Where does Clint Dempsey’s signing rank in MLS Designated Player history?

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Clint Dempsey’s transfer to the Seattle Sounders will be announced tonight before the game with FC Dallas.

With Deuce reportedly getting a Designated Player contract, after the Sounders maneuvered this week to open up another DP spot, big money is being splashed up in the Emerald City.

Many are still scratching their heads as to how quickly all this happened, but Dempsey has been signed by MLS and he will be unveiled as a Seattle Sounder later this evening.

That’s a fact.

Here’s something we can debate. Since the Designated Player rule was introduced to Major League Soccer in 2007, there have obviously been some marquee signings that stand out above the rest.

(MORE: Confirmed, Clint Dempsey to sign with Seattle Sounders FC)

But where does Dempsey fit in among the top 10 most influential DPs in MLS’ history?

First, let’s look at the 10 DPs who’ve been huge success stories in MLS… then we’ll get to Dempsey.

1. David Beckham

The man who truly kick-started the modern MLS era we live in. The DP rule was created so LA could pay his huge wages outside of the cap. An innovator who brought much more than stunning goals and sumptuous set pieces to MLS. A pioneer whose arrival is, and will always be, a major part in MLS’ history.

2. Thierry Henry

Arriving a few years after Beckham, Henry almost had the same effect. He’s stardom was still in full swing after excelling at Arsenal and FC Barcelona. He switched the Nou Camp for Red Bull Arena around much fanfare and has captained New York with his mercurial talents. A few flashpoints here and there, but he has been a lynchpin in MLS’ growth and has scored some stunning goals. Just needs an MLS Cup to cap it off.

3. Landon Donovan

When most people across the globe mention MLS, the first player after Beckham that pops into their mind is Donovan. The LA Galaxy star has won five MLS Cups with LA and San Jose and his goals, creativity and All-Star status in 13 consecutive years says it all. A true great of American soccer and someone who has given so much back to the league and soccer fans in the USA.

4. Guillermo Barros Schelotto

The Argentinian genius may have not been the biggest name to grace the DP slot. But boy, could he play. Inspiring the Columbus Crew to the 2008 MLS Cup, Schelotto was the league’s MVP and carved out so many chances for the Crew’s attack. A wizard on the ball and a true competitor on the pitch, he epitomized Columbus’ great team that won the Supporters’ Shield in ’08 and ’09.

5. Robbie Keane

Two MLS Cups in his first two seasons in MLS… Keane’s impact has been sensational. The 33-year-old forward brings all his attacking nous and clever runs to LA and has captained the side to success as first Beckham, then Donovan, left LA. Keane has scored 27 goals in 46 games for LA and he shows no sign of slowing down.

6. Fredy Montero

The Colombian scored goals by the bucket load for Seattle but despite regular season success, a deep run in the playoffs alluded the Emerald City side. Montero is of course still a Seattle player, but is out on loan at Sporting Lisbon. If he ever returns he will be treated like a hero after the fantastic long-range goals and his numerous energetic displays in the Rave Green.

7. Javier Morales

This man was the heart and soul of the Real Salt Lake side that won MLS Cup ’09. Jason Kreis built RSL around Morales’ talents and even today the Argentinian magician can change a game in an instance. That horrible injury suffered after a tackle with Marcos Mondaini has slowed him down, but Morales’s impact on RSL and MLS has been incredible.

8. Juan Pablo Angel

Goals, goals, goals. When he first arrived at the New York Red Bulls from Aston Villa, Angel instantly became a legend in the Big Apple. After four stellar seasons in New York with goals galore, Angel moved onto LA and then Chivas USA with varying degrees of success. But the Colombian forward grabbed 62 goals in 113 games in MLS. A true poacher who was loved by the fans.

9. Alvaro Saborio

Again, another player who just loves to score. The Costa Rican international is currently one of the deadliest forwards in MLS and can frighten the life out of most defenses with his combination of pace and power and supreme finishing ability. Saborio, 31, arrived in 2007 and has scored 44 goals in 87 games for RSL since. Stunning.

10. Cuauhtémoc Blanco

In terms of his play on the field, Blanco was up and down like a yo-yo. But the Mexican international brought a certain star quality to Chicago. His skills and goals were a sight to behold, but unfortunately he couldn’t bring an MLS Cup to the Fire and the team didn’t excel when he was around. And to go along with his great talent on the pitch, Blanco was a huge success at helping supporter numbers grow in Chicago. The Mexican star entertained and Hispanic fans turned their attention to MLS when he arrived.

Where does Clint fit in?

