U.S. attacker Clint Dempsey reacts to World Cup draw

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KANSAS CITY – The content producers circled in tight around Clint Dempsey, the biggest name among a handful of U.S. internationals gathered at Sporting Park to comment on Friday’s happenings from Brazil.

One of the first questions: did he “dread” the kind of draw that fell Friday, a real thorny bunch, one that won’t make second round advancement very easy. His retort was quick … and there was even a hint of a smile, something not always seen from a guy who tends to be pretty serious.

“It’s excitement,” he said. “That’s what the World Cup is about. It’s about playing the best teams. We got a good group as far as that’s concerned. We have the quality if we play our best ball that we can get out of the group. We just have to do that, try to get the most out of every game and not wait until that last game and not needing other teams to do favors for you.

“But at the same time,” he said, “looking at that group, you’d think it’s going to go down to the last game for everybody.”

“It’s a difficult group. That’s what the World Cup is about, playing the best teams. The trick is to get off to an early start, hopefully, and try to get out of the group. After that, anything can happen.

Dempsey’s other thoughts …

On facing Ghana once again. (Dempsey was on the field in 2006 when the African side kept the Americans from advancing into the second round. And he was on the field in South Africa as Ghana eliminated the United States from World Cup 2010):

“Seems like that’s been the case, the last couple of World Cups. We have to get them back for that. We’re due a win.”

Did he and other players sit around and calculate out groups ahead of Friday’s draw (like the rest of us)?

“No. It’s going to be what it’s going to be. You don’t hope for anything, because you can’t control it. Once you know what the group is, you got to prepare, got to work hard, make sure you put yourself in the best position to get out of the group.”

Could it have been tougher?

“Yeah it could have been a tougher draw. But it’s one of the toughest groups, I think. At the same time, there’s always a worse possible scenario. But, like I said, if we play our best ball, we have the quality to get out of the group.”

Has the team’s attitude about big opponents changed over the last couple of years?

“I think so. We played against the big teams and we played some of those teams away from home. I think getting the result against Italy away from home was big. Against France, we didn’t get the result, but we got some experience. Beating Germany, even though we didn’t see their A team, they still had some big players on big clubs.”

STREAM LIVE: West Brom-Palace, Liverpool-Leicester in PL Asia Trophy

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It’s a incredibly early kickoff for the third place game of the Premier League Asia Trophy tournament, at least here in the States, where West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace duke it out at 6 a.m. ET. in Hong Kong.

West Brom lost to Leicester City in its semifinal when youngster Sam Field missed the side’s seventh attempt in penalty kicks. Jay Rodriguez scored the Baggies goal in regulation of a 1-1 draw.

[ LIVE: Stream PL Asia Trophy here ]  

Palace fell 2-0 to Liverpool in its semifinal.

The final will be staged at 8:30 a.m. ET, when Liverpool will hope to build on a win paced by Divock Origi and Dominic Solanke goals.

2-year doping ban upheld for Finland, CSKA Moscow player

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The Court of Arbitration for Sport has upheld a two-year ban for CSKA Moscow midfielder Roman Eremenko for a positive test for cocaine.

[ MORE: Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

CAS says the ban imposed by UEFA was “appropriate” and dismissed the Finland international’s appeal.

[ MORE: Vertonghen says Spurs need to “level up” like rest of PL contenders ]

The ban will expire on Oct. 5, 2018, when Eremenko will be 31.

Eremenko tested positive after playing in a Champions League game for CSKA Moscow against Bayer Leverkusen last September. The 2-2 result was not affected despite Eremenko scoring CSKA’s second goal.

Born in Moscow, Eremenko grew up in Finland and has represented its national team 73 times.

Webb says De Jong would have been sent off with video review

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NEW YORK (AP) Howard Webb says he would have given Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong a red card in the 2010 World Cup final if a video assistant referee had been in place.

The retired English referee showed De Jong a yellow card in the 28th minute for his karate kick into the chest of Spain’s Xabi Alonso. Hired in March to oversee video technology for professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada, Webb held a media seminar Friday ahead of its Aug. 5 launch in Major League Soccer.

Webb says: “Yes, it was a clear red card. It was a clear and obvious error on my part not to send the player off, and VAR would have been able to recommend a review to me, and I would have been able to make the right call.”

Now 46, Webb was a Premier League referee from 2003-14. He worked the Champions League and World Cup finals in 2010, became director of referees at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, and started in March as manager of video assistant referee operations for the Professional Referee Organization.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City 0-1 Atlanta United (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Friday night’s effort at Orlando City Stadium wasn’t the prettiest for either side but Atlanta United will gladly take three points from the fixture as the Central Florida venue proved to be a fortress once more. The Lions were far superior in their attacking threats throughout the match, testing USMNT and Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan on multiple occasions. However, it was Hector Villalba that proved to be the difference when he blasted a long-distance effort to beat Joe Bendik in the 86th minute. Atlanta extends its unbeaten streak to four matches with Friday’s decision, keeping Tata Martino’s side in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, while Orlando City moves into fifth.

Three moments that mattered

36′ — Guzan stands tall, denies Rivas — Carlos Rivas thought he scorched this one (and he did…), but Brad Guzan acted like it was nothing as he held his ground to make the stop.

39′ — Spector gets ripped off by Guzan — The U.S. goalkeeper is at it again… What a save!

86′ — Villalba unleashes stunner to propel Atlanta — Sometimes it just takes one good hit as a striker.

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Man of the match: Brad Guzan

Goalscorers: Hector Villalba (86′)