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Clint Dempsey’s goal the impetus for Spurs’ 3-1 victory over Manchester City

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With a 3-1 victory over Manchester City, Tottenham has thrust itself back into Champions League contention and provided Manchester United the opportunity to win the league tomorrow against Aston Villa.

City opened the scoring in the 5th minute when Samir Nasri finished James Milner’s well-placed cross. Spurs would wait 70 minutes to find the leveler but when Gareth Bale’s cross found Clint Dempsey on the far post it was ‘game on’ for Tottenham. The American’s goal sparked a seven minute purple patch that saw the North Londoners take control of their Champions League dreams through stunning efforts by Jermain Defoe and Gareth Bale.

The victory kept Andre Villas-Boas’ squad in 5th position but ensured they go even on points with 4th place Chelsea. The Blues enjoy a game in hand on Tottenham but taking advantage of that standing won’t be easy as Rafa Benitez’ side faces a difficult test today at Liverpool. The win also puts Spurs within striking distance of 3rd place Arsenal. With a game in hand on their rivals, Spurs supporters will be believing this is the year they finally overtake their rivals.

Nasri’s 5th minute goal was the result of one of the more spectacular dribbling exhibitions seen this season as Carlos Tevez collected an outlet pass just before midfield and took 15 touches into the right corner before looping around and releasing Milner with a soft side-of-the-foot pass. The England international took two touches down the by-line before crossing to Nasri at the penalty spot and the Frenchman finished with a carefully placed volley into the bottom corner.

The ensuing 70 minutes of end-to-end action saw plenty of chances for both sides with Dempsey enjoying his finest overall performance of the season. Playing just inside Emmaunel Adebayor, the American was constantly involved in the play displaying a voracious hunger that, at times this seasn, has been absent from the Texan’s game.

In the 21st minute, Dempsey played Kyle Walker into the box with a sensational back cutting pass that sliced open the City defense only for the full-back to spurn the opportunity right at Joe Hart. In the 44th minute Deuce was at it again, rising high on the corner only to head his effort just over the bar from 7 yards out. One minute later Spurs’ best chance of the half fell to Dempsey eight yards out but his shot was superbly blocked by Pablo Zabaleta.

In the 68th minute Dempsey nearly freed himself for Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s cross and appeared to be brought to ground by Matija Nastasic. The cries for a penalty were ignored but six minutes later Dempsey got his revenge. After a poor clearance by City, Kyle Walker found Gareth Bale on the right side of the area and the Welshman sent a succulent one-time, outside-of-the-foot cross to the far post where a sliding Dempsey stuck it home. More grit and grind than finesse, the goal was vintage Clint and his third in his last two matches.

The goal prompted eruptions at White Hart Lane and five minutes later Louis Holtby’s 40 yard through ball found Defoe in open space. Vincent Kompany closed down the England international on the left side of the box but inexplicably showed the striker inside. Defoe faked left, went right, and struck a furious dipping shot into the far corner from 15 yards out. Four minutes later Spurs put the knife in the coffin when substitute Tom Huddlestone split Nastasic and Gael Clichy with a tasty pass that Bale latched on to and softly chipped over the on-rushing Joe Hart.

Tottenham will look to continue their Champions League rush next Saturday against Wigan.

Brazilian midfielder Fred has doping ban extended to club, out until June

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - AUGUST 19:  Fred of Donetsk goes for a header during the UEFA Champions League: Qualifying Round Play Off First Leg match between SK Rapid Vienna and FC Shakhtar Donetsk on August 19, 2015 in Vienna, Austria.  (Photo by Christian Hofer/Getty Images)
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Shakhtar Donetsk striker Fred, a regular for the Brazilian national team, has seen his CONMEBOL doping ban extended worldwide to all competitions.

A FIFA disciplinary committee announced that Fred’s suspension now covers “all types of matches, including domestic, international, friendly and official fixtures.”

The 22-year-old tested positive for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide during last summer’s Copa America, and has not played for the Brazilian national team since, having been banned for a year by CONMEBOL. He had been playing for his Ukranian club while FIFA was reviewing the case, making 12 appearances in league play and scoring two goals. He also played six times in the Champions League without scoring a goal.

The one-year ban is back-dated to Fred’s last international squad appearance, when he was on the bench for the Copa America quarterfinals on June 27 of last summer. That date will allow Fred to be eligible for the Rio Olympics, which start August 5.