If Dempsey comes in and the Sounders win MLS Cup this year, more from Steve Davis on that later, then Deuce instantly jumps into the top five DPs all-time in MLS. But regardless of whether or not he helps bring a championship to CenturyLink, Dempsey’s arrival will be huge in terms of viewer numbers and raising the profile of the domestic league. To have the USMNT’s captain spearheading the league’s best supported franchise is massive.

Should Dempsey recreate the form he has shown for the USA, Fulham and New England in the past, he could edge into the top three and rival Beckham as the most important DP in the league’s history. His signing is about much more than talent. It could spark a seismic shift of US national team players moving form Europe to MLS. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll see that over the coming years. Time to get to work on overtaking those legendary MLS DPs, Clint.

More: Why Clint Dempsey’s move to Seattle won’t affect the US national team

More: Official, Tottenham confirm sale of Clint Dempsey to MLS

More: Confirmed, Clint Dempsey to sign with Seattle Sounders FC

More: Dempsey to Seattle in $9 million move, plus $8 million salary

Gold Cup Final preview: USMNT needs a trophy vs. Jamaica

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The major selling point of Bruce Arena’s hire, aside from his being the anti-Jurgen Klinsmann, was that the United States men’s national team would not be out-foxed tactically (or at least not be caught without a game plan).

Thirteen games into the tenure, the jury is out on whether the American boss’ second stint is on the path to World Cup success — those assumed goal posts will likely be moved depending on the group draw in Russia — but he has brought stability to the team and engineered a positive change in mentality.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up? ] 

I have a great deal of respect for Joe Prince-Wright’s view of the national team, and ProSoccerTalk’s editor wrote today that U.S. Soccer would be proven right in its hiring of Arena if the Yanks won the Gold Cup with a Wednesday win over Jamaica.

But it doesn’t take a devil’s advocate to ask if it is quite that simple?

As much as I’m sure the removal of Klinsmann became necessary due to the morale of the USMNT and its players’ opinions of the German manager, I’m far from certain we’ve learned much about the hiring of Arena. Frankly, I can’t imagine any of the results being much worse under Peter Vermes, or Caleb Porter, or Ben Olsen.

The best win of Arena’s second tenure so far was probably the semifinal defeat of Costa Rica this weekend, and the best moment was the 1-1 draw at Azteca against Mexico. There’s no denying he’s righted the World Cup ship —  and that’s paramount — but it’s hard to imagine just qualifying for Russia should give Arena some sort of status, 0-2 hole or not. Any coach needs to be judged by his tournament, and Arena knows this. He’s helped author the best World Cup performance in modern U.S. men’s history, and he’s also presided over a train wreck (Imagine pulling that performance with that roster into the 2018 supporters’ climate. I’m shuddering on behalf of social media).

Which brings us to the import of Wednesday in Santa Clara. The United States lineup is experienced in big games and superior to Jamaica, which is coming off one day less rest. Yes, Jamaica’s squad features an incredible goalkeeper in Andre Blake and a half-dozen MLS players, but the rest are largely players who ply their trade in the U.S. second tier or Jamaica’s top flight.

Again, against Michael Bradley, Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, et cetera, et cetera.

The bookmakers say a Jamaica win would pay off 8:1. Just getting to penalty kicks would pay 3:1.

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The U.S. should win the 9:30 p.m. ET start, and put one foot in the 2021 Confederations Cup in Qatar. If it doesn’t, it’ll be because the side couldn’t sort out its wobbly back line or find its way past Blake. The latter would be more forgivable than the former, but really only in a “Tim Howard vs. Belgium but unblemished” fashion.

And it could be wrong to call Arena’s tournament a failure if the Yanks lose, depending on how it happens, but this is a man who helped a much lesser U.S. side to a 1-0 home friendly win over Jamaica just a few months ago (a Jamaica side who’s only missing player of consequence was Darren Mattocks). Arena trotted out Luis Robles, Graham Zusi, Steve Birnbaum, Walker Zimmerman, Jorge Villafana, Dax McCarty, Chris Pontius, Benny Feilhaber, Sebastian Lletget, Jordan Morris, and Juan Agudelo. The team he’ll start on Wednesday will be miles better.

Mattocks and his Reggae Boyz are true to their country’s national reputation of electrifying speed, and it’s imperative that Arena sets his backs to handle that. That means true outside backs — sorry, Graham Zusi — and center backs who won’t be forced to foul too often. That is, after all, the only way Jamaica found its way past Mexico via a free kick from a dangerous spot.

Mexico attempted 200 more passes, converting 150 more than Jamaica in the semifinal. It’ll be on Arena’s enterprising attackers to find a way past a stacked defense without opening up the midfield too much to counter attacks. Jamaica also played a borderline perfect game when it did have the ball, missing on just 16 of 143 passes and, again, scoring on a free kick.

