U.S. vs Guatemala: Field-Level Highlights

These clips always provide an interesting perspective, and in this case, they actually shed new light on the game: As friend of BP Prison Mike pointed out, you can see that Clint Dempsey wasn’t just being safe when he punched in Michael Bradley’s chip for the third goal. The ball was probably heading wide; Deuce made sure it found the back of the net.

Check it out (third replay of the goal shows it best):

A couple of other thoughts:

• Steve Cherundolo’s ball that sprung Eddie Johnson for the second goal looks even better from this angle than it did on the TV broadcast, and that’s saying something.

• The U.S. really should have added a couple more goals. EJ had a good chance or two, and Herculez Gomez bothched two opportunities.

• You can see that after the third goal Dempsey tells Bradley that it was his goal, to which the midfielder replies, if our lip-reading skills are on point, “No way. That was your f****** goal.” He’s got a point, too, and not just because the ball may have been going wide. Dempsey has a great habit of crashing the goal when shots are taken. That instinct got him a lot of goals at Fulham, and it got him that one. While not one but two Guatemalan defenders stood and watched, he charged in and finished the play.

Clint Dempsey Out for Fulham Finale

U.S. attacker and badass Texan Clint Dempsey suffered a groin injury and will miss Fulham’s final Premier League match of the 2011-12 season Sunday at Tottenham.

The Nacogdoches, Texas, native finishes the season with 23 goals across all competitions and 17 in the Premier League, numbers that add up to the best European season ever for an American outfield player.

His most recent goal, a sizzling free kick against Sunderland last weekend, lifted his career total in the Prem to 50—tops for a U.S. player.

Now the 2004 MLS Rookie of the Year will relax, reflect on a terrific season, and rehab the groin strain—in time, hopefully, for the United States’ first 2014 World Cup qualifier in one month’s time.

The Shortlist for the Premier League’s Player of the Year Is Missing One Name

The Professional Footballer’s Association released a six-name list of candidates for it annual player of the year award today, and it looks like this:

Robin van Persie, Arsenal

Joe Hart, Manchester City

Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

David Silva, Manchester City

Wayne Rooney, Manchester United

Scott Parker, Tottenham Hotspur

Van Persie, Rooney, and Aguero, okay, fine, but in what universe did Parker and Silva have better years than Fulham’s Clint Dempsey? (Or Newcastle’s Demba Ba, for that matter.)

Tim Ream Will Square Off Against Clint Dempsey Tomorrow

Since his arrival from MLS’s New York Red Bulls in late January, U.S. defender Tim Ream has quietly and quickly played his way into the starting lineup at Bolton, helping the club climb out of the relegation zone.

He’s played against both Chelsea and Manchester City in the past three months, as Wanderers have inched from 19th to 16th in the Premier League. But they’re still just one point above the drop, and that makes every game of the stretch run crucial—including this week’s match against visiting Fulham.

For Ream, the encounter has the added wrinkle of being the first time he’ll face fellow U.S. national teamer Clint Dempsey in a competitive game.

Dempsey is in the midst of arguably the greatest season ever by an American outfield player, with 13 Premier League goals and 19 across all competitions. (He also had one goal dubiously disallowed for rebounding in off the goalkeeper.)

Ream recently spoke to U.S. Soccer about tomorrow’s match, the adjustments he’s had to make to compete in the Premier League, and Fabrice Muamba. Below are some highlights. Click here for the entire interview.

On the primary differences between the Premier League and MLS:

“There are a couple. The biggest one is the talent all over the field at every position, no matter who you play. Obviously there are talented guys in MLS, but you don’t have the talent at every single position like you do here. You play the Man Citys and the Chelseas, they have a quality international player at every spot. That’s definitely a big difference. And then the speed of play. It’s different, but it’s not as crazy of a difference as most people would think. Physically, I’ve had to step that up another notch and continue to improve upon that because that’s what got me last year was not being physical enough. That’s something that I’ve learned and something that I continue to have to work on.”

