Twellman

Taylor Twellman’s take on Friday’s U.S. loss

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Taylor Twellman had an interesting take on Clint Dempsey (a.k.a. the top U.S. attacker) and his muted night in Jamaica.

Overall, Twellman did not think things were too bad. Remember, he noted, the U.S. lost on two free kicks – including one blue ribbon, YouTube special from Luton Shelton. And he said nothing has really changes in the big picture; the United States always needed to win Tuesday’s home match. So, in that regard, same deal today as Friday.

But the ESPN analyst did have questions about Jurgen Klinsmann’s strategic usage of his top offensive man. Twellman, like most, has seen better versions of Dempsey. As he noted, not one of us expected Tottenham’s new arrival to be at his best Friday. How could he be? As we’ve talked about time and again, the former Fulham man had not kicked a ball competitively since June.

Twellman (once a teammate of the U.S. international with New England) wonders why Dempsey started? And Twellman double dog wonders why Dempsey started and went the full 90?

Even conceding the U.S. manager’s limited options, Twellman wondered if a better Dempsey doctrine for Friday might have involved a 65th- of 70th-minute entrance, when the night’s tempo was slightly more tame, when Dempsey could perhaps help pin down a tiring bunch of Reggae Boyz?

Even more than that, the ESPN analyst (who will be on the TV call Tuesday in Columbus) wonders about how Dempsey, essentially in pre-season, mini-camp mode, might recover before Tuesday?

“I’m nervous about what we’re going to get out of him Tuesday night now,” Twellman told us this morning on the Soccer Today radio show and podcast (which I co-host with Marc Stein.) Here’s more:

 “Going down to Jamaica, where the [opposition] team is faster, the team is quicker, why not go the other way? Why not go 4-4-2? Why not play Terrence Boyd and Jozy Altidore up front? Then say, for the first 20 minutes of this game, we are going to play ugly. We’re going to play in Jamaica’s end. We’re going to try to make them build out of the back, which isn’t their strength. … and then, going in last 20 minutes, bring in our X factor, which is Clint Dempsey?”

Now the game has slowed down. The players are tired. Now that gives him a chance to be at his best. Nothing against Clint Demspey. But any player in the world, if they don’t have their game fitness, it’s hard to have an impact over 45 minutes, let alone 90. He played 90 minutes! That changes things for Tuesday night. That completely changes Tuesday night now.”

Oh, how does he feel about Tuesday as a potential “must win?”

Well, of course it is, Twellman said. But they all are. “In qualifying, every home game is a must win.”

West Ham extend Payet’s contract in “enormous show of faith”

West Ham’s Dimitri Payet celebrates after scoring while soap bubbles are blown during the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham and Newcastle at Boleyn Ground in London, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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West Ham United hope Dimitri Payet is going absolutely nowhere after the club announced on Thursday the 28-year-old Frenchman has signed a contract extension through the summer of 2021.

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Payet’s current contract was scheduled to keep him at the Premier League club through the summer of 2020, but a series of standout performances (6 goals, 4 assists so far this season, mostly during the season’s opening three months) and rumors of interest from “bigger” clubs meant tacking on another year — and plenty more cash — was the best way to keep Payet in east London for the foreseeable future. The club confirmed earlier this week that negotiations over an extension were underway.

“He’s the best player I’ve signed in 25 years,” said West Ham co-owner David Sullivan. “He’s a [$43 million] player. He’s a supreme footballer. He makes every player in our side play better. On his day, he’s world class, he’s unstoppable.”

Payet, who’s been at West Ham just eight months after signing last summer, could still depart in the summer should he finish the current season strong and/or show up and show out at the European Championship, which kicks off in June. In that event, West Ham would now bag a much heftier transfer fee than they would have done prior to the extension.

VIDEO: Dele Alli’s magnificent juggling goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon

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Remember that Dele Alli goal? No, not that one… that one. Of course you remember it. How could you not?

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How often does a player receive the ball out of the air, flick it over his head, spin 180 degrees and hit an inch-perfect volley from 20 yards out to secure all three points for his team? The answer is, of course, not very often.

[ MORE: Top 5 Premier League storylines — Sunday’s top-four battle royal

Thus, a goal such as Alli’s stunning winner against Crystal Palace last month has been, and will continue to be, immortalized through numerous recreations in this Digital Age. Above is Alli’s goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon.

Watch Live: Guatemala vs. T&T; Canada vs. Guyana in Olympic qualifying

Canadian players wave to fans after a 2-1 loss to England in a quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup soccer tournament, Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
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Group B is set to kick off Thursday night at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, as Canada, third-place finishers at the 2012 Olympics, begin their quest to qualify for this summer’s games in Rio de Janeiro.

Guyana versus Trinidad and Tobago is up first (6 p.m. ET) from BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Tex, followed by the Canadians, who will take on Guyana (8:30 p.m. ET) in the nightcap.

[ WATCH LIVE: Guatemala vs. T&T live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

[ WATCH LIVE: Canada vs. Guyana live on line on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The U.S. women’s national began its Olympic qualifying campaign in impressive fashion on Wednesday with a 5-0 victory over Costa Rica, while Mexico jumped to the top of Group A with a 6-0 victory over Puerto Rico.

Sunderland terminate Adam Johnson’s contract after guilty pleas in sex case

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court, England, Wednesday Feb. 10, 2016. Johnson has pleaded guilty in court to one count of sexual activity with a child and another of grooming. The 28-year-old Johnson, who has made 12 appearances for England, denies two charges of sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE
Peter Byrne/PA via AP
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SUNDERLAND, England (AP) Sunderland has fired winger Adam Johnson after he pleaded guilty to grooming and sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl at the start of his trial.

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Johnson, who has played 12 times for England, continues to deny two further counts of sexual activity with a child.

Sunderland dismissed Johnson ahead of his trial resuming on Friday at Bradford Crown Court.

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In a statement, Sunderland announced Thursday that “in light of Adam Johnson’s guilty pleas, the club has today terminated his contract with immediate effect.”

The former Manchester City player joined Sunderland in 2012 for 10 million pounds (now about $14.5 million).