Americans Abroad Weekend Preview: Dempsey to make Premier League return against Altidore

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Clint Dempsey is back in the Premier League and will likely start for Fulham as they welcome him back to Craven Cottage against Jozy Altidore‘s Sunderland.

The two clubs are looking to stave off relegation, and Dempsey’s arrival on a two-month loan is just in time to see the Cottagers rise out of the relegation zone for the first time in months.

The USMNT captain returned with Fulham in the FA Cup last week, and will be seeking his first Premier League appearance with Fulham since May 6 of 2012, ironically in a 2-1 home Fulham win over the Black Cats.  A win this weekend plus a bit of help elsewhere around the league could see Fulham climb as high as 13th in the league, a shocking ascent given the dire situation just a month ago.

For Jozy, it’s been a real struggle in the first half of the season at Sunderland.  He was one of Paolo Di Canio’s major summer signings, and played in 581 of the team’s first eight matches (a possible 720 minutes). With just one goal on the year, and a new manager in place, Steven Fletcher has snatched many of Altidore’s minutes up front.  He’s logged just 502 minutes since that aforementioned mark, a span of 11 matches and 990 possible minutes.

This match will be available online at NBC Sports Live Extra, kicking off at 10am ET.

Let’s go around the world to see what else a number of USMNT stalwarts and hopefuls are up to:

England:

Brad Guzan has a tough task as Aston Villa welcome Arsenal Saturday.  The 29-year-old shot-stopper has played every league minute for Villa thus far, and has led them to a stellar defensive record so far, despite their woes up front.  He has six clean sheets this year and commanded a defense which has allowed just 25 goals through their first 18 matches.

source: Getty Images
Tim Howard has his manager’s blessing as one of the Premier League’s best between the sticks.

Another American in goal, Tim Howard, welcomes Norwich City to Goodison Park.  Last time these two teams faced, Howard allowed a pair of goals as Norwich worked a draw with visiting Everton.  Howard’s manager Roberto Martinez said of his performances this year, “I would certainly find it difficult to see a better keeper in the Premier League this season.”

Those previous two matches are available tomorrow on NBC Sports Live Extra.

On Sunday on NBCSN, you can watch Geoff Cameron look to stave off a slumping Liverpool squad at 11am ET.  Cameron has impressed lately, getting much more freedom than in the beginning of the season to make runs forward and have a pop at goal.

Before we head away from England, a bunch of Americans are playing in the lower leagues that we should keep an eye on.  Brek Shea made his debut with Barnsley following a move there on loan, and got a start and 72 minutes of game time at left midfield in a 1-1 draw.  Barnsley travel to Charlton on Saturday.

Eric Lichaj continues to see success this year with Nottingham Forest, who travel to Bolton in the Championship.  The right-back has been a workhorse for Forest this season, logging 1,750 league minutes out of a possible 2,160.  As a reward, the Midlands club sit in fifth place in the Championship table, seven points out of automatic promotion and good enough for a spot in the playoffs were the season to end today.

Germany:

The winter break is taking place in Germany now, but there is still some news to keep an eye on as Jermaine Jones may be on his way out of Schalke.  It was reported a few days ago that he could be looking for a move elsewhere, so keep a look out for news regarding that. He is not currently with the club training in Qatar during the winter layoff.

Mexico:

A pair of fixtures come to us tonight, as Edgar Castillo, Hercules Gomez, Joe Corona, and the rest of the gang at Tijuana take on Club America.  It’s only the second fixture of the Clausura, but both sides have seen different starts.  Club America toasted Tigres 3-0, while Tijuana grinded to a 0-0 draw at Atlas.  Gomez and Corona started in that, while Castillo came off the bench.

DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco join forces at Puebla on Sunday as they host Monterrey.  Puebla started their Clausura season last weekend with a 2-2 draw at Pumas that saw an incredible comeback, with the good guys snatching a stoppage-time brace.  Beasley played the whole match, while Orozco watched the match from the bench.

France:

FC Nantes are shocking the Ligue 1 world as the newly promoted side have found themselves all the way in seventh position.  They’ve stumbled of late, but Alejandro Bedoya and the rest of the squad look to get back on track Sunday as they host Lorient. Bedoya has featured much of the year in a number of different positions, but he was an unused substitute in 2-0 home loss to Nice last time out.

A number of players are on winter breaks around Europe, so the load is lighter this weekend.  We will have a full recap on Monday of all the American action around the globe!

Steven Gerrard didn’t want any part of Coutinho in training

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Steven Gerrard has issued some fairly hilarious comments regarding former Liverpool teammate Philippe Coutinho.

The Premier League legend admits there were days in training that the sight of the Brazilian wizard on the other side of the pitch made him lash out.

[ MORE: Palace fans must be patient ]

It seems Gerrard wanted nothing to do with marking Coutinho in small-sided games, and the idea of “Stevie G” spouting off in frustration when Brendan Rodgers posted Coutinho across from him is a wonderful mental picture.

From The Liverpool Echo:

“He’s impossible to defend against,” Gerrard told BT Sport after Saturday’s game.

