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

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Fans of US soccer can hardly contain their excitement.

Many woke up this morning wondering if today the Clint Dempsey to Seattle Sounders transfer will officially be confirmed.

Last night ProSoccerTalk’s sources told us a deal has been sealed for Dempsey to head to the Emerald City.

The figures involved have been leaked and Dempsey will likely become the best paid player in league history, so all eyes will be on Seattle this evening with Dempsey expected to be unveiled at CenturyLink Field before the league game with FC Dallas.

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

But with Dempsey’s move from the Premier League to Major League Soccer, should fans of the USMNT be rejoicing or slightly worried?

That question has been flying around in the last 24 hours, almost as much as Dempsey himself.

So, the US national team captain is set to head back to his homeland and become the figurehead of the league’s best supported franchise. The World Cup in Brazil is less than 12 months away, and even the most ardent fan of MLS is questioning this decision from Dempsey.

Will the USA suffer from Dempsey’s switch to MLS?

I really don’t think this will have an impact on Dempsey’s role with the US, at all. Look, Jurgen Klinsmann loves having national team stars playing for the best teams in Europe against top teams week in, week out.

But Dempsey only started 22 league games last season and only played the full 90 minutes 11 times. And with the arrival of Roberto Soldado and Nacer Chadli in the last week, Dempsey wasn’t going to be a starter at Spurs. So he should find somewhere to play regularly, where he is guaranteed to be the leader and take control of games.

He will do that in Seattle and in MLS. Yes, there’s a gulf in class between the PL and MLS. But why would Clint want to be stuck on the bench at Spurs in the lead up to the biggest tournament of his career?

Some would argue Klinsmann has been reluctant to use players from Major League Soccer in starting roles with the national team. I’d agree. But Klinsmann’s attitude has shifted in recent months.

(MORE: Dempsey to Seattle in $9 million move, plus $8 million salary)

The USA’s central defensive partnership for the foreseeable future will be made up of MLS defenders Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez and Clarence Goodson. Graham Zusi from Sporting KC has become a starter out wide, Landon Donovan of the LA Galaxy is back in. While MLSers Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans and Brad Davis have all featured prominently in recent World Cup qualifiers.

The tide is turning, Klinsmann obviously doesn’t see MLS as being vastly inferior to the top European leagues as a breeding ground for his national team.

Look, Dempsey has obviously spoken to Klinsmann about this move. And the German coach will have almost certainly given it the go ahead because there’s no way Deuce would risk his position as USMNT captain and starter for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The level of play in MLS isn’t as high as the Premier League, but Dempsey won’t turn into a bad player because he’s scoring against Chivas USA instead of Chelsea.

Fans of Major League Soccer and the US national team should rejoice. Dempsey is coming home and it won’t effect the Yanks chances of World Cup qualification or in Brazil itself next summer.

Those who lambast Dempsey for leaving Tottenham may be upset to see one of the USA’s top players throwing the towel in because he won’t be a starter in the Premier League. I get it. But Dempsey has had seven seasons as a regular in England, scoring 72 goals in 268 appearances. He’s done his bit to raise the profile of American players in Europe. He has nothing to prove to anyone.

Now it’s time for Deuce to come home. #DempseyWatch is almost over.

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

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

Who’s to blame? A closer look at Chelsea’s blunder late vs. Barcelona

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As our very own Joe Prince-Wright explained yesterday in the aftermath of Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the Champions League Round of 16, Antonio Conte could not have set his team up better for success at Stamford Bridge.

And yet, they walked away from the first leg with a disappointing result, one that could set up Barcelona with the advantage as they head to the Camp Nou in two weeks time.

So where did it all go wrong? That pass from Andreas Christensen, obviously – the one that gifted Lionel Messi a late goal. But is Christensen to blame? Or were there other culprits?

Clearly, the pass was ill-advised. Christensen sends the ball across his own box parallel to the goal mouth, which Andreas Iniesta easily pilfers and sends to Messi for his first goal against Chelsea. It was a pass they teach 7-year-olds not to make, one that even the youngest of dedicated soccer players knows to avoid.

Christensen makes an easy target, given that he is just 21 years old, has only just recently earned his way into the Blues starting lineup, and was the most obvious culprit having made the fateful pass.

However, upon closer inspection, it may not have even been meant to reach the far side of the field.

Christensen’s exasperated reaction suggests the pass was likely intended for Cesc Fabregas who sat at the top of the box under little pressure. Christensen was closed down on the far touchline with little room to operate, and his outlet to Fabregas in the middle of the field was a good option, even if the general idea of a pass in that direction is usually frowned upon. However, Christensen’s pass was just slightly behind Fabregas, and the Spaniard ultimately decided to let the ball go instead of chasing it down, leaving it for a less populated area of the field.

