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.

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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.

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.

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.]