soccer stars? Not really. Both have taken different paths to stardom. Both are versatile attacking players that can change the fate of a game at any given moment. Dempsey and Donovan can both slide into the forward position if required by their teams and both are extremely creative players. So let's step back and enjoy them for what they are: our American Soccer Superstars.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The American Glasgow Rangers

Photo credit: US Soccer

The Scottish Premier League team Glasgow rangers added two Americans during the summer transfer window: Alejandro Bedoya (Orebro) and Carlos Bocanegra (St Etienne). Rangers already has one American international: Maurice Edu. The Ibrox team has been the home of DaMarcus Beasley and Claudio Reyna in the past.

So what has caused this influx of American talent to the Scottish champions? A recent article indicates that the Rangers front office is seeking to broaden American appeal for the squad. Whether this will work remains to be seen. However, those of us following Americans abroad always have an eye on what's happening with the team. Adding Captain America Carlos Bocanegra could mean more interest in soccer media to air matches involving this squad.

There are some interesting undercurrents within the context of Rangers moves. For one, this team has shown a commitment to developing US players in a way that few other club teams in Europe have. Fulham, for example, is another squad that has hosted Americans (Keller, McBride, Bocanegra, Eddie Johnson, Clint Dempsey). This means recognition that there is significant quality in this country, enough to build a squad around. Let's not forget that many teams in Europe have Brazilian and Argentinean spines. Comparing Americans to those countries isn't necessarily fair, but it's becoming clear that our national team players are viable candidates.

The three Americans currently fielding for Rangers occupy different positions on the pitch: defensive midfielder (Edu), attacking midfielder/winger (Bedoya). and central/left back (Bocanegra). This is a testament to the continuing solidification of the defense and, especially, the midfield in this country. Players like Bradley, Donovan, Dempsey, Holden, Jermaine Jones and Edu are notable not just in this country but abroad as well. And even though Maurice Edu may be on his way out of Rangers, having two regular starters in a major European team speaks volumes for the evolution of the American soccer player. Mexican squads have also taken up this cause and have added Herculez Gomez, Jose Francisco Torres, DaMarcus Beasley and Jonathan Bornstein to their teams.

As the summer window closes, players like Edu, Bradley and Jones may move to more traditionally powerful teams. Bradley is reportedly attracting interest from Napoli (in Champions League) and Roma (eternal contender). Clint Dempsey might make a move at any point. His presence in the Premier League is solid already. As for Rangers, their outreach goes a step beyond the Scandinavian attraction towards US soccer players. The Ibrox team has significant pedigree and is looking more American every year. As our young players grow up and become stars, more and more European teams are paying attention to the widening pool of talent in this country.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Americanizing the Premier League

We must admit it. The English Premier League looks more and more Americanized every transfer window and at every position on the pitch. There are honorable mentions in the past decade like Carlos Bocanegra (defender, Fulham), Landon Donovan (forward, Everton), Brian McBride (forward, Fulham), Bobby Convey (midfielder, Reading), Jozy Altidore (forward, Hull City), DeMerrit (defender, Watford).

Today, however, the attacking front of the US national team is nearly-exclusively made up of EPL-based players: Clint Dempsey (Fulham, midfielder/forward), Michael Bradley (Aston Villa, defensive midfielder), Jermaine Jones (Blackburn Rovers, defensive midfielder), Stuart Holden (Bolton Wanderers, attacking midfielder). Not to mention three top goalkeepers: Brad Friedel (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolves).

For now at least, we can mention Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa, defender) in the EPL group. But what does this all mean? To start, quality. This is the best league in the world and our best players make their trade there. And they don't just sit on the bench, they play and they score. Dempsey is #9 in goals scored in the league with 9 goals. Holden has two this season and was voted for the "best 11" in the first half of the tournament. Jones, recently acquired by Rovers, was an instant starter and has made quite an impression. Bradley steps into a loaded Aston Villa but full of potential and with an impressive repertoire (constant starter, goals for Moenchengladbach, Herenveen, and at the Confederations Cup and World Cup).

We must also credit the MLS for the current stock of players in the EPL. Howard (New York), Dempsey (New England) and Holden (Houston) are great examples of this link. Previously, Donovan (LA Galaxy) and Altidore (New York) also ascended through the MLS system to reach Europe.

It is true, then, that the EPL is becoming more Americanized, and not just with bench-warmers. These are top players that showed their stock at the World Cup (not to mention that they tied England thanks to Clint Dempsey). The American system is clearly working well in the midfield, enough so that the best league in the world is constantly importing their talent. It also acts as an analysis point in terms of strikers and defenders. We aren't quite there yet. But when someone like Dempsey scores repeatedly it is hard to imagine that we don't have our own "Chicharito." We do. He's a bit older, a bit wiser, and plays for a team that allows him to be on the pitch for every match.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Premier Revolution: Shaking up the EPL

Manchester United may be on top and Arsenal close behind, but there is no denying that this season is a sign of revolution in the world's top league. If Liverpool's fall from grace last season and their inability to rise from the mid-table isn't enough then this season we have Chelsea with one win in 9 games. Throw in Aston Villa in the drop zone and the inevitable rise of Manchester City and we have a brand new revolution.