Unfortunately, with his back turned to the eventual destination of the pass, Fabregas was unaware that Iniesta had anticipated its flight path and was already making a run to steal the ball. When the veteran Barcelona midfielder reached the ball, he was challenged by a sliding Cesar Azpilicueta, who completely whiffed. While Christensen and Fabregas were culpable of putting the team in a dangerous situation, Azpilicueta’s tackle was an abomination. Azpilicueta actually reached the ball first, but inexplicably failed to make contact with the ball, allowing Iniesta to easily evade the slide and still take charge of the ball.

Andreas Christensen is the clear perpetrator, but Fabregas and Azpilicueta both contributed negatively to the situation, leaving Chelsea at a slight disadvantage heading into a hostile environment despite Antonio Conte’s best efforts. Sadly, Conte will be the one to shoulder the accountability at the end of the season if Chelsea goes out of the Champions League, even though he received top marks for the match, and his players let him down.

Mata seems to confirm Champions League is Man United’s priority

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With the Premier League title all but wrapped up, English top flight teams are beginning to put their true focus onto competitions they still have a realistic shot of winning.

Manchester United sits in second place in the Premier League table, but they are a full 18 points back of rivals Manchester City, as so with a Champions League match against Sevilla on Wednesday afternoon, Juan Mata all but confirmed that the Red Devils are putting their main efforts into Europe’s largest competition.

[ MORE: Messi pegs back Chelsea despite winning tactics ]

“If we had less of a gap with respect to the Premier League leaders and we had a chance to fight for it, it wouldn’t be so tough to be eliminated from the Champions League, but now our aim is to progress from every round,” Mata said to Spanish radio station Cadena Ser. “It would be a big blow to be eliminated in the last 16.”

Last season, a similar story played out. Manchester United was out of reach of a top four finish in the league, so manager Jose Mourinho publicly admitted they were putting their main focus on the Europa League due to the automatic berth the competition’s winner received into next year’s Champions League. The gamble paid off, as Manchester United won the competition and earned their spot in the Champions League this season.

Sevilla has not progressed past the Round of 16 since 1958. Manchester United, meanwhile, has not made it past the Champions League quarterfinals since their runners-up finish in 2011, when they lost to Barcelona in the finals at Wembley Stadium.

Wenger confirms Ospina will start pair while Ozil, Ramsey miss out

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Arsene Wenger confirmed in his pre-match press conference that goalkeeper Petr Cech will get an extended rest with a pair of Cup games on the horizon for Arsenal.

In his place, David Ospina will start both Thursday’s Europa League Round of 32 match against Ostersund and Sunday’s EFL Cup Final against Manchester City. Ospina is no stranger to this type of rotation, with the Colombian owning just 30 starts over the last three seasons in national and international Cup competitions compared to just seven Premier League appearances.

In addition, Wenger also confirmed that Mesut Ozil will miss out for Thursday’s match due to illness, but is expected back for Sunday’s EFL Cup final. Arsenal has a 3-0 lead over Swedish club Ostersund after the first leg, with the second leg to be played at the Emirates.

Wenger said Aaron Ramsey is back in training, and while he will not be risked in the Europa League match in his return from a groin injury that saw him miss the North London derby loss, he could be in contention to play against Manchester City. [Ramsey] is not in the squad tomorrow, he had a good training session. We will see how his evolution goes between now and Sunday. I don’t rule him out.”

Ramsey scored a hat-trick in the 5-1 win over Everton in early February, but has played just 181 minutes since picking up a hamstring injury in mid-December.

Finally, Wenger said that Danny Welbeck and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will both receive starting spots against Ostersund, as will some unnamed youth products. Welbeck has been out of Premier League action since mid-January, stuck behind Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but he received four minutes off the bench in the North London derby and will get another opportunity in the Europa League to prove his worth.

Conte admits job security speculation will always exist at Chelsea

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Antonio Conte admits that he will always face speculation about his tenure as manager while he is employed at Chelsea, but dismissed it as “no problem for me.”

There is a general acceptance that Conte will part ways with Chelsea at the end of the season given the tough times the club has seen this campaign. The Blues are hanging on to a Champions League place by a thread, and struggled through a January that included just two wins across all competitions in six matches.

“I’ve said it very clearly: I’ve got a contract until 2019 and I intend to respect this, but you know anything can happen in football,” Conte told Italian publication Mediaset. “It takes two to be happy and continue a marriage. Our work is unique because we’ve always got our suitcase in our hands.”

Conte did issue somewhat of a warning to Chelsea, however, that if he were to be fired, it could come back to haunt the club, as he would have no shortage of offers. “My intention is to respect my contract, but if something were to happen, it would open up different scenarios.” Big clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid could have job openings this summer if their lofty goals aren’t met, and those places would be attractive destinations for Conte, who won the Premier League title with Chelsea just last year.

“It’s a bit the history of Chelsea and inevitable when, in the past, in 14 years, 10 coaches have been changed,” he said. “Clearly when there is this habit, let’s say, the press play on it and as soon as there is a result or two which don’t go your way, they try to put the pressure on.

“But it’s no problem for me. I hope that this pressure doesn’t harm the players, not me, because I go looking for pressure.”