Report: Clint Dempsey will join Fulham on Jan. 1 for two-month loan


The Guardian is reporting that Clint Dempsey’s much-speculated return to Fulham is a done deal. A two-month loan from Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders will begin on Jan. 1 bring the 30-year-old back to the United States ahead of his MLS team’s March 8 season opener, sacrificing preseason with his new club for a chance to return to Craven Cottage.

Citing “US sources,” the London-based outlet reports Dempsey will stay in southwest London “until late February,” returning to the club where he scored 23 all-competition goals in 2011-12. That summer, Dempsey moved from Fulham to Tottenham Hotspur, leaving the Cottagers as the club’s all-time leading scorer in Premier League play.

Dempsey left Tottenham before the start of Spurs’ 2013-14 season to move back to Major League Soccer, where he played with the New England Revolution from 2004-2006. His three-and-a-half year deal with the Sounders includes a clause that allows him to go on loan this winter in preparation for the 2014 World Cup.

Though Spurs held an option on Dempsey’s return, the U.S. captain will instead rejoin Fulham, who we originally signed for in Dec. 2006. Over the course of five-and-a-half seasons, Dempsey scored 60 all-competition goals, including twice in Fulham’s 2009-10 run to the Europa League final.

By the end of his time at Craven Cottage, Dempsey had evolved into one of the team’s most important players, but with Rene Meulensteen having recently taken as manager over for Martin Jol, it’s unclear how the 101-time U.S. international will be used. Over the past two games, Fulham has played with two  attackers flanking Dimitar Berbatov (the club’s number nine), and while Dempsey could play in either of those spots, he also gives Meulensteen a player capable of playing in support of a lead striker. Likewise, if Berbatov (in the final year of his contract) is moved in the winter transfer window, Dempsey gives Meulenteen another option through the middle.

For Seattle, a team that’s making a number of changes this offseason, losing their playmaker through training camp will be a significant blow; however, it will not be an unanticipated one. As the Sounders appear set to build around Dempsey playing in support of the likes of Obafemi Martins, Kenny Cooper, and Lamar Neagle, they’ve been aware of the likelihood of Dempsey’s absence, one which should help him prepare for Brazil 2014.

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

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The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

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Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.