Something similar happened in the German Bundesliga a couple of years ago when Wolfsburg won the league and Bayern Munich struggled to reach Champions League position. Italy, (except for Juventus' recent problems) France and Spain haven't changed much, although prior to Rijkaard and Ronaldinho's departure Villarreal was able to reach second place ahead of Barcelona. This is also commonplace elsewhere around the planet: Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, USA often see significant changes from season to season due to the more competitive nature of the leagues and where corruption can sometimes hinder a team's progress.

But back to the EPL... What's going on? Aside from the significant capital that Man City has to work with and their impressive coach (Mancini), it's hard to argue against the likes of Balotelli, Carlos Tevez, Adebayor as your attacking front. Tottenham Hotspur is another impressive squad that has shoved its way through by sheer grit and dedication from players and coaching staff. It is a more blue collar team, relatively speaking, than City, Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea, but still boasts players like Van Der Vaart, Peter Crouch, Ledley King, William Gallas. Their skipping over Manchester City and Liverpool allowed them a place in this season's Champions League.

And what's going on with Chelsea? They are the reigning champs with Carlo Ancelotti as their coach and a mostly unchanged starting lineup... and maybe that's where the fault lies. Where Manchester United has rotated its squad and have given way to players like Javier Hernandez , Nani and Antonio Valencia, Chelsea still remains with Anelka, Drogba, Lampard, Cole, Terry, Malouda as their spine with seemingly little in the way of rotation.

But the current state of the league does not stop with the scrambling of the top four--it reverberates all the way to the bottom of the table. Previously dominant mid-to-top table teams like Everton, Fulham and Aston Villa have found themselves digging out of relegation week in and week out. Dempsey and Tim Howard won't always be around to rescue their teams. Other squads like West Ham, Wolverhampton and Wigan continue to give way to the recently-promoted squads.

So what is the diagnosis? Stagnation and bad management for teams like Chelsea and Liverpool. The ascent of quality clubs by way of sheer capital (Manchester City) or superb organization (Spurs). For the rest it is more about how the smaller teams have been able to close the gap and how previously-dominant mid-table squads have become stale and less inventive. Or is it just a matter of increased competitiveness and player talent? Either way, the spectacle is the ultimate winner. No longer do we have to wait for club competition to see a good match between teams like Blackpool and Chelsea. Now, in this season, the competition carries all the way to the core of the league. It's less boring, more dramatic and just plain fun.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Deuce is lose: Clint Dempsey , Fulham, USA

And he's back! Clinton "Deuce" Dempsey has returned to the club form his fans have loved him for here and in the UK. After spending the last three months without scoring for Fulham in the Premier League and lukewarm games with the national team, Dempsey has scored in three consecutive league games. It couldn't come sooner for a Craven Cottage team in dire need of results to escape the relegation zone.

As far as the US national team, Dempsey is always spotty at best in terms of midfield play, but always a wild card in any given match. His greatest moments happen when you least expect it, when you've given up on him, when no one else in the team can do it. Examples abound: from his incredible header against Egypt in the Confederations Cup to seal the US's passage into semifinals, to his opportunistic goal against Spain to dethrone the number one team in the world, to another brilliant strike against Brazil in the final, and to his game-tying header versus El Salvador in the qualifiers.

What do we make of him? Is it just that he plays better at Fulham than the US? Is it that Bradley Sr is not exploiting his style? In Fulham he tends to drift much farther upfield into a withdrawn forward position. He is nearly always in good position to shoot or pass. With the US, he is pulled farther back, where his talents aren't as exploitable and he looks lost or out-of-touch during the match. It's a game-changing option for Bradley, however, because he can drift Dempsey into an attacker position and redraw his offense. The question is, do we put him there to start the game? Do we keep it as an option only? Can anyone else step up in the midfield role?

An answer might be Holden in the midfield and Dempsey up front with Altidore. A three-pronged attack could have Donovan slide forward as well in a 4-3-3 formation. The question there is who you would put in the midfield and against what team this formation could work. Similar tries with a more limited squad failed in Costa Rica. If Feilhaber can step up his game, and Holden, Torres, and Bradley Jr can continue their form, then this may be an option against a lower-seed team in South Africa. The addition of Jermaine Jones and Edu's imminent return could also shake things up a bit. Don't discount Beasley yet; the man is making it known he still has it with back-to-back appearances for Rangers.

