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.)

Europa League Preview: Everton, Milan look to make group stage

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Everton look to make it back into the Europa League group stage for the first time since the 2014-2015 season and it has a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg of its tie.

Ronald Koeman and co. travel to Croatia to face Hadjuk Split Thursday having won the first leg at Goodison Park, 2-0. Everton is coming off a hard-fought draw on Monday with Manchester City and will be on short rest heading into the match.

Elsewhere in Europa League action, AC Milan take its 6-0 aggregate lead to Skopje, Macedonia as the legendary club looks to return to the group stage of a European competition for the first time since 2013-2014.

Here’s a look at all of Thursday’s Europa League matches, with the current aggregate scores:

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League Cup wrap: Southampton, Newcastle knocked out by Championship sides

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Last season, Southampton made it to the EFL Cup final. This year, it’s a different story.

The Saints were bounced by Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2-0 at home on Wednesday in the second round of the cup. Joining Southampton of Premier League sides going home early was Newcastle, which lost 3-2 after extra time at home against Nottingham Forest.

Four other Premier League sides did advance to the third round, as Stoke City, Huddersfield Town, West Ham United and Burnley all won their fixtures.

Here’s a look at the rest of Wednesday’s EFL Cup action:

Blackburn 0-2 Burnley

Cheltenham 0-2 West Ham

Huddersfield 2-1 Rotherham

Newcastle 2-3 Nottingham Forest

Southampton 0-2 Wolverhampton

Stoke City 4-0 Rochdale

Breaking down who each Premier League team could face in the UCL Group Stage

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The UEFA Champions League group stage lineup is complete, with five Premier League clubs making the list.

On Wednesday, Liverpool joined Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United in the group stage after beating Hoffenheim, 6-3 on aggregate in the playoff qualification round.

Thursday’s Champions League draw (2 p.m. ET) will place clubs into groups of four, where they’ll play three matches at home and away.

Here’s a look at the four coefficient pots and who each Premier League club could face:

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Follow Live – Texas Derby, Cascadia Cup headline busy night of MLS action

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Welcome to MLS Rivalry Week.

The surging Houston Dynamo could move to first place in the Western Conference with a win over rivals FC Dallas while the current first-place side, the Seattle Sounders travel north and across the border to face Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

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The Dynamo have made an impressive turnaround under coach Wilmer Cabrera and he’ll have the trio of Ricardo Clark, Alberth Elis and star forward Erick Torres available to face Dallas after missing the Dynamo’s match at Vancouver last weekend, which ended 2-1 in favor of the Whitecaps.

FC Dallas are in its worst form of the season, winless in its last four games, but the team will be extra motivated to beat its rivals.

El Capitan is on the line after draws between FC Dallas and the Dynamo in two matches earlier this season.

Meanwhile up in Vancouver, the Whitecaps host a Sounders squad that pulled out a last-gasp victory last weekend over Minnesota United. While the team is in great form on the road recently (two wins and two draws), the top story heading into the game is the unexpected absence of Joevin Jones, who left the Sounders for his home in Trinidad and Tobago ahead of the upcoming international break.

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On the other side, Fredy Montero faces his former club and carries an interesting record into Wednesday’s match. Of his 35 MLS goals, 11 have been scored against Cascadia Cup competition.

Here’s a look at Wednesday’s action:

Full schedule

Columbus Crew vs. LA Galaxy – 7:30 p.m. ET

D.C. United vs. Atlanta United – 7:30 p.m.ET

FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo – 8 p.m. ET

Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union – 8 p.m. ET

Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes – 10 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders – 10 p.m. ET

Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids – 10:30 p.m. ET