“I mean when I used to train against him, I’d hate it if I was on the opposite five-a-side team. I wouldn’t go near him. And sometimes I’d say to him: ‘Keep away from me! He can embarrass you [as a defender]. He can stand you up, he can both ways, he’s got such a low centre of gravity. He’s sharp, he’s quick and he’s two or three steps ahead of defenders. He’s so, so clever.”

Again, the vision of Gerrard throwing his hands up with a “Nope, not having this today” is amazing. Even if exaggerated, we love it. We picture that old meme with the office worked tossing papers through the air.

Patience with Hodgson required by Palace

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Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson is 0-2 in his new gig and the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t exactly within touching distance.

The latest defeat is a 5-0 blowout at Manchester City, and the immediate road ahead is sobering: at Manchester United and home to Chelsea. Following a trip to Newcastle, who is in form, the Eagles have matches vs. West Ham, at Spurs, and versus Everton.

[ MORE: Premier League Sat. roundup ]

Palace is 0-6 overall and the first team in the history of the Premier League to go goalless through its first six matches.

Palace fired Frank De Boer after four league matches and a summer in which the club failed to add much to its squad.

And Hodgson is feeling his way through the dark. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this is the timing of Palace’s change.

From the BBC:

“I am learning about the team all the time and they are learning,” said Hodgson.

“Our focus has to be in May. By the latter part of the season the players must know what we are looking for. They should feel stronger by then.”

To be shooting for May has to be overwhelming for the Selhurst Park faithful but may indicate their most reasonable promise of life in the Premier League.

Palace fans cannot afford to get caught up in how Sam Allardyce saved them a year ago, because his turnaround coincided with the Eagles’ purchases of Luka MilivojevicMamadou Sakho, and Patrick Van Aanholt. An influx of talent does not save a season alone, but we’re fairly sure Alan Pardew would’ve relished the chance to work with two new backs and a stabilizing center midfielder.

Remember that Allardyce then retired, which says something given his willingness to bask in any light in which he can claim a modicum of credit.

So Hodgson, known for his relentless training methods, needs to be given his time. Palace will likely have at-most one point after the next two PL matches, and they may have not scored yet. History can be daunting, but supporters need to exhale and realize the road ahead is long.

Kenya loses hosting rights to 2018 African Nations Championship

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ACCRA, Ghana (AP) Kenya has been stripped of the right to host the 2018 African Nations Championship.

The Confederation of Africa Football cited “accumulated delays” in Kenya’s preparations for the tournament, which is the continental championship for players playing in their home leagues.

[ MORE: Premier League Sat. roundup ]

CAF made the decision to take the tournament away from Kenya at an executive committee meeting in Accra, Ghana, on Saturday and opened the bidding process for a new host on Sunday. CAF says applications must be received by next Sunday and the new host will be announced in just over two weeks.

The African Nations Championship is scheduled to be played from Jan. 12-Feb. 4.

Kenya’s preparations for the 16-team tournament were already troubled before August when its presidential elections were nullified and a re-vote was ordered. That re-vote is scheduled for next month, and the political instability has meant preparations for the soccer tournament have been undermined.

CAF also says it is opening a tender process to recruit an audit firm to examine Cameroon’s preparations for the 2019 African Cup of Nations, Africa’s top soccer event.

Like Kenya, Cameroon’s readiness to host the Cup of Nations has been under scrutiny. CAF says it needs to examine the state of Cameroon’s “infrastructure to host the tournament,” with the 2019 Cup of Nations the first to be expanded from 16 to 24 teams.

MLS Snapshot: Red-hot RSL end Sounders’ unbeaten run at 13

Photo credit: Real Salt Lake / @RealSaltLake
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The game in 100 words (or less): With the Seattle Sounders’ 13-game unbeaten run now a thing of the past (and the final four of those games all draws), Real Salt Lake (two losses in their last two, including wins in four of their last five) might just be the hottest team in MLS not named Atlanta United (just one loss in their last 12, including wins in three of their last four; combined score: 17-3). Furthermore, Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Seattle at Rio Tinto Stadium boosts RSL into fifth place in the Western Conference, two points clear of the San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo, as Mike Petke’s side makes this year’s improbable, late charge toward the MLS Cup Playoffs, in much the same fashion Brian Schmetzer’s Sounders did a year ago. Jefferson Savarino, who scored one and assisted one on Saturday, has proven himself a star on the rise in recent weeks, and has RSL playing their best soccer of the year at exactly the right time.

[ MORE: MLS weekend preview — ATL host MTL; RSL desperate vs. SEA ]

Three moments that mattered

52′ — Savarino slams home Rusnak’s pass for 1-0 — RSL have themselves an attacking trio (Savarino, Albert Rusnak and Brooks Lennon) that loves to play together, and that joy really shines brightly in moments like this.

66′ — Mulholland slams home from Savarino’s cross for 2-0 — Savarino turned provider just 15 minutes later, getting in behind Joevin Jones, corralling Joao Plata’s through ball, and picking out Mulholland atop the six-yard box.

92′ — Rimando makes a stunning save to deny Dempsey — Clint Dempsey tried to sneak a quick free kick past Nick Rimando, but the all-time greatest goalkeeper in MLS history was over it.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Jefferson Savarino

Goalscorers: Savarino (52′), Mulholland (66′)