Right now, Dempsey is a key for the US attack thanks to his superb vision and positioning. He and Donovan mark the difference. In Fulham, Dempsey is another ace up Roy Hodgson's sleeve. He is a workman in the Cottager offense. A mainstay for the team. And a great goalscorer.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dempsey's Redemption

He's back. Sort of. After months on the Fulham bench, [Furman's own] Clint Dempsey has won his place back in the starting lineup. He has scored 4 goals this season. Not bad for an attacking midfielder/forward in the EPL. Dempsey steadily made his way back to the starting lineup amidst an interesting season for Fulham, already in the top 10, and slowly and inexorably making its way out of the relegation ghost that looms in the background for at least 14 teams in the EPL every season (big 4 don't count and Everton and Aston Villa). Why all the fuss? Well, as can be seen from places like SBI and Goal.com, a lot of die-hard American soccer fans care about their wonderboy (myself included). Sure, he's not Altidore in a flashy team like Villareal or Edu and Beasley at Rangers. Dempsey is a lot more like what Americans should be in Europe. He, along with Michael Bradley, Onyewu, Bocanegra, Cherundolo are in mid-table teams without the big stars and where players with true talent can shine. I'm not saying our boys don't belong with the big fellas but we have to realize that the American market is nowhere near as deep as Argentina and Brazil's. I bet that most teams in the world have at least one or two of these nationalities (that's another blog entry). Back to the point... Mid-table teams like Fulham can also be very visible windows for our players so that the big teams can realize their potential without shelving them except for one or two games per season. Dempsey's last two goals came against mighty Chelsea to tie it up 2-2.
I know there's a lot of room for discussion but to me Dempsey is, at the moment, the most complete player in the national team pool. He can attack, dribble, pass, defend, and celebrate. His touches are nothing short of brilliant these days. Best part is we have him for at least two more World Cup rounds. I caught a glimpse of him this October when the US beat Cuba 6-1 in a qualifier and I immediately noticed his pace, awareness, and workmanship. I wish he had scored on that day but I bet I'll get to see it sometime in the future.
Dempsey hails from Nocogdoches, Texas close to my home state of Louisiana. After playing for Furman from 2001-2003 (17 goals in 61 games) he went 8th overall in the MLS draft of 2004, picked by the New England Revolution (11 goals in 62 games). In 2007, Dempsey moved to England to play for Fulham FC of the Barclay's Premier League. Back then Brian McBride and Bocanegra still played for the Cottagers. His only score in his initial season with Fulham came against Liverpool in May of the same year, earning the club 3 points and saved from relegation. The 07-08 season saw Dempsey score 6 goals and was the club's second leading scorer. This season he already has 4 goals in 15 games (not all starting). Internationally, he has scored for the US on 13 occasions, once at WorldCup 2006 against Ghana and last scored in September of this year at Chicago in a game against Trinidad and Tobago.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Premier Relegation

Fulham wins today. The all-American Premier League team is close to safety from relegation. Much has been said about this Premier League side and its American contingent. Whilst Clint Dempsey made a name for himself with 7 goals early this season and Brian McBride started scoring for him lately, winning crucial games for them in the process, other players such as MLS standout Eddie Johnson and US national team captain Carlos Bocanegra have been relegated to the bench and sometimes to the team reserves. How does this play out for the US national team? True, Bocanegra was still on the bench for all the recent Fulham games and this may, as some commentators have suggested, count as a strategic move by the Craven Cottage Coach. He just recently scored in a shocker win against Poland in Polish territory so I hope he can get back on track at the club level soon or his time as national team member/captain could be compromised. There has been serious speculation about EJ's recent performance both club-wise and in the national team. Some, like Ives Galarcep are worried that he could turn out to be another Clint Mathis and whither out of the picture. I hope not. EJ has good treatment of the ball and I think that with Fulham he showed pretty good skill but was somehow afraid to take more chances. As for Dempsey's future... he should have no problem finding a Premier League job if Fulham does indeed get relegated. McBride on the other hand should consider going back to the Crew, where a blue-collar fanbase is ready to refill the stands if they have their hero back.
Another side that could go down into the Coca-Cola Championship is Reading. I've seen them play and they are certainly lacking in the final touch and their defense is anything but stellar at the moment. It's too bad, because one of their players is once Ecuador great Ulises de la Cruz. He is getting old, however, so I can see why he's on the bench. Bobby Convey certainly hasn't looked anywhere near as good as when he played in the US. Recent national team play has also shown this downward trend in his play. As for the goalkeepers, Kelsey and Hahnemann might be headed to the MLS. Indeed, Hahnemann has stated more than once that he'd like to be in the expansion Seattle team next season. That would be great for the league and for them as well.
As for Derby County. Hopeless. I feel for their fans. Sometimes teams are just bad and need restructuring. Benny Feilhaber should try to find work elsewhere. He was seldom used in this team and has a bright future if we count his various appearances with the national team.