UK’s Pardon the Interruption, with Curly Neal’s British Cousin Co-Hosting, Gives Props to MLS

From the MLS Insider comes this clip of the English version of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, in which the hosts discuss the Premier League returns of Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan—and show a welcome level of respect for Major League Soccer:

We kept waiting for the guy on the right to drop a “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.”

Henry and Arsenal will look to halt a two-game league losing streak this Sunday in a huge game against Manchester United. Keane and Villa travel to Wolves on Saturday, the same day that Everton, Donovan and Tim Howard host Blackburn.

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MLS Exports Ruled the World this Week

With his fairytale goal against Leeds yesterday, Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry capped a tremendous week for Major League Soccer products playing abroad.

Over the weekend, former New England Revolution star and 2004 MLS Rookie of the Year Clint Dempsey scored a hat-trick against Charlton in the FA Cup, and current LA Galaxy attacker Landon Donovan set up a goal and hit the post with a 25-yard rocket during Everton’s 2-0 win over Tamworth in the FA Cup.

There were other players with MLS ties who stood out this week, but before we get to those, here are the highlights, via The FA Cup, of Henry’s triumphant return to Arsenal, the club where he forged his legend—and where they’ve erected a statue in his likeness. He entered the third-round match in the 67th minute with the score 0-0:

On first viewing, Henry appears to be offside, but subsequent replays clearly showed that the defender on the far side, at the top of the screen, kept him onside. Here’s a screen grab for proof:

Definitely onside, and definitely an indelible moment in global soccer, year 2012.

Former Revolution man Dempsey created his own career landmark against Charlton on Saturday, bagging his first hat-trick to power Fulham to a 4-0 win. Highlights below, also courtesy of The FA Cup. Note Costa Rican Bryan Ruiz, who is involved in three of the four goals:

After the game, Fulham coach Martin Jol , speaking to The Sun, had this to say about the kid from Nacogdoches: “He is an American boy so he wants to win every training session. He has the eye of the tiger.”

The MLS-export heroics were not limited to Henry, Donovan, and Dempsey.

Five days earlier, former New York goalkeeper Tim Howard made history by becoming just the fourth goalkeeper (and second Yank, after Brad Friedel) to score in the Premier League when his clearance from the top of his own area got caught in the wind and bounced high over the head of Bolton keeper Adam Bogdan.

In Italy, former MetroStars midfielder Michael Bradley earned raves for his play with Serie A side Chievo. He has nailed down a starting spot, and the team is on track for a solid mid-table finish this season. Bradley has also already mastered enough Italian to conduct his press interviews in the local tongue.

Henry Set for Winter Loan to Arsenal

Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder David Beckham may be undecided about his immediate future, but his fellow designated player Thierry Henry of the New York Red Bulls has confirmed his plans for the next seven weeks: He’ll be going on loan to his former team, Arsenal, until the MLS preseason begins.

Henry will be eligible to play in the Gunners’ Jan 2 game against Fulham and former MLSer Clint Dempsey, and he’ll return to the U.S. on Feb 20 to join the Red Bulls for the opening of their preseason camp in Phoenix.

If it’s good for Landon Donovan, it should also benefit Henry, right? Well, New York fans certainly hope so, but when you consider that Henry is 34 to Donovan’s 29, and the fact that the Frenchman battled a series of niggling injuries in 2011, you could have misgivings.

In any case, it will be something to see the reception the club legend receives on his homecoming, and of course, if he does well on loan, it will reflect positively on MLS and boost the Red Bulls heading into 2012, as they’ll get a fit, in-form (and hopefully not too physically taxed) player upon his return.

For more on this story, click here, and while you’re over there, please check out our piece on the Best three “Fantastic Finishes” of the 2011 MLS season.

Quote of the Day

Guardiola: Not impressed with Wilshere?

From Daily Telegraph football correspondent Henry Winter’s Twitter feed comes this gem, out of the mouth of Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola ahead of his team’s Champions League clash with Arsenal and young midfielder Jack Wilshere, who’s back from injury and available tomorrow:

“He’s an excellent player for Arsenal and England. We have many types of his player in our second team.”

Ouch.

Winter insists it was meant as a compliment, but we say scrap the context, it’s bulletin-board material for the Gunners!*

*Who will lose nonetheless.

When Interpol Has to Deny Investigating Your Game for Gambling Shenanigans, You Know It was a Wild One

That was the case this morning following a French TV station’s report that German authorities had alerted Interpol officials “after spotting suspicious betting patterns” during Saturday’s Arsenal–Newcastle game, which ended 4-4 after Arsenal had taken a 4-0 halftime lead.

They really took the “it was a game of two halves” soccer cliché to extremes in that one at St. James’s Park.

And if the fix was in, well, there was nothing artificial about Cheik Tiote’s incredibly well-taken 87th minute equalizer for the Magpies. (Check it out here if you missed it. Or even if you didn’t.)

Yet as completely crackers as that game was, it had real competition for Battiest Game of the Week in Round 26 of the Premier League.

There were 41 goals in eight games on Saturday. Carlos Tevez hit a hat trick. Luis Saha hit a Texas hat trick*. Wigan beat Blackburn 4-3. Everton outslugged Blackpool 5-3.

And in apt capper for the bizarre day, first-place Manchester United saw its unbeaten streak stopped by … last-place Wolves, which downed the Red Devils 2-1 at the Molineux.

Man U’s loss made Arsenal’s second-half collapse even more painful. Had they been able to hold on to their four-goal advantage, Arsenal would have moved to within two points of the Red Devils at the top of the table.

Sunday also produced an unexpected result: just days after acquiring striker Fernando Torres for a record transfer fee from Liverpool, Chelsea went out and … lost  … to Liverpool, 1-0.

Americans were in the thick of much of the madness, too. Tim Howard was in net for Everton’s eight-goal affair with Blackpool, Jermaine Jones got a yellow card in Blackburn’s gunslinging loss to Wigan, and Clint Dempsey scored the equalizer in Fulham’s back-and-forth 2-2 tie with Aston Villa. The goal was Dempsey’s team leading 10th in all competitions. See it here.

Villa started Dempsey’s fellow American Brad Friedel between the pipes, but did not dress their new signing, U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley, after initial reports that he would make the game-day bench. U.S. defender Eric Lichaj also failed to make the Villa bench.

Stuart Holden started and played 87 minutes in Bolton’s 2-1 loss to Tottenham; Marcus Hahnemann sat the bench in Wolves’ shocker over Man U;  and Jonathan Spector sat out with a hamstring injury as West Ham fell to Birmingham City 1-0.

*That’s four goals. Hat-tip to the Striker Liker.

For a recap of this week’s MLS offseason action, take a look at our column over at the league site and learn how U.S. defender and Green Bay native Jay DeMerit celebrated the Packers’ big win.