Clint Dempsey

Talkers from U.S.-Guatemala draw on Tuesday

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Some U.S. fans may be spilling their beer in frustration at a U.S. World Cup qualifying bid being built on small, solid taps rather than one decisive sledgehammer blow.

But a 1-1 draw Tuesday in Guatemala leaves the United States adequately positioned after two matches in semifinal round World Cup qualifying. Four points and a tie with Jamaica atop the group isn’t a terrible spot.

What to talk about from this one:

  • Night of U.S. composure – and that’s not as easy as it sounds

Admit it, you were sure Jermaine Jones would twist off at some point, yes?

But Jones mostly kept his cool. So did his teammates, even when it wasn’t easy.

No one can be surprised that Guatemala got more of the referee calls. It’s a road game in CONCACAF, and that’s how the regional cookie crumbles. Still, it’s not easy for players to keep a lid on the frustration. Especially given that …

Some of the U.S. yellow cards were soft as warm butter. Michael Bradley’s early in the second half for time wasting was just this side of bizarre.

Meanwhile, there was way too much Guatemalan fouling; never did a match cry out for a persistent infringement booking or two like this one. I mean, what they were doing to Clint Dempsey out there, time after time, was absolutely criminal.

And poor Jozy Altidore. Yes, he fell asleep frustratingly as Michael Bradley squared one ball for him beautifully. But otherwise, no calls from the man in the middle were going his way, and that wasn’t Altidore’s fault. One PK shout needed further review. And he wasn’t to blame as a whistle went early, a potentially game-turning sequence that defined advantage clause.

  • U.S. midfield up for the job

Let’s just cut and paste this one, to save the weary fingers a few keystrokes in the future: “Michael Bradley was easily the most important and influential U.S. midfield figure.”

source:  Bradley linked the lines and provided more than his share of attacking push through midfield. He was always connected to Maurice Edu on the defensive end, ready to provide necessary cover.

Jermaine Jones moved reliably into attacking positions and covered ample ground along the right. Maurice Edu sat deeper, screening the defense.

I know that not everyone saw a good match from Edu and Jones.

Yes, Jones lost possession a few times. What can you say; the man is not Michael Bradley. On the other hand, Jones didn’t lose the ball in bad spots. He moved possession aggressively forward when possible and did the tackling and tracking without being, well, all Jermaine Jones about it.

Edu? As I said on Twitter during the match, people sometimes forget what that position is about, especially in a scrappy, shapeless contest like this one. He never needed to “make” the game for the United States; he just needed to make things tough on Guatemala coming into dangerous spots. So, mission accomplished.

  • U.S. set pieces need work

And how. Guatemala handed Jurgen Klinsmann’s men opportunity after opportunity on set pieces. By halftime the United States had been gifted five free kicks inside the attacking third – and any visitor must make defenses pay for that rate of fouling. But Donovan’s insufficient deliveries and one poor shot from Herculez Gomez let the hosts off the hook before the break.

More of the same in the second half. For instance, if Jones needs reminders as to why he should never stand over another U.S. free kick, he can look back at his ridiculous blast over the bar Tuesday.

Meanwhile, from about the same spot, Guatemala’s Marco Pappa kept his team in the World Cup hunt with a swell free kick strike.

  • Too much emotion from the hosts

Guatemala came out like a loaded spring, too emotional, too anxious, straining too hard to make something happen. It’s a fine balance, admittedly uneasy to strike. Underdogs must play with emotion; it’s really their best hope to unearth something special. On the other hand, too much emotion is counter-productive.

Too-frequent fouling isn’t the only danger of being overly keyed up; Dempsey’s opener demonstrated a further threat. Dempsey still had lots of work to do as he accepted Fabian Johnson’s pass just outside the penalty area. Dempsey’s nimble turn left one Guatemalan defender flailing, and one more quick touch to his right took another man out of the play.

Both Guatemalan players needed to get position and defend. Rather, they took big, sliding swipes and finished on their butts. Rather than keep their feet in a composed stance, they lunged rashly, leaving Dempsey with a clear view at goal and an unchallenged shot from 16 yards.

Yeah, he’s going to make that one.

Ranieri criticizes Leicester for lacking “desire and heart”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18:  Claudio Ranieri, Manager of Leicester City looks dejected during The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Millwall and Leicester City at The Den on February 18, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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LONDON (AP) Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri criticized his players for lacking “desire and heart” in a 1-0 loss at third-tier Millwall in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday, the latest setback for the stuttering English champion.

[ MORE: FA Cup roundup — Premier League sides underwhelm in 5th round ]

Leicester, which is one point above the relegation zone in a woeful defense of its Premier League title, is without a victory in its last eight matches.

