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!

Europa League preview: Arsenal in Serbia, Everton desperate vs. Lyon

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The twelve groups of the UEFA Europa League bring forth soccer on Thursday, with a bevy of matches dotting the continent.

[ MORE: Full Europa schedule ]

Here are the top five matches to keep an eye on.

Everton vs. Lyon — 3:05 p.m. ET

If you would’ve told Ronald Koeman his Toffees would walk into this match with just one point but sit only another behind Lyon, he’d probably tell you to take a hike. But Lyon drew 1-1 at Apollon Limassol and 1-1 at home to Atalanta, opening the door for Everton to finish the day in Group E’s top two slots.

Nabil Fekir and Real Madrid loanee Mariano Diaz have seven goals each for Lyon, while ex-Premier Leaguers Memphis Depay and Bertrand Traore are also key components of the French outfit’s attack.

Red Star Belgrade vs. Arsenal — 1 p.m. ET

Arsenal in Europa has been pretty thrilling, with 3-1 and 4-2 wins under Arsene Wenger‘s belt ahead of the first of two with the 1991 European Cup winners. It’s a nice challenge for Canadian national team backstop Milan Borjan, who should be the man to try to thwart the Gunners in Serbia.

Hoffenheim vs. Istanbul Basaksehir — 3:05 p.m. ET

The favorites to win the group are dead last in the group as they welcome the perceived group underdogs from Turkey. The Super Lig runners-up have some familiar names on the roster with Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy, Eljero Elia, Mevlut Erdinc, Gokhan Inler, Aurelien Chedjou, and Emre Belozoglu.

AC Milan vs. AEK Athens — 3:05 p.m. ET

Milan has been burying goals in Europa play, with five at Austria Wien and three in a home win over Rijeka. Enter Athens, which has scooped up four points in group play and will look for a win to put them ahead of the group-leading Rossoneri.

Nice vs. Lazio — 1 p.m. ET

The only group with a pair of 2-0 teams. Mario Balotelli is plenty familiar with his Roman opposition from his time in Serie A.

Probe finds racial discrimination by England women’s coach

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LONDON (AP) Former England women’s team coach Mark Sampson racially discriminated against two of his players, a fresh Football Association investigation has concluded after initially dismissing allegations of wrongdoing and prompting a damaging public row with striker Eni Aluko.

Sampson was cleared of discrimination by earlier FA investigations but was fired last month because of an unrelated case of inappropriate conduct toward players in a previous job.

[ MORE: Champions League at halfway mark ]

Only now has a barrister considered new evidence about Sampson’s conduct toward England internationals Aluko and Drew Spence, with the details being released ahead of a parliamentary hearing.

“I have concluded that on two separate occasions, MS (Sampson) has made ill-judged attempts at humor, which, as a matter of law, were discriminatory on grounds of race,” barrister Katharine Newton wrote in the report.

One racially discriminatory comment by Sampson in 2014 toward Aluko requested her family members from Nigeria didn’t come to a game because of Ebola.

“MS (Sampson) did treat EA (Aluko) less favorably than he would have treated a player who was not of African descent,” Newton wrote. “MS had therefore subjected EA to less favorable treatment because of her ethnicity.”

During a team meeting in 2015, Sampson also asked Spence if she had been to prison, and then suggested she had been arrested four times. Newton concluded that the comment was made “because of her ethnicity.”

[ MORE: Hamid leaving DC United ]

FA chief executive Martin Glenn apologized to Aluko and Spence before the hearing. But Aluko told legislators that Glenn’s earlier conduct toward her was “bordering on blackmail” after he threatened to withhold payments from an 80,000 pound ($105,000) financial settlement unless she published a statement saying the FA “was not institutionally racist.”

With Aluko sitting behind him, Glenn later told the hearing that the player had not been blackmailed.

Instead Glenn said that an August tweet by Aluko – “at least we now know the FA’s stance on derogatory racial remarks by an England manager. Ignore, deny, endorse” – was a “clear breach of the agreement.”

Aluko, who was part of the team that finished third at the 2015 World Cup, has not played for England since making her 102nd appearance in April 2016.

There was a more apologetic tone from Glenn in his written statement on Wednesday, saying that Sampson’s conduct was “not acceptable” and he “would like to sincerely apologize” to Aluko and Spence.

“Our ambition has always been to find the truth and take swift and appropriate action if needed,” Glenn said. “It was our decision to have the original, second and final investigation to ensure that due diligence was taken. It is regrettable that Eniola did not participate in the first external investigation as this would have enabled Katharine Newton to conduct and complete her investigation sooner.”

Report: Hamid leaving DC United to “push himself” elsewhere

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Bill Hamid is taking his talents elsewhere.

The 26-year-old has been with DC United since 2007, making an even 200 appearances across all competitions.

[ MORE: Champions League at halfway mark ]

Hamid is thrice capped by the United States and widely considering to be one of the best shot-stoppers in the league, but the Washington Post’s Steven Goff says Hamid wants to showcase himself on a new stage.

“I want to push myself and see how far I can go because I know I have the work ethic and the hunger to take myself very far in this game. I know I can make it to the next level.”