Frankly, if the U.S. loses to Jamaica in the same way as Mexico did, it probably wouldn’t be proper to lay it on Arena. It would mean another batch of American players had failed to find a way to goal. But what we’re counting on is a better organized team than the baffled bunch that fell 2-1 to Jamaica under Klinsmann in the 2015 Gold Cup.

In that way, yeah, we can count on Arena being a relative success. But winning this tournament, especially given who Mexico called up, needs to be treated the same way you’d view it under any other manager: expectation. Anything less wouldn’t make Arena a failure, but would certainly qualify as a failure for the U.S. program.

PSG, Barca quizzed on Neymar rumors; Pique blasts Ligue 1

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We don’t have a ton of sympathy for them, but credit to Barcelona stars Javier Mascherano and Gerard Pique for giving actual answers when put in the awkward position of hearing the media’s Neymar-to-PSG questions on Tuesday night.

PSG boss Unai Emery was far less interested in doing that.

Emery has refused to comment on speculation linking Neymar to big move to the Parc des Princes.

[ MORE: Van Dijk to Liverpool after all? ]

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s International Champions Cup match against Juventus, Emery had nothing of substance to say to the idea of Brazil’s captain heading to his stable.

“Our focus is to talk about the game tomorrow and a season to get ready for. I prefer to focus on the present moment and the preparation with the team.”

As for Edinson Cavani?

On the Barca side of things, Mascherano said he thinks Neymar will stay because he’s very important to the team, while Pique backed off a little after causing a stir by posting a photo of the defender with Neymar captioned, “He stays.”

“The post was nothing official, it was a gut thing, it doesn’t depend on me. Only (Neymar) can say what will happen, but I hope he stays. I tried to explain to Neymar, as a team-mate and a friend, the situation he’s in. I would say don’t go to a league which, with all due respect, is not as good.”

Boom, roasted (Though there’s some pot-kettle-black here, as there’s a fairly precipitous drop-off further down La Liga’s table, too).

Spanish report claims Coutinho (not Liverpool) agrees deal with Barca

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According to Sky Sports’ transfer centre, Spanish radio station RAC1 reports that Barcelona has agreed a deal with Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho.

The report comes on the heels of the half-hour delay of Barca’s nightly press conference, though that could be coincidental.

It also states that the agreement is between Barcelona and Coutinho, and that no fee has been agreed between Liverpool and the La Liga giants. That’s a huge obstacle, with Liverpool maintaining that no offer will work this summer, so the idea of a transfer being imminent could be beyond the pale.

[ MORE: Van Dijk to Liverpool after all? ]

A sale like this risks overturning Jurgen Klopp‘s apple cart, as the Reds boss was quoted this week as saying, “The very important message is that we are not a selling club and that’s how it is.”

Mohamed Salah is good, but he’s no Coutinho. Meanwhile, Coutinho has the potential to be as close to a like-for-like replacement for Neymar — one of the Top Five players in the world — as there is on the market.

The two clubs have done business before, and in more trying circumstances; Barcelona bought Luis Suarez from Liverpool within a month of the Uruguayan striker being banned for a biting incident at the 2014 World Cup.

A spectacular deal, Liverpool would have to make such a move this early in the summer when it can invest what would have to be a wild amount of money given the fees splashed about this transfer window.

Source close to Van Dijk expects Liverpool move within window

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It wasn’t too long ago that Liverpool apologized for its pursuit of Southampton center back Virgil Van Dijk, ending its quest for the big Dutchman.

Is it apology accepted and then some at St. Mary’s? Sky Sports reporter Kaveh Solhekol says not much has changed since the big sorry toward Anfield, but that a source close to Van Dijk expects Van Dijk will be a Red “by the end of the window.”

[ MORE: JPW’s take on the Van Dijk saga ]

That said, Sky’s report makes it unclear what’s changed to lead to such a proclamation.

There is no suggestion that Liverpool have done anything wrong since they apologised and ended their interest. Southampton’s position remains that Van Dijk is not for sale but Chelsea and Manchester City are also interested.

So… it’s happening then? Money does talk, and a massive fee from Liverpool could make Southampton’s life easier in explaining the sale to its fans. It would also mean Saints sold Van Dijk and Jose Fonte within a year. For more on the possible transfer, here’s JPW’s take.

Van Dijk averaged 1.9 tackles, 2.6 interceptions, 6.8 clearances, and 4.7 aerials won per Premier League matches last season, his second since a Summer 2015 move from Celtic.

[ MORE: Milan talk to Costa, Falcao agent ]