Moment that mattered: Clint Dempsey starts, finishes the U.S.’s only goal

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-jcp9IIyDc]

The conditions in Commerce City meant moments of execution were going to be rare. The U.S. didn’t even have a good spell of possession until around the 14th minute, but it didn’t take long after that for the team to create the night’s only goal.

For Clint Dempsey, it is his the seventh goal of the 2014 qualifying cycle and the 32nd of his senior national team career. Only two back of Eric Wynalda for second on the U.S.’s scoring list, Dempsey goal rate is now the highest among the program’s top 10 all-time scorers.

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The highlight picks up after Dempsey has received the ball from Graham Zusi, turned toward the middle of the field, and drawn two Costa Rican defenders. He plays the ball toward the left channel for Jozy Altidore as Michael Bradley surges from midfield. Between Herculez Gomez at the far left of the shot and Clint Dempsey now trailing the player, the U.S. has Costa Rica four-on-four and disorganized at they approach goal.

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Altidore takes the ball with his left foot, moves it back onto his right, and looks to put his shot on goal. Four Costa Rican defenders have lined up to play the shot, and while right wing back Cristian Gamboa has gotten back into the play, three U.S. attackers are going to have free runs on goal. If Altidore elected to pass, he’d be able to set up any of his teammates for a clear shot, but electing to get it on goal, the U.S. is set to claim any rebound Keylor Navas might give up.

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A hard driven shot by Altidore never makes it on Navas. Roy Miller blocks the shot, but between Michael Bradley on the left and Clint Dempsey on the right, the U.S. is going to be able to convert any loose ball that doesn’t fly out of the box. Costa Rica’s defenders are left watching as the U.S. players who have continued their runs are in prime position of convert the chance.

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Navas is on his back side as the ball falls right to Dempsey. In stride, Dempsey’s right footed one-timer meets an unprotected net, converting the game’s only goal.

Though Dempsey deserves full credit for both starting and finishing the play, Jozy Altidore’s part shouldn’t be ignored. While he did have options to pass to his right and left, Altidore did what teammates expect their strikers to do. He turned and drove the ball toward goal, his decisive act allowed Dempsey and Bradley to be equally decisive in their movement.

As a result, the U.S. was able to convert their only shot on goal, the team’s 1-0 victory vaulting them to second place in CONCACAF’s young final round.

(MORE: Images from the Colorado snow globe.)

Jonas nets 2 late goals to keep Benfica in title hunt

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Jonas scored two late goals to lead Benfica’s 3-1 comeback win at Pacos Ferreira on Saturday, keeping it close to Portuguese league leader FC Porto.

Jonas equalized in the 72nd minute and gave the defending champion the lead in the 88th.

[ MORE: Man United-Chelsea meet in giant Sunday PL clash ]

Rafa Silva added a third goal after the host was reduced to 10 men in stoppage time when Gian dos Santos was shown a direct red card.

Luiz Phellype gave Pacos Ferreira the lead in the ninth.

The double increased Jonas’ league-leading tally to 27 goals.

Benfica moved to within two points of Porto before the pacesetter visits Portimonense on Sunday.

Sporting Lisbon is third at five points behind Porto. It hosts Moreirense on Monday.

Orlando City trades defender Jose Aja to Whitecaps for allocation money

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The Vancouver Whitecaps have struck a deal with an Eastern Conference side to help solidify their back line.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Johannsson leads Werder Bremen to win ]

On Saturday, the Cascadia club finalized a deal to acquire Orlando City defender Jose Aja in exchange for $125,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) for 2019.

Additionally, Orlando could receive another $100,000 in TAM if Aja remains on the Whitecaps roster next season and a 2021 second-round MLS SuperDraft pick if Aja is in Canada for the 2020 campaign.

Aja has made 25 appearances for Orlando since coming to MLS in 2016 from his native Uruguay.

The timing of the deal is intriguing, given Tim Parker’s willingness to exit the Whitecaps ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

PST reported on Thursday that Parker is seeking a move back to the East Coast, and the New York-native is being tracked by several Eastern Conference sides, including the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United and the Montreal Impact.

Parker is considered one of the top American defenders in MLS, and is actively seeking a massive pay raise ahead of the new season, after making just under $100,000 in 2017.

PL Sunday preview: Red Devils battle Chelsea at Old Trafford

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It will surely be one of the biggest fixtures of the season when Manchester United and Chelsea get together on Sunday, and for both clubs a victory could be vital in projecting their form for the rest of the 2017/18 campaign.

Meanwhile, a crucial meeting at Selhurst Park pits teams on opposite ends of the table against one another. Crystal Palace enters the weekend levels on points with 18th-place Swansea, while Tottenham could leap Chelsea for fourth if results go in favor of Spurs.

[ MORE: Liverpool continues to score at lightning pace against West Ham ]

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The injury bug has hit Palace hard as of late, with a total of 12 senior team players being left out of Roy Hodgson‘s squad. The list includes Wilfried Zaha, Yohan Cabaye and Mamadou Sakho, which won’t make things easy against a talented Spurs side.

Tottenham have had a ton of success in this fixture recently, winning the last five encounters and only allowing one goal in the process.

Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have hit the ground running in the second half of the season thus far, picking up a league-high 15 points in the Premier League since the start of 2018.

If there is a saving grace for the Eagles though, it is that Palace has been solid at home this season, and gone unbeaten in nine of its last 10 fixtures at Selhurst.

Manchester United vs. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN

After a pair of draws from the PL sides kicked off their Champions League Round of 16 campaigns midweek, United and Chelsea can now focus their attention back to England; at least for the time being.

Jose Mourinho’s team came away from Seville with a crucial scoreless draw after the hosts tested goalkeeper David De Gea on numerous occasions, while Chelsea were close to pulling out a victory against Barcelona had it not been for a big-time mistake from Andreas Christensen late in the match.

Nonetheless, this is a fixture that always garners significant attention, especially from the Blues, who tend to have a better go of it. United has won just once against Chelsea in their last 14 fixtures, with the lone victory coming last season.

That said, Antonio Conte and his side have failed to exemplify consistency this year, and that includes road matches. The Blues have just two road wins in their last nine attempts across all competitions, which bodes well for the Red Devils.

The good news for Chelsea is the recent form of attacking duo Willian and Eden Hazard. The Brazilian was constantly in dangerous positions up the pitch against the Blaugrana in their recent UCL encounter, nabbing the lone goal for the Blues, while Hazard has scored six times in his last six PL matches.

The 2 Robbies: Unstoppable Liverpool, Man United-Chelsea and more

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In today’s episode, Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe discuss Liverpool’s emphatic win over West Ham (0:17), breakdown an extremely complicated relegation situation where nearly half of the league is in jeopardy of going down (10:05), before closing the show with a preview of tomorrow’s Man United v. Chelsea match (28:10).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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