Men In Blazers podcast: Irvine Welsh Pod Special

Men In Blazers - Sept. 22
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Rog talks with “Trainspotting” author Irvine Welsh about his new novel “A Decent Ride,” unconventional career arc, and love for West Ham United/Hibernian.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

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LA Galaxy newcomer Ashley Cole takes responsibility for previous MLS quote

CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 5: Ashley Cole #3 of the Los Angeles Galaxy speaks after he was introduced during a news conference at StubHub Center February 5, 2016, in Carson, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Wireimage)
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During Ashley Cole‘s introductory press conference today, where the former Chelsea legend was officially unveiled by the LA Galaxy to the media alongside Belgian defender Jelle Van Damme, a predictable question came his way.

Cole was asked about comments he made a year and a half ago when he joined AS Roma, where he said he turned down offers from Major League Soccer because he didn’t want to go “relax on the beach.”

The 35-year-old took responsibility for the quote, saying, “Of course, I hold my hands up, it was said.” However, he defended himself saying he was baited into the comments by the Italian reporter.

“I’m not going to come here and try to defend myself,” Cole said. “It was said, but it was for sure taken out of content. I was talking to the reporter, and he kind of said it to me, ‘We’re glad to have you at Roma. We didn’t expect you to be here, we thought you would go and relax on the beach.'”

“Of course you have to understand, I was at a new team, I have to tell the fans at Roma I was here to fight, I was there to win things and play in the Champions League.”

Cole said he spoke to Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, and Robbie Keane about the league before deciding to join Major League Soccer. “I know it’s going to be hard for me for sure, but I’m happy to be here, I’m going to work as hard as I can, change a few views on me being here, and we’ll see. I’m a winner, I always want to win, I didn’t come here to sit on the beach – to rest – I’m here to play football and work hard. I’m not a diva, I’m not this egotistical guy that comes and thinks he’s bigger than anyone.”

3 key battles for USMNT against Canada

CARSON, CA - JANUARY 31:  Jozy Altidore #17 of the United States chases down a pass against Iceland during the first half at StubHub Center on January 31, 2016 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The United States takes on Canada in the second of two matches throughout January camp to test those brought in and see who stands out.

They took out Iceland in the first match, and now the Canadians stand in the way at the Stubhub Center in Carson, CA at 10:30 on Friday night.

[ PREVIEW: Get the full look at US vs Canada ]

Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann no doubt has already run through is list of positives and negatives in the win over Iceland. While the win is nice, the overriding purpose here is to both evaluate certain players and determine the best formula for success moving forward into World Cup qualifying, the Copa America, and the Olympics.

So, with that in mind, here are three key matchups to keep an eye on as the USMNT players battle both Canada and each other for spots on the roster in future meaningful games.

1) United States attack vs Canada’s organization

The US was solid in possession against Iceland, but it came against an opponent that showed a more attacking intent and also appeared to have limited motivation. Canada would not be what you call a “defensive” team, but they are very organized under Benito Floro, and it shows. They’ve conceded 1 or 0 goals in each of their last 13 matches, losing just once across that time. Their goalscoring numbers have suffered, but it’s translated into marginal success.

To hold the ball against Iceland, the US used a slow build-up process beginning with Jermaine Jones (who stayed surprisingly composed and centralized during his time on the field) who fed Michael Bradley and Lee Nguyen further up the pitch. That tactic may not be as effective against a less erratic opponent, but it will be interesting to see how Klinsmann decides to break down the Canadian defensive unit. The wide areas may be vital.

The 0-0 scoreline has been a fixture in this matchup, finishing goalless the last two times and in four of the last eight, so the US will no doubt be looking to break that deadlock early lest they get frustrated as time progresses.

2) USMNT full-backs vs wide play

Michael Orozco and Brad Evans were sent back to their clubs, leaving the United States incredibly thin at a position the nation has already been weak at for years. Jurgen Klinsmann has been searching far and wide for an answer to this question, and with young Kellyn Acosta slightly out of his depth or potentially star-struck in his debut against Iceland, there are a few other question marks.

The options are limited. Acosta could get another shot if Klinsmann likes what he sees in training, or he could move to the likes of Brandon Vincent or Matt Polster. The latter logged 30 matches for Chicago last year as a rookie, while Vincent was just drafted by FC Dallas and has yet to even make a professional appearance. Either way, it’s likely Canada targets the wide areas as a point of weakness for the US, so whoever plays will be in the spotlight.

[ VIDEO: Bobby Wood scores skillful goal for club ]

3) Central defenders vs Akindele and Larin

Whether Floro decides to play Larin centrally by himself, or partner him with Akindele, the striker(s) will be the main target for Canada’s attack. Larin and Akindele both have not seen the scoresheet since a 4-0 win over the Dominican Republic in World Cup qualifying last June, so they will be itching to get back on board. Should one be deployed centrally, look for the lone wolf to split the central defenders and receive service from wide areas where Canada may exploit the aforementioned weaknesses along the outside of the US back line.

How do you see the US matching up against Canada, and visa-versa?