Hamid is likely to wind up in Europe, and Goff said Danish club Midtjylland is the favorite. He’s also been scouted by Eintracht Frankfurt.

With a new United States men’s national team coach set to be appointed and Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, and Nick Rimando all on the back end of their time with the USMNT, Hamid has to look at himself as competing with Ethan Horvath and any number of young prospects.

Horvath is 22 and starting for Club Brugge. If their season continues on its pace, he’ll have a Belgian title and a Norwegian title under his belt.

U-20 players Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha Berlin), Brady Scott (Koln), and Justin Vom Steeg (Fortuna Dusseldorf) are in German systems, while U-17 World Cup starters CJ dos Santos is at Benfica.

Age when making European debut and club
Tim Howard, 24, Manchester United
Brad Friedel, 23, Newcastle United
Brad Guzan, 23, Aston Villa
Kasey Keller, 23, Millwall
Tony Meola, 21, Brighton and Hove Albion
Ethan Horvath, 19, Molde

Surprises, disappointments halfway through Champions League group stage

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Clubs have met each of their group mates once, giving us an imperfect but workable sample size for the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League group stage.

Five groups have a side boasting a 3-0 record, while four clubs have yet to seize a single point.

[ CHAMPS LEAGUE: Tuesday | Weds. ]

Some of the strugglers, like 0-1-2 Maribor and 0-1-2 APOEL, are not surprises. And it’s no shock to see Manchester United at perfect 3-0 given its draw.

Others? Well, that’s not the case.

Status down 

While Manchester United is a perfect 3-0 in Group A, raise your hand if you figured Benfica would have just one goal and zero points through three matches. Benfica’s also played two of its three home ties, making the knockout rounds a dream.

Atletico Madrid has found the UEFA Champions League Final in two of the last four seasons, but finds itself with work to do moving forward. Atleti’s Wednesday draw at Qarabag leaves it three points behind Roma and five back of leaders Chelsea. Diego Simeone’s men still host Roma and Qarabag, so points are out there.

Serie A play has been gorgeous for Napoli, who has failed to bring that momentum to Group F. It’s worth noting that a missed penalty by red-hot Dries Mertens could’ve earned the Neapolitans a point at Man City on Tuesday, but as it stands Napoli is three points back of Shakhtar and could be six back before the Ukrainians visit on Nov. 21.

It turns out you can’t sell everyone and expect the youth to come through shining. Monaco is at the bottom of a very winnable group, having lost at home to Porto and Besiktas. Still just three points behind RB Leipzig, they’ll need to win at Monaco and/or Besiktas to have any hope of the knockout rounds.

Borussia Dortmund got a rough deal from officials when it visited Wembley Stadium, but losses to Spurs and Real Madrid can happen in a group stage. Tuesday’s draw at APOEL Nicosia, however, is close to a backbreaker.

(Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images).

Status up

Spurs draw at Real Madrid may have been aided by a huge performance from Hugo Lloris, but goalkeepers — as you know — are actual components of a team. This is in fact a group of death, but the North Londoners are holding a scythe. If Mauricio Pochettino can lead a home win over Real Madrid at a raucous Wembley on All Saints Day, well, look out!

Cenk Tosun has gone from sleepy transfer target to the tip of many gossipers’ tongues, as Besiktas is a perfect 3-0 including wins at Monaco and Porto. Anderson Talisca and… wait for it… Ryan Babel (!!) have also starred for the Turkish powers who will almost certainly see the knockout rounds.

[ MORE: JPW sits down with Ederson ]

Pep Guardiola‘s done this Champions League dance, you know, and Manchester City has weathered all storms. That includes conceded two penalties — one was saved by Ederson — as a down performance versus Napoli still ended with a home win. If City can win at the Stadio San Paolo on Nov. 1, Pep can sleepwalk into the final two matches (though that’s not his style).

Roma has a classy draw at Chelsea and has gathered five points including four away from home. Mimic that mark and i Lupi will be a challenge in the knockout rounds.

Neymar was best pals with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez last season at Barcelona, but having a less-than-perfect relationship with Edinson Cavani hasn’t hurt a thing in Paris. Paris Saint-Germain is for real, scoring 12 times and yet to concede in wins over Bayern Munich, Celtic, and Anderlecht.

Grey area

Liverpool leads its group and advancing is really the only goal, but there’s something off-putting about the home draw against Sevilla. The 1-1 draw at Spartak Moscow looks better now that the Russians hammered Sevilla 5-1, but a return visit from Maribor next should help the Reds buttress their stock.

Be careful how finely you analyze a club as accomplished as two-time reigning champs Real Madrid, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s men don’t look so hot. Still well-positioned to move on, keep a close eye on how they look at Wembley in a few weeks.

Holding pattern

Chelsea‘s 3-3 draw versus Roma today was its first real stumble of the UCL, but there shouldn’t be too many alarm bells considering their injury problems and Roma’s desperation. Consider their status even, especially given their clever win at Atletico Madrid.

Jose Mourinho is doing a fine job with Manchester United, but it’s really hard to praise the club too much for doing what’s expected in a glorified Europa League group. Clearly Sir Alex Ferguson was involved in the icing some of the draw balls again…