On what it would mean for Ream and Bolton to shut down Dempsey tomorrow:

“It’s something that I’ve definitely thought about the last couple days. It’s not just going to be me. It’s going to take a real team effort to shut him down and to shut their team down. I’ll get a lot of pointers, even though I’ve played with him multiple times. The guys that play around me have played against him more and I think you learn more from playing against him and knowing what he does in the run of play than you do playing with him…. So I think it will be a big sense of pride if we can shut him down and shut the team down and come away with three points.”

On settling in so quickly with Bolton:

“Yeah [I feel good about it]. It’s hard for a player when you’re used to playing every game and then you come to a team and you don’t play. I’ve been very fortunate that in my time in New York I was able to step right in. Now coming here, I feel really good about my play and I feel great that I’ve been able to step in and contribute to the team and help us get out of relegation at the moment. I’m definitely happy, and a little bit surprised. But at the same time I know what I’m capable of, and I knew coming in here that I’d be able to help the team out and step in and help win games.”

Fox Soccer has the Bolton–Fulham match on tape-delay at 5:00 pm ET tomorrow.

Yanks Abroad Kick Ass, Take Names

It was a banner weekend for Americans abroad, with—who else?—Clint Dempsey leading the way. The U.S. attacker scored for Fulham just two minutes into their game against Norwich, then turned provider 10 minutes later, sending Damien Duff in with a perfectly weighted through ball.

Dempsey also hit the post just before halftime, and Fulham held on after the break for a 2-1 win against the Canaries. Click here for the highlights.

Dempsey now has 13 goals in the Premier League—tied for sixth among the top goal-scorers—and 19 in all competitions, a total topped only by Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.

Handed his first Premier League start in more than a year, 23-year-old American Eric Lichaj matched Dempsey’s production from his wingback spot for Aston Villa. The Illinois native notched an assist with a long throw-in in the 77th minute, then scored himself three minutes later to lead a comeback for the Villans against Champions League contenders Chelsea. Lichaj’s outburst helped tie the game at 2, but Chelsea answered with two goals in the final 10 minutes to win 4-2.

At the Molineux, former Red Bulls centerback Tim Ream started and went the full 90 as Bolton defeated Wolves 3-2 in a pivotal match between the relegation-threatened sides. Bolton edged one point clear of the drop zone with the win, while Wolves fell six points south of safety with seven games to play.

U.S. keepers Brad Friedel and Tim Howard both backstopped their teams to victories, as Tottenham beat Swansea 3-1 and Everton blanked WBA 2-0.

In the Netherlands, U.S. striker Jozy Altidore buried his 15th goal of the year in all competitions, heading in the opener in AZ Alkmaar’s 2-2 tie with Vitesse Arnhem. The draw left Altidore and Alkmaar in second place in the Dutch Eredivisie, one point behind Ajax. They’re also in the Europa League quarterfinals, where they lead Valencia 2-1 after the first leg.

See Altidore’s goal here:

In Mexico, American winger DaMarcus Beasley set up the only goal of the game in Puebla’s 1-0 win over Queretaro.

In Serie A, U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley started and played 90 minutes in Chievo’s 2-1 win over Fiorentina on Sunday.

Clint Dempsey Turns 29 Today

The U.S. attacker is in the midst of the greatest season ever by an American outfield player, with 12 goals in the Premier League and 18 over all.

Here’s a 2011-12 Dempsey highlight reel, courtesy of 723Football Media. Happy Birthday Clint:

Fulham just offered Dempsey a new contract, hoping to keep the Texan at the West London club, and beat any bigger sides—who are bound to come calling—to the punch.

The Cottagers would love to see Dempsey partner with newly signed striker Pavel Pogrebnyak for a few more years. The 28-year-old Russian is on a scoring streak of his own, with five goals in three games for Fulham.

Dempsey has 17 months left on his current deal.

U.S. 1, Italy 0: Dempsey Delivers Historic Win

The United States defeated Italy 1-0 in Genoa yesterday, locking down their first win in 11 tries (and 82 years) against the Azzurri, and handing the hosts their first loss since 1924 at the Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris.