Millwall played most of the second half with 10 men and won thanks to a 90th-minute goal.

“I want to speak again with the players and say we have to fight every match,” an animated Ranieri said. “Who wants to fight? Tell me. I need the soldiers, I need the gladiators.

[ MORE: Fifth-division Lincoln City shock PL side Burnley in FA Cup ]

“It is strange because last season we won for this, to be more determined than the opponent and play with more heart than the opponent. We could also lose but we would fight every match. I want to see this, the fight until the end.”

Leicester’s next match is against Sevilla in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday.

FOLLOW LIVE: Spurs, Man United away in FA Cup 5th round

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrates after scoring his third and his sides third goal during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 first leg match between Manchester United and AS Saint-Etienne at Old Trafford on February 16, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-rounders served up the biggest Cupset of them all — fifth-division side Lincoln City knocking off Burnley of the Premier League — as well as two moderately shocking results — Leicester City losing to 10-man Millwall (League One) and Manchester City drawing 0-0 with Huddersfield Town (Championship).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Sunday’s FA Cup 5th-rounders ]

On Sunday, two more of the PL’s big boys hope to avoid upsets and reach the quarterfinals of the 2016-17 tournament. First up, Tottenham Hotspur visit Fulham’s Craven Cottage in a renewed London derby, followed by Manchester United’s trip to Blackburn Rovers’ Ewood Park. For live scores and updates, hit the above link, or click right here.

Saturday’s FA Cup results

Burnley 0-1 Lincoln City — RECAP | REACTION
Huddersfield 0-0 Manchester City
Millwall 1-0 Leicester City
Middlesbrough 3-0 Oxford United
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Chelsea

Sunday’s FA Cup schedule

Fulham vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 9 a.m. ET
Blackburn Rovers vs. Manchester United — 11:15 a.m. ET

Monday’s FA Cup schedule

Sutton United vs. Arsenal — 2:55 p.m. ET

Report: AC Milan negotiating new deal for keeper Donnaumma

ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 13:  AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma gestures during the Serie A match between SS Lazio and AC Milan at Stadio Olimpico on February 13, 2017 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
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Gianluigi Donnarumma has quickly become one of the most coveted goalkeepers in the world, and he’s only 17 years old.

[ MORE: Gameiro nets hat-trick in five minutes for Atletico ]

And that’s why AC Milan plans on doing everything in its power to hold on to the Italy international.

[ MORE: U.S. U-20s fall to Panama to begin CONCACAF Championship ]

According to CalcioMercato, the Rossoneri are preparing to lock up Donnarumma to a big deal once he turns 18 next week in order to fend off the likes of Premier League duo Chelsea and Manchester United, as well as Real Madrid.

However, agent Mino Raiola could stand in the way of Milan as they attempt to negotiate with the promising shot stopper out of fear that the club won’t be able to compete with Europe’s best teams.

Also, it has been suggested that Raiola is seeking at least $4.25 million per season for Donnarumma plus add ons, while Milan is said to be willing to go as high as $2.1 million annually.

Donnarumma is currently in his second professional season with Milan and has risen to the Italian national team level over the past year as well. The young keeper is seen as the logical successor to Gianluigi Buffon once his international career concludes.

Baggio marks 50th birthday by visiting quake victims

ROME, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 01: Roberto Baggio (L) is challenged by Diego Lugano during the Interreligious Match For Peace at Olimpico Stadium on September 1, 2014 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
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AMATRICE, Italy (AP) Italian great Roberto Baggio marked his 50th birthday on Saturday by visiting towns devastated by earthquakes last year.

[ MORE: FA Cup Saturday wrap — Man City held against Huddersfield ]

Baggio opted not to celebrate his milestone surrounded by celebrities, and instead spent the day in Amatrice, which was almost wiped out by the Aug. 24 earthquake.

The former world footballer of the year, who met children and others from the central Italy region, said “it was very emotional,” and he went there with his family “to fully understand what so many people are going through.”

Baggio also met the mayor of Amatrice, Sergio Pirozzi, and said they will remain in contact, “and we will try to do something concrete.”

Baggio was moving on to nearby Norcia, which was also damaged, and there was a party organized with a birthday cake.

The Aug. 24 quake killed nearly 300 people and left a further 4,000 homeless. There were aftershocks for several days as well as more quakes in October and January.

Baggio, who was nicknamed “Il Divin Codino” (The Divine Ponytail) for the hairstyle he wore for most of his career, scored 27 goals in 57 appearances for Italy and helped the Azzurri to third place in the 1990 World Cup and runner-up four years later, when he famously missed the last penalty kick of the shootout in the final with Brazil.

He won the Serie A title with Juventus in 1995 and with AC Milan the following year.