What should we expect of Clint Dempsey tonight in Seattle?

1 Comment

What should we fairly expect of Clint Dempsey tonight when he lines up opposite Portland in Major League Soccer’s marquee match of 2013 to date?

I mean, Seattle’s mayor has officially proclaimed it Rave Green Day in the Emerald City, so you know this is serious. Expectations will be spilling over the sides of a packed CenturyLink Field, where the second largest crowd yet for a stand-alone MLS match is expected to watch tonight, plus the national TV audience.

The league’s newest $5 million man has been a Seattle Sounder just under three weeks now, officially speaking. And he has played in just two competitive matches since June. Two matches from a man whose body and mind remain more or less in preseason condition is not a lot. (Really, just a match and a half, since Dempsey came on late in the first half of his Sounders’ debut for an injured Obafemi Martins.)

But none of that matters when you make approximately $4.85 million annually more than the average MLS man.  Expectations are high, and rightly so.

(MORE: ProSoccerTalk’s Seattle-Portland preview)

It’s part of the deal the proud Texas man accepted when he signed on the dotted line. So what should we realistically expect?

Production. Bottom line stuff. Dempsey needs to create a goal tonight. Or better yet, score one. It doesn’t even need to be a screamer from 30 yards or some picturesque diving header; a sitter at the far post would suffice.

At very least, “Deuce” has to figure into a Sounders scoring sequence. Short of that, the pressure will begin building on Dempsey, on the Sounders organization, on manager Sigi Schmid, who is charged with getting the best from all his heralded offensive toys (Dempsey, Martins and Eddie Johnson.)

Even the league’s owners from around the country will have reason to begin peering at this deal with a slightly more cynical leaning; each owner did, after all, pony up his share of Dempsey’s reported $9 million transfer price. They are all invested in this one.

Here’s what Schmid had to say to MLSSoccer.com about the man’s state of readiness:

Fitness-wise, I think he’s about 80-85 percent right now. And with that comes all the little things, and all those fine touches. He had a ball against Houston last week where he had a left-footed shot, and I think a fit Clint Dempsey bends that shot into the corner. He couldn’t get around it, and he just put it wide.

“And his integration to the team is still going to take a couple games, but that’s tough. He’ll get those couple of games and then he’s gone with the national team, and then we have to start right over again!”

Dempsey’s first match, in replacement of Martins, can be written off. He did fine, although no ultimate production. His second match was also a tough assignment, making a difference in Houston’s military grade heat and humidity.

But this is the moment. This is why he’s here, to win big matches. To haul Seattle from its season-long mire in “average” to something greater.

It would be nice if Dempsey had a little more time for working into it – but guys who need “working into it” time are falling off the end of MLS benches at 18 facilities. Dempsey has to be different, has to be a true game-changer – and it really should begin tonight.

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
Leave a comment

One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

Liverpoolfc.com
2 Comments

Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

liverpoolfc.com

Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo
Leave a comment

Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

AP Photo/Michael Sohn
Leave a comment

John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.