The game’s only goal came in the 55th minute, from the right foot of Clint Dempsey, who is in the midst of the best year of his career and one of the best years by an American player, ever. Dempsey has 16 goals in all competitions for Fulham this season, more than any other player in the Premier League except Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, and Sergio Aguero.

Highlights here:

The Americans produced their strongest performance of the 10-game Jurgen Klinsmann era, and though Italy had more of the ball, and seriously threatened late in the match, the U.S. victory was well deserved.

Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Tim Howard, and Fabian Johnson all had standout games. Bradley made a convincing case to be at the top of the center-midfield depth chart, and Johnson, who was solid on both sides of the ball all night (and played the pass to Jozy Altidore that led to the goal), may be the solution to the U.S.’s decades-old left-back problem.

Dempsey’s match-winning strike was his 25th goal for the U.S. national team (fourth-most all-time, leapfrogging JoeMax Moore) and reinforced his knack for scoring big goals.

In addition to scoring an equalizer in the 2006 World Cup against Ghana, Dempsey headed home the crucial third goal against Egypt that advanced the U.S. out of group play in the 2009 Confederations Cup, bagged the insurance goal in the historic 2-0 win over Spain in the semifinals of that competition, and scored the opener against Brazil in the final.

At the 2010 World Cup, Dempsey got the tying goal against England (with some help from Robert Green), and had a goal controversially disallowed against Algeria before being involved in Landon Donovan’s iconic late winner in that one. He also scored five goals in 13 World Cup qualifiers that season.

Yes, Dempsey is a big-time player, and last night he delivered a milestone win. It was the fourth straight victory for the Americans, who are now 5-4-1 under Klinsmann. (And Donovan and Dempsey have yet to suit up together under the new boss.)

They’re off now until late spring, when they’ll take on Scotland (May 26, 8:00 pm ET, NBCSN) and Brazil (May 30, 8:00 ET, ESPN2).

Clint Dempsey Needs Urgent Meeting of Dubious Goals Panel

We’ve previously written about the Dubious Goals Panel, which despite sounding like something from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, is an actual committee that “discusses goals which need to be reviewed in the English Premier League.”

The ruling body—which is composed of former referees, players, and managers who have performed at the highest level—convenes on an as-needed basis, “whenever there have been a number of dubious goals,” to decide who should get credit for the tallies.

We say it’s time for another ad-hoc meeting to give the strike below—which was ruled an own goal—to its proper owner, Fulham and U.S. attacker Clint Dempsey:

A few years back, a Premier League spokesman gave the following explanation for the Panel’s guidelines regarding own goals:

“As a rule, if the initial attempt is goalbound, it is credited to the player making the goal attempt. However if the deflection means that a wayward effort results in a goal then it is attributed to the player who had the last definitive touch of the ball.”

This explanation, as well as FIFA’s (more on that in a second), leaves a fair amount of gray area.

Dempsey’s attempt is certainly not wayward, but is it goalbound? Well, it’s goalpost bound (if we can call the crossbar that for a second), and then the deflection hits Stoke keeper Thomas Sorensen and goes in.

Would it have gone in without the deflection off Sorensen? Looks like a ‘no’ on that. But you could also argue that Sorensen’s touch is hardly “definitive.” He was the last one to know about it. And then there’s this from a 2006 FIFA fact sheet:

“Shots that are on target (i.e. goal-bound) and touch a defender or rebound from the goal frame and bounce off a defender or goalkeeper are not considered as own goals.”

You’d think that would settle the matter in Dempsey’s favor (and give him his 17th goal of the season across all competitions) but the following counter-argument is apparently what led to the own-goal ruling (per Brian Straus at Sporting News):

“Because the ball was headed away from the net when it hit the goalkeeper, Dempsey wasn’t given credit for the strike.”

Confused yet?

The “headed away from the net” clause would seem to contradict the “rebound off the goal frame and in off a defender or goalkeeper” clause. Because the majority of balls that come off the crossbar and hit a defender or goalkeeper are “headed away from the net,” right?

This is why we need the loftier minds of the Dubious Goals Panel. We look forward to their ruling.

[If clip above goes dark, see here for goal replay.]

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.